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Brian S.


Oct 31, 2004, 6:21 AM

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I am looking for courses/workshops (either in the New York area or online) to improve my work before I apply to an MFA program. Does anyone know anything about The Writers Studio in New York or Gotham Writers Workshop <www.writingclasses.com>? Are they any good? Useful? What about online courses? Thanks.


elli
Ellen Meeropol


Oct 31, 2004, 7:02 AM

Post #2 of 14 (3537 views)
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I took a couple of fiction classes from Gotham when I started writing seriously - four or five years ago. They varied. One was wonderful - the teacher was generous in his comments, clearly spent a lot of time considering students' work. Another teacher seemed less involved. But the biggest obstacle for me were the other students, some of whom never bothered to do the critique work, and so the actual number of responses you get to your work can vary.

Since often the most important thing we get from workshops is learning to critique, learning to see the craft in what we read, learning how other, more experienced writers/readers evaluate a manuscript, this you can still get from the course even some students don't participate.

I think the Gotham courses were very valuable to me at that point in my learning craft. But I probably wouldn't take one now. Does that help?


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


Brian S.


Oct 31, 2004, 8:06 AM

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Ellen,
Thanks. It does help--it seems to depend on the teacher. Do you remember the name of yours at Gotham?
Thanks,
Brian


elli
Ellen Meeropol


Oct 31, 2004, 8:17 AM

Post #4 of 14 (3533 views)
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I think Michael Phillips was the name of the teacher I particularly liked.

But the students also make a huge difference - how serious they are, and there's no way to know that ahead of time. For example, after one course, four of us from the class continued to correspond and exchange manuscripts for critique. We did this for a year or so, and it was great. I only dropped out of that informal online workshopping when I started my MFA.


Ellen

www.ellenmeeropol.com


edwriter



Oct 31, 2004, 9:19 AM

Post #5 of 14 (3529 views)
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In Reply To
I think Michael Phillips was the name of the teacher I particularly liked.

But the students also make a huge difference - how serious they are, and there's no way to know that ahead of time. For example, after one course, four of us from the class continued to correspond and exchange manuscripts for critique. We did this for a year or so, and it was great. I only dropped out of that informal online workshopping when I started my MFA.


Elli makes a really important point, one that is too often overlooked, I think, when people consider not only writing workshops but MFA programs as well. Especially if you choose to apply to/enroll in a workshop-oriented program (instead of one of the mentor-based low-residency programs, though even there you'll generally be in workshops with students at the residencies, too), the quality of the student population makes a big difference.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



wiswriter
Bob S.

Oct 31, 2004, 10:07 AM

Post #6 of 14 (3524 views)
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Brian - You might want to consider taking an undergraduate workshop as a nondegree or special student at one of the local colleges or universities. Some schools allow or even encourage outside applications into their creative writing courses. The University of Wisconsin solicits applications from adult students to fill open spots in their undergraduate workshops every term - I took an undergraduate workshop there at age 40 and it was great preparation, not to mention a lot of fun. I think a college workshop would simulate the MFA experience more closely and give you a better chance at getting a meaningful recommendation for your MFA applications.


nomojo
A.D.T.

Oct 31, 2004, 10:27 AM

Post #7 of 14 (3520 views)
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Brian-

What do you write? (Children's and Young Adult Fiction?)

You live in New York? Why not start up a writer's group? It could be a valid, free alternative, granted you can find the right people.

(This post was edited by nomojo on Oct 31, 2004, 10:35 AM)


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Oct 31, 2004, 11:49 AM

Post #8 of 14 (3512 views)
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Brian:

You might try online courses through colleges that you are looking to apply at for the MFA. I did one through Vermont College last spring. Again, keeping in mind where you wish to apply, go to workshops where faculty of those programs lecture/workshop at. I attended a weeklong conference at Keene for the past two years and had the chance to work with another faculty of Vermont College.

When it all comes down to it, it is the manuscript that will get you into an MFA program--but continued writing and working with MFA faculty can certainly help to make your work stronger.

Darren


iceq777
Shelley

Oct 31, 2004, 12:11 PM

Post #9 of 14 (3510 views)
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Hi Brian,

I took seven courses through Gotham and I'm taking one from Writer's Studio now. Here's my feedback:

Gotham:

The Gotham courses are good, but they're very instructor-dependent (as is any course anywhere). The Fiction I and Novel I classes that were taught by Michael Phillips and Floyd Kemske, respectively were excellent. The Masters Class and Reading for Writing taught by Brandi Reissenweber were also excellent. Brandi is an editor for Zoetrope as well. You can take a Master Class with her through Zoetrope and have your submission placed at the top of the slush pile for consideration by Zoetrope editors. I didn't take advantage of that though. The lectures of all these instructors were helpful and their critiques were insightful and thorough.

The Gotham classes consist of ten lectures over the ten weeks and you have the opportunity to submit two short stories or chapters for critique.

The Gotham lectures in the upper level classes were often disappointing rehashes of their Fiction I class lectures. The real benefit of the Gotham classes is the critiquing you get from your classmates and professor.

Writer's Studio:

I'm currently in my fourth week of "Fiction II" w/ Writer's Studio now taught by Joel Hinman. W.S. has a different format. Instead of ten "lectures" you're given ten writing samples of published authors to illustrate an aspect of technique. You then have to write a two to three page exercise using the same technique demonstrated by the writing sample. Your exercises are then critiqued by your classmates and instructor. For example, this week we did an exercise on unreliable first person narrator.

I've found this format to be a bit more challenging and sophisticated because it asks the writer to do things they may not have attempted on their own. In doing so, you wind up creating something you thought you were incapable of. This format has helped me get out of my writing "rut" for lack of a better word.

Both the Gotham format and the W.S. format have their strong points. With Gotham you get insight into what works and doesn't work about your spontaneous writing ideas and the execution of them. With W.S. you get a highly structured method that challenges you to try new things.

I'd also recommend reading books on the craft of writing. Some not to be missed are Burroway's book (in its 6th edition now), Gardner's, "The Art of Fiction", Lukeman's "The First Five Pages", and "Self Editing for Fiction Writers" (can't remember the author right now). If you want more I can email you a whole list of about twenty books.

The reason I took on-line classes were: 1) my formal education has been exclusively in the sciences. 2) I wanted to get feedback on my creative writing to determine if it was total crap or not and if I should pursue it.

After taking several on-line classes, I decided to pursue a low residency MFA because I thought I'd "outgrown" what the on-line classes could offer. I'm looking for an intensive one-on-one experience in studying literature and writing.

I hope this helps you decide. Sorry for the long response. If you have more questions I can answer them here or you can email me.

--Shelley


smg225
Stuart Greenhouse

Nov 1, 2004, 9:54 AM

Post #10 of 14 (3484 views)
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The 92nd Street "Y" runs a workshop program for both fiction & poetry. I am unfamiliar with the fiction side of things, but have nothing but praise for the poetry workshop teachers and their dedication. They are worth a look, at least.

You could also consider taking an undergraduate workshop at any of the universities in the city, from the New School to NYU or Columbia, Hunter, Fordham, etc. etc.

Good luck.


Brian S.


Nov 3, 2004, 3:25 AM

Post #11 of 14 (3433 views)
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Re: [darredet] Workshops/Courses in Preparation for an MFA Can't Post

Darren,

Can you tell me the course you took at Vermont College (online)? I was looking at that one.
Thanks,
Brian


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Nov 3, 2004, 8:17 AM

Post #12 of 14 (3430 views)
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Hi Brian:

It was Fiction 2-Intermediate fiction writing workshop. There are also classes for non-fiction. Here is the link to the page.

http://www.tui.edu/.../writing/default.asp

Les Edgerton is the one who teaches the fiction course. I did it for graduate credit. Also, if you decide to take this, and you are serious about pursuing an MFA, ask for a letter of recommendation. Les gave me one for the two programs I applied at.

The next class starts in late January and it is a very simple format.

Let me know what you decide.

Darren


Brian S.


Dec 12, 2004, 8:59 AM

Post #13 of 14 (3350 views)
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Darren,

I signed up for the intermediate fiction course which starts in late January as you suggested.

Thanks for the tip--

Brian


darredet
Darren A. Deth


Dec 12, 2004, 9:27 AM

Post #14 of 14 (3348 views)
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Good luck with it! I'd be interested to hear how the experience works for you.

Darren

 

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