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Marisa Lee

Mar 14, 2006, 4:37 PM

Post #26 of 235 (5017 views)
MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Of course it depends on the program, but I was wondering - are MFA workshops pretty high level in general? Is it group therapy or pretty harsh and critical? Professional and constructive, or personal and subjective (like just an emotional response)? Is there a big disparity between the more experienced students and the less? Do people support each other's work? Or is it very competitive? Is it easy to make friends? Is there a lot of hooking up among students (I saw it mentioned somewhere else on the board)?

I find myself wondering about this. How do other people feel about workshop?

Do you guys get nervous? Mad (when someone criticizes your work, and you don't agree with it)? Or do you just welcome whatever anyone has to say? Of course in classes I act professional and grateful for any advice, but I wonder if people are secretly indignant about some of their classmates' comments, and if they feel like there's strong bias among students, or that groups of students support each other's work and rip another person apart for no good reason.

I guess I am just curious about emotional responses to workshop.


Mar 14, 2006, 4:53 PM

Post #27 of 235 (4997 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I say bring to the table the feelings you'd like to see in return. I'm part of a writing circle in Portland right now and we all try to be considerate of each others' work. Sometimes somebody puts up a story that is really terrible (including me) and sometimes somebody puts up an absolutely wonderful story. I really believe there is no room in the workshop environment to rip into somebody. Criticism can always be given constructively. Even then it's going to hurt. Sometimes I feel battered after one of my stories goes up, but usually I agree with the criticism, and even if I don't, I still end up thinking about it in a constructive way. Nobody tries to hurt my feelings, though it may happen inadvertently sometimes. Criticism is going to hurt enough without having additional barbs. I know I'm pretty critical of other work, but I try to couch my criticisms in what I liked about the story first. I tend to be harsher in my comments on the page and more positive when in discussion.
Here's something ironic that I've often noticed-- people tend to be gentler on work that's not as good and particularly harsh on good work-- I guess it's like going for a jog versus Olympic training. If you want to get it to the top level, you've got to get a little beaten up. I remember taking in one story that I thought was pretty good and it was absolutely pummeled. Actually, it really deserved the punishment. I've since set it aside, perhaps for good.

But this is what I want to see out of a workshop and this is what I hope I bring to the table-- honest criticism, respect, an intention to understand the author's style and goals, and constructive phrasing of criticism. (Plus hopefully lots of good friends.) I hope I never hear the words: "hate", "shit", "sucks" in a workshop.
My dad got ripped a lot when he was in the Iowa workshop in the 70's. A lot of people didn't like his poetry, but it really hurt his feelings and didn't help his poetry. It made him more defensive and sensitive about his work. However, I love his poetry (but then he's my dad and I don't know anything about poetry). It's a matter of opinion, really. (btw, I'm not endorsing the myth that Iowa is a cutthroat place for workshoppers-- that can happen anywhere.)

Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


Mar 14, 2006, 4:54 PM

Post #28 of 235 (4996 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

  I was once in an intensive writers' workshop where we had to both line- and holistically edit each others' personal essays each week. The nature of the class was very communal as we also graded each other (the professor acted as a mediator of sorts).

Despite the intimate nature of the program and the bonds created (and this class, surprisingly, had no cliques or outcasts), some people just can't agree on style. Or, rather, no matter how well you write, you're not going to win over everyone no matter how well you write.

My advice is to learn whose opinions you value the most and whose criticisms make sense to you, and work with them as much as possible.

Cheers, --Avimaan

(This post was edited by maanprophet on Mar 14, 2006, 5:43 PM)


Mar 14, 2006, 6:13 PM

Post #29 of 235 (4951 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

An Irvine student on his blog described his first workshop as a mixed bag--stories that were scary good all the way down to average undergad workshop quality.

People in my undergrad classes would reject a work based solely on its (a)moral content; I just hope I don't encounter that problem again. It's a terrible waste of time.


Mar 14, 2006, 6:26 PM

Post #30 of 235 (4943 views)
Re: [maanprophet] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Yeah, Rapunzel. I definitely agree with him about taking the criticism seriously, but perhaps with a grain of salt.
I always listen very carefully and take notes of what people say. However, in time, I have learned to separate the really picayunne or ignorant comments, about a culture people may not know or understand for example, from the REALLY helpful.
My peers' comments and the prof's have often helped me to improve a story greatly.
It is also true that when something is quite bad, people are very gentle!


Mar 14, 2006, 9:42 PM

Post #31 of 235 (4886 views)
Post deleted by viviandarkbloom



Mar 15, 2006, 12:25 AM

Post #32 of 235 (4851 views)
Re: [viviandarkbloom] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

For people just starting out, I think being supportive and kind is important, but I feel that at our level, courtesy runs the danger of getting in the way. If you think about it, an editor or agent isn't going to be nice to you about your work if it's flawed. I would rather know what people have problems with in workshop than be blindsided when I actually try to put it out in the world. The only way that can happen is if I don't get defensive and separate my personal feelings from my work.

This isn't to say that I'm a robot. But I make it a point never to defend myself or otherwise visibly feel slighted in workshop, however damning or catty or slamming someone's comments are. I try to hear what the person has to say, think about it in relationship to my own work, and then either ignore it or take it into account. I don't think anyone has a responsibility for my feelings in workshop. And I tell people this. I would rather risk crying my heart out because of what someone says than risk someone preventing themselves from saying how they really feel about what I've written. Because in the end, the latter is what's going to improve my work, which is what's going to make me happy in the long run.

As a result, I'm the one in workshop who encourages people to only say nice things when they mean it (i.e. you don't have to try to find something nice to say; you can say bad things exclusively if that's the major impression you get). I am also typically more critical of my work than anyone else in workshop.

As a workshopper, I say things diplomatically but I don't try to find something I like if my overall impression of something is negative. I also very much am willing to say harsh things if I feel like the other person wouldn't get the message unless I put it in strong terms. This doesn't make me the most popular person in workshop, but I feel like my approach also makes me more reliable.

I recognize that my approach isn't for everyone, but I don't feel that emotions have a role in workshop. I feel like being able to separate yourself from your work is a key part of being in our profession, and it's important for students at the graduate level to be able to do that.

Bob S.

Mar 15, 2006, 8:01 AM

Post #33 of 235 (4817 views)
Re: [sibyline] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Writing is personal, so workshops inevitably get emotional sometimes. I've seen too many tears in workshop, in my MFA program and elsewhere. Two of the better workshop leaders I've had each had a simple rule that helped keep the workshop civil and constructive.

One teacher - the late Frank Conroy - asked students to refer to the story and not the author. That sounds so simple but you'd be surprised at how much it can help, just to say "I was uncomfortable with this passage" instead of "I didn't like what she did with this passage." It's also surprisingly difficult to do; you have to monitor yourself.

A teacher in my MFA program, Alice Mattison, asks students to avoid talking about the work in the past tense. So we say "this dialogue is feeling slow to me" or "this passage might want to speed up in the next draft" instead of "the dialogue was too slow." That gives the author faith that she can fix it rather than sending the message that the work is finished and "you screwed up."

It's little things like this, I think, that make a difference. Workshop in general, though, is hard. I've had a few decent workshops but being almost finished with my MFA I feel like I'm about over them, and consequently my emotion level in them has dropped. You can only get so far listening to the opinions of other writers who may be more in the dark than you are, or who may not have invested much time or effort into reading your work. At some point you need plain old instruction and mentorship from an expert. I think what you get in an MFA program that's more valuable than workshops is a lasting connection with a small circle of writers, either faculty or fellow students or both, whom you trust as readers and who get your work. If you're lucky you take that away as your permanent workshop.

Marisa Lee

Mar 27, 2006, 2:05 AM

Post #34 of 235 (4762 views)
Re: [Windiciti] Fiction Acceptance Rates? Can't Post

There was a discussion somewhere about emotions and workshop. I can't find it, but the topic seems to fit this thread anyhow.

I've been thinking about why I have some discomfort with workshop--about why, after 7 creative writing classes and running some discussions myself, I still feel uneasy. Maybe I'm a lot less intellectual and analytical than I had thought. For me, writing is so much about gut feeling and entertainment, rather satisfying a certain rubric or criteria--running through a list of typical workshop questions. If I really like a piece, I might be willing to overlook ALL it's flaws, even terrible flaws. If I don't like a piece, no amount of nipping and tucking is really going to do it. You either love or don't love.

I had a prof once who believed in mostly discussing what was good in your work. He didn't bring up anything which did NOT excite him. Thus, I learned that everything which was not discussed was not particularly original because if it was, it would have been mentioned. Our talks would last about fifteen minutes (hence the goal was to make the talks last more than fifteen minutes--twenty or thirty and for all those minutes to be filled with compliments, strong reactions to something memorable; if there was nothing memorable, he would say nothing). And somehow it was so much more effective than a line by line critique. In fact, when I got a line by line critique, I would usually just have the desire to erase it all and start over again.

Of course there has to be some negativity, some critique, but I guess I don't really respond to doubt very well. Obviously I can take it; i'm not stupid; I know the writing world is not all touchy feely and nice. But for me, writing is about faith, about living in a dream-world you create and trying to share that world with others. Too much nit-picking, too much criticism just drags me back into the word-ness of the text when what I want to do is feel like I'm living with and in the characters viscerally. Doubt for me is associated with the text as a damn text, just words on a page. When someone responds in an excited or emotional fashion, I feel like the work has come alive, and I can live with it a bit.


Mar 27, 2006, 12:28 PM

Post #35 of 235 (4708 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post


As a former MFA student, I wanted to add a few little bits of information to this conversation. First, read the first part of Madison Smart Bell's book called _Narrative Design_. I don't remember whether it's in the introduction or the first chapter, but he has a really interesting thing in there about both the good parts and bad parts of participating in a workshop. A must read.

Also, I think it's important to remember that not everyone in workshop will say something useful, but part of the goal of this sort of critique is to train peoples' critical eyes so that they can turn them on their own work. This means that sometimes people will say stuff about your work that doesn't apply. Sometimes you will say stuff that doesn't apply. This is unfortunate, but just how it is. A friend of mine who went to Iowa said that an instructor told him that if you can use 10% of what gets said in class, then that was a really good workshop.

One other thing to read is this:

It's a funny and sad story about what the MFA program can be like. The author went where I went. Having gotten out of an MFA, I think it's funny (it's important to keep your sense of humor) but don't let it freak you out or anything.

My over-all advice on critiquing is to be as specific and honest as possible while also being kind. It's one thing to think a story is bad, it's another to artfully express where it went wrong. This is an art in itself, but it's something you pick up pretty quickly if you work at it. Remember that all first (and sometimes fifth) drafts have holes in them, and that it isn't something to hold against people. It's important to try to maintain a non threatening atmosphere. How you approach critique will have everything to do with the overall class dynamic. People pick up other people's cues and if someone is snarky, that often starts the ball rolling down the hill.

The MFA is really a mixed bag. Sometimes people will disagree and maybe sometimes people will get angry. You will probably always feel really nervous before your own workshop. Also, though, a lot of times you'll laugh and make friends and walk away thinking "Wow! That wasn't so bad!" I remember being really intimidated before I got to my program, and then feeling fine in a class or two. I think that's probably how it works for most people.


Mar 27, 2006, 1:46 PM

Post #36 of 235 (4676 views)
Re: [LookUp] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Just as a funny addition, Billy Collins' poem "Workshop" sums up my undergraduate experience.

It can be found here..


Mar 27, 2006, 2:42 PM

Post #37 of 235 (4644 views)
Re: [willbell] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Also read Lorrie Moore's "How To Become a Writer."

Clench Million

Mar 27, 2006, 3:20 PM

Post #38 of 235 (4625 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I have to say, I've heard some bad things about the competative atmosphere of MFA programs. Specially from a MFA teacher at DC area school who told me there is even a sence of competition between the students and faculty... which I guess make sense, they are all peers pretty much.

Marisa Lee

Mar 27, 2006, 4:15 PM

Post #39 of 235 (4602 views)
Re: [Clench Million] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I kind of agree with Clench Million. I think at the end of the day...... I don't really believe that all writers in workshop are out there to help each other. Obviously, you don't want to sound competitive or dumb, so you say intelligent things about other people's manuscripts, and sometimes you've been through the same difficulty yourself and want to help others--but at MFA programs, there are often prizes and contests to compete for, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the tension in my undergrad workshop. I'm not trying to be immature and annoying; I'm just recognizing this essential element of human nature.

My thesis advisor actually said he felt that poets banded together more than fiction writers.

About criticism, here are the ways I see it:

1. You can be blunt, say exactly what you feel.
2. You can be kind, but then this might be construed as patronizing--it's almost impossible not to sound patronizing when you tone down your words to avoid hurting someone's feelings. And what about when the writer recognizes the tinge of Im-not-being-entirely-honest-because-I-don't-want-to-hurt-your-feelings note in your words and voice. That's even worse! Hell is recognizing what others think of you. Bluntness is almost better, is better. I hate it when I turn in something, realize it was bad, and then hear someone else in workshop talk about my work with a smug, know-it-all tone. I can just hear them saying in their heads: "Great, don't have to worry about Rapunzel for that upcoming contest... this sucks."
You have to admit that you would seriously dislike someone if he said this to you:
"No offense but...."
"I'm telling you this because I want to help you."
"I'm trying to think of a way to put this...."

I don't know. I don't like bluntness either. I find it irritating--like, oh, that person didn't even take the time to filter his personal thoughts. We have politeness in this world for a reason.

But then there are some miraculous people (I've only met 2 in my whole life, in all 7 classes I've been in), who don't do #1 or #2. People who are mature and kind, but not smug and self-righteous and deluded about themselves and their judgment. But most people, no matter how old they are, just can't be constructive. Most people are just really prejudiced deep down inside--about subject matter, style, etc. They always betray some kind of bias they cannot be reasoned out of. It's very tough to be open-minded; nearly impossible.

I guess the ideal workshop would be..... 5 people who really respect each other as artists and are willing to be completely honest. But i guess, they would select each other first. In too many classes, there are some writers who just feel that they are inherently more talented than others. not more experienced or better published or older--just endowed with that magical "it" factor. I dated a guy in my workshop once, and was surprised to find that he considered it impossible for other people to write as well as he did. impossible. he had formed a judgment just like that! it's suprising the number of people who just think they are inherently better, born better. Even if I see the worst writing i've ever seen in my life, I still give the artist the benefit of the doubt. i just do.

I don't have any answers. I guess workshop is good in the sense that it brings many people together just to TALK, DISCUSS. If people are so inherently biased, then maybe it's better to just have a bunch of conflicting opinions all at once, rather than one authoritative prof with thumbs up or down.


Mar 27, 2006, 5:26 PM

Post #40 of 235 (4578 views)
Re: [LookUp] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Thanks for the link to Margo Rabb's story, LookUp.

Quiet Americans: Stories


Mar 27, 2006, 8:35 PM

Post #41 of 235 (4550 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I agree with clinch too, there is often a competitive atmosphere. And I think it's possible to be kind without being condescending, although you have to keep your own ego in check to do this. To be clear -- I don't mean be insincere or over-praise the tiniest thing done well. I mean that there's a difference between saying, in a neutral voice, "You know, the story stopped working here and this is why. It might have worked better if --" and saying "This story just sucks. I was bored and you're hopeless." And yeah, there's a competitive atmosphere in any workshop, especially when you're competing for prizes and that does creep in, but it's worth it to try not to make it worse. A friend of mine once described his workshop as a "shark's nest." I've been in workshops that were pretty sharky and in workshops that were respectful of the writer, no matter how rough the story. I think you get the same amount of critique in both (if they're both done well) and the second one makes you not want to drink before class. One thing an instructor once told me, on the topic of networking, was: in ten years, many of you will have books out. It's worth it to be good to the people around you now.

I think this makes sense.

On the other hand, I'm a few years removed and my response was more based on how I try to run workshops as an instructor, so maybe my memory is off...


Mar 27, 2006, 9:09 PM

Post #42 of 235 (4532 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I think you are agonizing way too much over the workshops.
Sometimes they are a mixed bag, but you ALWAYS learn something about how to improve your writing, how other people write in ways you admire, and how to be truthful w/o being hurtful or patronizing. I've taken about six myself, each for 6 weeks.

You sound very intelligent, but young---no, I'm not being patronizing. From what I recall you've been accepted at some very fine schools, so enjoy the moments before you make the final choice. You will find your own level wherever you go!

Besides, in your own words you said you've taken 3 workshops, and even lead one. Most of us have never lead a workshop. Personally, I wouldn't have the nerve or the talent. But you do!

So relax and enjoy it.
Good luck.

Marisa Lee

Mar 28, 2006, 12:43 AM

Post #43 of 235 (4495 views)
Re: [Windiciti] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Thanks, Windiciti for the encouragement. It's true--I do agonize over this too much. I've always been weird about classrooms, class participation, any situation of performance--not weird in a visible way; nobody in class can tell I feel this way. I think that deep down I'm just very anti-performance for who knows what reason, and that's what I like about writing--it's revision based. Perhaps the anxiety has to do with coming from a culture of shame where people try to save face and not show their bad side in public. Not to go off on too much of a tangent--but it's like that chapter in the Joy Luck Club where the mother gets upset that the daughter brings home a guy who agrees that the food is bland after the mother disses her own cooking (expecting a compliment). This culture of extreme politeness is such a weird clash with creative writing where you often have to fail many times to even succeed, and fail publically. There's a whole crowd of women whose friendships are based on false compliments and insincerity--and for whom exclamation points and smilely faces are standard punctuation marks in e-mails signed xoxox (myself included). I don't know. It's interesting to think about honesty and how different groups of people handle it. I think this board is a good example of how to handle honesty well.

This is a nice thought:

"in ten years, many of you will have books out. It's worth it to be good to the people around you now."


Mar 28, 2006, 6:26 AM

Post #44 of 235 (4478 views)
Re: [rapunzel1983] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

My personal approach to workshop si that I assume I'll get as much out of it as I put into it until proven wrong. I'm generally pretty conscientious about providing feedback to everyone, and I find that people in workshop with me are appreciative of that and make sure to give me quality feedback as well. I become less forthcoming and helpful only when I feel like someone else hasn't been reading my work carefully, or is being unnecessarily negative, although I have a pretty high threshold in terms of that. I think it's important.

It's funny because I often find myself forcing people to say what they really feel instead of trying to get them to be nice. There's a lot of social pressure for people to say good things, because saying bad things tends to risk the other person getting annoyed. I was just looking over someone's on a story from my writing group: "your way of capsizing this drama, by creating a profound allegory in the minuteness of the every day, is only marred by some messy writing and empty Playgirl-esque eroticism." Ouch. When i read the comments for the first time last night, I had that incensed feeling. But in the light of early morning, I know that he's right and my story will be better for it. So I never dismiss people for saying something that hurts, as long as it isn't personal.

I don't really see the point of being competitive in the long run. If I'm competing against people, I don't see myself competing against the people I'm in workshop with, but with everyone else. If one of my fellow workshoppers is doing well, it inspires and pushes me to do well.


Mar 28, 2006, 9:16 AM

Post #45 of 235 (4454 views)
Re: [LookUp] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Oh, dear!
I just read the story in your posting about Anna/Amy, and
that's all I can say, "Oh, dear!"
It sounds like this might be someone in full-time program, very competitive, (that's OK), but filled with arrogant, jejune youths.

It was really painful to read.

Certainly not what I expect to find in MY MFA or MA program, only because one is Low Res and the other is targeted to people who work, so the classes are at night. Bound to attract people with more life experience than the little BEASTS, including the professor described in the story.

Oh, and by the way, I vigorously disagree with the professor on fiction not being in part autobiographical. The best stories come from a feeling, a figment, an observation, the writer makes...a unique connection that only he/she can make because of his/her experience.

And so what if at first the writing is very autobiographical, as long as it is edited to BE fiction...which is more believable than truth anyway, if told well?

Of course, I don't have an MFA yet or a tenured position teaching impressionable youngsters in a take it as
just an opinion.


Mar 28, 2006, 9:39 AM

Post #46 of 235 (4442 views)
Re: [Windiciti] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I read this, too, and thought it was hysterical. I even scared my dogs by laughing out loud a few times. (I am usually silent when I'm at my computer.)

For those of us who are sensitive--and many writers are--the ego-ridden world of (some) MFA programs and big writers conferences can be challenging. It's easy to lose your sense of self and any tiny bit of confidence you might possess. You have to guard yourself, cheer yourself on, and most of all remember why you write. Even if your reason is simply: I like to.

And that's what this story does so well. It illustrates, with painful but well-observed details, what that world can be like. Filled with arrogant, mean-spirited jerks. But the main character recognizes them for what they are. She cries and gets upset and THAT'S OKAY. She doesn't give up. She perseveres. She keeps writing. And she's funny. A sense of humor is *so* important.

This story should be a must read for aspiring writers and artists.



Mar 28, 2006, 10:42 AM

Post #47 of 235 (4420 views)
Re: [amys27] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I laughed a lot, too. Unfortunately, it resonated in quite a few ways. I did think it was a great read. (I also enjoyed the poem willbell referred us to.)

But I can see how the story might also be dispiriting, especially to someone about to start an MFA program.

I've written a story set in a workshop, too. Some instructors (and editors) don't necessary seem too keen on this sort of subject matter. Maybe it's considered a kind of unseemly navel-gazing. But for anyone interested in workshop-themed stories here are a couple of others (can't promise hilarity, but worthy reads nonetheless).

"The Whore's Child," in Richard Russo's collection, The Whore's Child
An excerpt from Julia Alvarez's ¡Yo!, republished in Teaching Stories, ed. Robert Coles

There are more--I know there's a story by Elizabeth Stuckey-French but I can't remember the title. Anyone?

And there are certainly workshop scenes in Francine Prose's Blue Angel.

Any others to offer us glimpses into this subject through fiction?

Erika D.

Quiet Americans: Stories

(This post was edited by edwriter on Mar 28, 2006, 3:03 PM)


Mar 28, 2006, 1:18 PM

Post #48 of 235 (4391 views)
Re: [Windiciti] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

I know, it's a tough story. The funny thing for me was that I started reading this story in a bookstore and thought "Gee, this sounds a lot like my MFA program." Then I kept reading a little more and recognized some details and realized "This IS my MFA program." Rabb's bio confirmed it. I think group dynamics play a big part. Yes, workshop often felt like this story, but I don't remember my class being quite this cantankerous. I don't remember it being quite this bad all the time (for fiction you need to dramatize, of course) but there's def. a lot of truth there, unfortunately. (I type this with a smile. It's funny once you survive it).

I also disagree with the thing about fiction not having a root in real life. And honestly, I don't remember that being something we talked about a lot in the MFA, so, you know, the author may have been building a composite to get her idea own themes/ideas/frustrations across.

The other thing that's nice about this story (as someone further down pointed out) is that the author absolutely succeeded as a writer in all the ways her character wanted to. So it's a happy ending, in a round about way.


Mar 28, 2006, 3:04 PM

Post #49 of 235 (4357 views)
Re: [edwriter] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

There is a truly truly bizarre workshop story in AS Byatt's collection, Little Black Book of Stories. Of course I can't remember the title of the specific story but there are only nine or so in the book so it's not hard to find. This particular story is grim/grotesque, not my favorite in the collection. Would make me think twice about ever taking a workshop with her, I should say.

It would be fun to pull together a book of stories set in workshops, wouldn't it? At minimum, there would be a large market within MFA programs. Probably someone has already done this?

Let's ask Pongo, he knows things like this...


Mar 28, 2006, 3:07 PM

Post #50 of 235 (4354 views)
Re: [edwriter] MFA Workshop + Emotions Can't Post

Also, just thought of another one, by Vance Bourjaily, called "The Amish Farmer," although that's only tangentially a workshop story. Also rather grim though. I wonder if that's a requirement?

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