Aug 29, 2008, 6:05 PM
Re: [Junior Maas] Choosing an MFA Program (2009)
Since some of these comments are directed toward the exchange I had with Seth, I'd like to say first that I think it was definitely unfair of me to lump Columbia in with Johns Hopkins, as Columbia has continued to produce successful writers in recent years, maybe not at the same rate it did in the 80s, but certainly at a rate that separates it from all but a small handful of other strong programs. This may change over time with the drop in application numbers, but it doesn't seem to have affected the program yet. Personally, I've always felt that one of the bonuses of going to Columbia was its proximity and close connection to the New York publishing world. As one of my close friends who went there said, "It's kind of a risk. You probably increase your chances of publishing a book by going there, but at the same time, if things don't work out, you're going to be stuck with a huge amount of loans."
As for Clench's assertion that Iowa's graduate success has dropped off, I think that's preposterous. Just off the top of my head, I can think of dozens of successful writers just from the time I was there and from the classes ahead of and before mine: Adam Haslett, ZZ Packer, Julie Orringer, Nathan Englander, Brady Udall, Chris Adrien, Kevin Brockmeier, Sarah Sun-lien Bynum, Curtis Sittenfeld, Peter Orner, Yiyun Li, Bret Anthony Johnson, etc., etc. And these were all people who have emerged or graduated in the past five to ten years, which is I think the appropriate amount of time to assess graduate success.
Further, among the people I knew when I was there, or the classes before or a head of mine, I can think of at least 8 Stegner Fellows, 7 Guggenheim Fellows, Finalists for the National Book Award, Pen/Faulkner Award, Pen/Hemingway Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award; several Whiting Award and Rome Winners; winners of almost every major poetry book contest; many, many appearances in Best American Short Stories, O.Henry Awards, and Pushcart Prize Prize anthologies; not to mention The New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper's, etc. Many, many NY Times Notable Books, at least three people on Granta's "20 Best Young Novelists" List (ZZ Packer, Kevin Brockmeier and Yiyun Li) etc . . .
Finally, on top of all of that, if I was estimating very conservatively, I'd say that at least 50% of the people I went to school with have published at least one book (and I'm sure the actual numbers are higher) and many have published multiple books by now.
I'm sorry that I have to even list this stuff--it actually goes against my nature to even bring it up--but when I see unsubstantiated claims being thrown around like this, I feel the need to defend the program.
(This post was edited by dorchester on Aug 29, 2008, 6:08 PM)