Oct 31, 2004, 12:11 PM
Post #9 of 14
Re: [Brian S.] Workshops/Courses in Preparation for an MFA
I took seven courses through Gotham and I'm taking one from Writer's Studio now. Here's my feedback:
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.
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.