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robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 4, 2001, 9:49 AM

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As someone in a low-res program (and who's been in a regular program
too), I wouldn't necessarily say you have to be exceptionally self-
motivated. Those once-every-three-weeks packets come around pretty
quickly. You are communicating one-to-one with your supervisor, so in
that sense someone is paying closer attention to you than a teacher
does in a traditional class, where no one but you may notice if you're
not doing much work. I'm working harder than I have in school before.


lynda

e-mail user

Aug 4, 2001, 3:23 PM

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Yes, I agree--those packet deadlines creep up fast! I'm in the same
low res program as Robert right now, though I'm in fiction. I find I
usually have less than three weeks to finish reading the new books I'm
to annotate, draft the annotations on craft issues, and draft new
fiction for the adviser's review. It turns out to be about two and a
half weeks of writing time, if you factor in a few extra days to mail
the packet before the due date. Robert, I didn't know you were in a
traditional MFA Program before. . .was this San Francisco State's MFA
Program? What didn't you like about it? Not enough face time with
teachers? --Lynda


wend
Wendy Babiak

Aug 4, 2001, 3:56 PM

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Thanks for the input, you two. It's encouraging. I really would like
to get an MFA...I think it will help my writing AND it'll be handy if
I ever need to teach (I don't want to, but it beats any other paying
job I can think of -- and I certainly know I'm not going to make a
living as a poet, no matter how confident I am in my poetry).


kathygail
Kathy Whitman

Aug 5, 2001, 12:07 AM

Post #604 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Wendy, I send in work every 4 weeks and also have to read books and
participate in an on-line conference on the reading, plus read other
books that aren't discussed (but are annotated in my bibliogoraphy).
The conference is similar to this message board; it is not real-time.
So I have had no trouble finding the time to post my discussion points
and read everyone else's. This MFA is something I have wanted to do
very badly for a very long time, so I am terribly motivated to wring
every drop of feedback out of my mentor. I am a mid-career
professional and I still work full time. Motivation isn't really my
problem. If I am not getting my work done, it is because of
exhaustion. I have my second packet due in 9 days and the piece I am
working on is far from ready. I think this will be my story for the
next 2 years. The part I am not particulary looking forward to is the
field study requirement. But everyone moans about it and then says it
is one of their best experiences. It's just that I don't need any more
time in the real world. I live there. I think I mentioned that I
agonized over low-res vs traditional. I couldn't be any more sure that
I made the right choice for myself. Kathy


peggy24
Peggy Duffy

Aug 5, 2001, 9:32 AM

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What is the field study requirement? Peggy


kathygail
Kathy Whitman

Aug 5, 2001, 3:35 PM

Post #606 of 2652 (16367 views)
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It is very unstructured. You have to design a practicum for yourself.
Teach a workshop, work at a small press, learn book arts, write a
column, establish a reading series, that kind of thing. It has to have
a literary component and last at least 4 months. I contacted my local
community college to see if I could teach a section of freshman comp.
They said no because I'm not certified. I have to think of something
that doesn't add in more writing. Kathy


wend
Wendy Babiak

Aug 5, 2001, 4:16 PM

Post #607 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Good luck, Kathy.


robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 7, 2001, 12:26 PM

Post #608 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Hi, Lynda, yes, I was in San Francisco State's writing program quite a
while ago. I've just gotten a lot more intensive response to my work
in a low-residency program, both in terms of the quality and quantity
of response by teachers. Of course back when I was at SF State, the
quality and quantity of MY work left a lot to be desired too, so maybe
the teachers' responses were proportionate. But I think also it is not
a coincidence that a lot of the original low-res programs were started
by women (Ellen Bryant Voigt, Louise Gluck) who wanted to create a
system that would guarantee students a lot of access to teachers, i.e.
where access would not be monopolized by the most aggressive,
competitive (often male) students. I also felt out-of-step with the
overriding SF State poetic approach. I think now they've gone way in
the direction of language poetry, but they were starting to lean that
way when I was there.


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 10, 2001, 9:58 AM

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Oh my god, I can't believe I finally read all 608 posts!!! Thank you
to everyone who has taken the time to expatiate profusely on their
respective programs! I am a fiction writer deciding between Goddard,
VC, Bennington, and Warren Wilson, though I am finding it difficult to
pinpoint specific differences between the four. Can anyone who is a
student in these various programs tell me (and others!) what
percentage of their fellow students seem ecstatic about the program
versus just excited vs. still unsure, et cetera? The reason I ask is
because I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that, for example,
only 50% of Goddard students are 100% happy with the program. (The
numbers for the other schools were less surprising.) If I can find the
source, I'll post it, for now I just remember being shocked by that
number and a little concerned. I gather that Goddard is "radical,"
most of the faculty are gay, et cetera, no problem - open mindedness
is very important in writing! Do any of the three other well-known
schools have a general reputation like that? I have gotten the feeling
at times that Warren Wilson is more strict/structured possibly more
conservative? Or am I really off- base? Bennington and Vermont I'm not
sure I see a difference between at all. Perhaps the difference will be
who accepts me... . Also, it sounds like most everyone on this board
had been writing for many many years, if not decades, before pursuing
their MFAs. Would everyone who's been through, or is now in, a program
say that's generally true of the other students? I've only taken one
creative writing workshop and can't really gauge the depth of my
experience from time spent writing alone. Thanks to everyone who
replies! Robert - I am in San Francisco, too. Do you find the city to
be a good place to find writing community???


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 10, 2001, 11:47 AM

Post #610 of 2652 (16367 views)
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In my graduating class at Goddard -- ages ranging from 21 to probably
sixties -- one person was getting his BA with a final semester in the
MFA program, and the rest of us had certainly been writing most of our
lives. If you aren't committed to writing, there's not much point in
going for an MFA. But not everyone had a lot of professional
experience, and there were even a few people who came to Goddard
straight from their undergrad schools. And not everyone had formal
training before arriving there. dmh


robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 10, 2001, 7:37 PM

Post #611 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Laura, I'm not sure I could say I find San Francisco THAT good a place
to find a writing community, which I suppose is one reason (heh heh)
I've gotten into the Warren Wilson program in North Carolina. But God
knows there are a lot of writers in the S.F. area, so I'd say most
people could probably find a community they like, though they may have
to hunt their way through a lot of communities first that aren't right
for them. I've been in a good writing group of poets here for several
years (plug: check out our web site at www.13ways.org).


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 11, 2001, 6:14 AM

Post #612 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Robert, Thanks for the tip! I'll check out your site. I write fiction,
but it can be very poetic, bordering on prose poetry... . In the hopes
of not being redundant (I read through all the previous posts but it
was so much information... hard to keep track!) can I ask why you
chose Warren Wilson over the other low-res programs? I know you
started at SFState and didn't like it... I have met several people who
did seem to find State was right for them, or perhaps they _made_ it
right for them, I don't know. I can't say that they sold me on it! I
also met someone recently graduated from Goddard who got me very
excited about low-res programs - I really like the idea of working
closely with a mentor, or three or four. Do you think Warren Wilson is
more "academic" than the others??? I know that's a hard question to
answer. Let me explain the reason I get that impression - Goddard and
WW both make available on their site lecture/seminar titles and
descriptions from recent residencies. There is a discernable
difference between the two in those descriptions, I'm sure everyone on
this board knows what I'm talking about... channeling versus in-depth
Yeats, for example. I also noticed the WW seminars were heavily
weighted towards poetry and I wonder how the WW fiction students feel
about that?? I have asked Vermont College to send me a similar list of
their recent residency seminars, but have yet to get a response. Any
insights from anyone will be greatly appreciated!


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 11, 2001, 6:15 AM

Post #613 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Robert, or anyone else from the SF Bay Area - do you happen to know if
there's much of a writing community in Santa Cruz???


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 11, 2001, 6:22 AM

Post #614 of 2652 (16367 views)
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David - I think different people have different definitions of
"commited to writing." I think people can be truly gifted, but
terrified of their gift and spend many years not writing out of fear.
When they finally take the leap and do start writing, though, I don't
think this makes them any less qualified of a candidate for an MFA
program. It can be the very thing that kick-starts them out of their
cycles of doubt and destruction, but it can also lead to another
downturn upon graduation, which is another topic for another time.
Suffice to say - some writers are a river, always flowing with words,
while others are like the famous norcal surf break called Mavericks -
they look like they're not doing much most of the time but baby, when
those winter swells hit - WATCH OUT!!!!!


robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 11, 2001, 12:10 PM

Post #615 of 2652 (16367 views)
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I think there's just as much emphasis on fiction as poetry at Warren
Wilson. The WW web site may be out of date. I wouldn't describe WW as
"academic," but there is a strong emphasis on reading as well as
writing. You have a lot of say in what you choose to read, though.


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 13, 2001, 4:54 AM

Post #616 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Robert - thanks for your help. I know all the low-res schools empasize
reading as well as writing, that's definitely part of what I'm looking
for, but I thought I had either read on this board or heard somewhere
else that some WW students didn't feel they had _enough_ time for
their writing, vs. the amount of time spent on critical theory, et
cetera. That's what I meant by "academic" - sorry I didn't explain
more thoroughly. I don't really expect anyone to be able to give me
definitive answers... those I have to find for myself. I am more than
likely just thinking aloud here... . ps - I enjoyed your site and
added it to my bookmarks, thanks.


robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 13, 2001, 9:57 AM

Post #617 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Laura, your question about "academic" makes perfect sense. I'm not
sure I have an answer. There have definitely been times in the program
when I've felt frustrated with the time I've had to spend on stuff
other than my writing. I wouldn't exactly call it "critical theory,"
though. It would be more like really getting into Sylvia Plath and
reflecting on (and writing about) what I might learn from her work
that would be relevant to my own writing. So along with the
frustration, there is also a strong sense that the "academic" work
really has been a catalyst to get me to take new risks in my writing
that might not even have occurred to me otherwise. I don't know how WW
compares to other programs, though. It would be great for someone to
do some research and publish a "scientific" study! Interview some
graduates of MFA programs and get some solid info so people have
something to go on other than the stupid US News & World Report stuff.



pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 13, 2001, 12:07 PM

Post #618 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Laura, I'm not challenging your commitment to writing, or anyone's. I
just meant to point out that anyone who isn't committed probably won't
show up in an MFA program. It's the levels of previous experience that
vary, not so much the level of commitment. And there is no correlation
between experience and commitment. dmh


lynda

e-mail user

Aug 13, 2001, 9:15 PM

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Hi, Robert. Thanks for your response to my earlier question. Just
returned from the weeklong writers conference at Squaw Valley (where I
didn't bring a computer and didn't have access to the Speakeasy). When
I checked this site today, I saw so much recent activity under this
topic. What happened? Oh, if anyone here has questions about Fiction
at Warren Wilson, drop me a line. I'm doing the fiction track there
and I agree with what Robert said here--the emphasis is not more on
Poetry than on Fiction. It is pretty balanced. Don't know why the
website gives that impression of being biased toward poetry. Lynda


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 14, 2001, 6:09 AM

Post #620 of 2652 (16367 views)
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Lynda - I will have some questions about WW's fiction program as I get
deeper into my MFA application process. May I email you at your
lonevoyager address? Thanks very much in advance! How long have you
been in the program? Laura


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 14, 2001, 6:23 AM

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Robert - I see exactly what you're saying. When I was an undergraduate
(not in anything writing or lit related) I had so much required
reading, I never had time to read anything of my own choosing. I
realized after graduation that I hadn't so much forgotten _how_ to
read, as forgotten to read at all. I hadn't read with a thoughtful eye
towards writing (as opposed to assimilation and regurgitation of
information) in a long time. I am designing my own "course of study"
for this year or so remaining before I will begin an MFA, and hope I
can choose things to read which will push my writing. On this topic,
David - your semester transcript in post:215 was invaluable!!! Thank
you! If anyone else would like to post a sample of the reading and
writing they are doing as part of their program, I (and everyone else
who reads or lurks here, I'm sure) would be eternally grateful!!! It
really helps us to get a picture of what these programs are like.


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 14, 2001, 6:35 AM

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David - ah, perhaps I misunderstood. I was feeling insecure about the
fact that in any MFA program I will most likely be a generation
younger than the other students, and much less experienced
_professionally_. Meeting others who are committed to writing and
spending an intense week with them is one of the most exciting aspects
of these programs, and a large part of what I'm looking for, but
perhaps I fear being a victim of the "ageism" I have run into in
workshops. Did you feel the students in your program treated each
other equally despite the wide range in "life-experience?" Thanks,
Laura


armadillo
Laura Johnson

Aug 14, 2001, 6:36 AM

Post #623 of 2652 (16367 views)
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On the topic of the age-range in low-res programs, and the differences
in life-experience between the students, does anyone else have any
thoughts on the above question I posed to David??? Is there anyone on
this board who entered into a low-res program in their late-20s???
THANK YOU!!!!!!!


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 14, 2001, 12:01 PM

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I think I've mentioned before that my graduating class ranged from
mid-twenties to mid-sixties. It's true that, for the first residency
or two, I spent most of my meals with people with whom I had stuff in
common -- the middle-aged-married-white-guys caucus -- but my pals in
general covered the whole range. There is more of a tendency for the
fiction people to hang together sometimes, and the poets, and so on,
but the dorms mix everyone up pretty well -- of my four roommates, two
were poets, one a playwright, and one a fiction writer just out of
college. Very few of any of these had any real professional
experience, besides myself and one other person. We managed without
any trouble to treat each other as peers, largely because we =were=
peers. dmh


robt
Robert Thomas

Aug 14, 2001, 12:51 PM

Post #625 of 2652 (16367 views)
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I think someone in their late 20's would feel right at home at Warren
Wilson. And there are plenty of people without "professional"
experience. I'd say I've heard a few more complaints by older students
feeling left out by younger students (they didn't invite me out for
pizza with them), but I haven't found that a problem. In terms of what
I actually do, I try to send drafts of a couple new poems in each
packet, revisions of maybe three or four old poems, and a couple short
critical papers. In my last packet, for example, I did short papers on
William Matthews' TIME AND MONEY and Larissa Szporluk's ISOLATO. As
this is my last semester, it's a little unusual. I'm mainly working on
my thesis (i.e. book of poems), so in my critical papers I'm trying to
look particularly at individual books and how they're organized (as
opposed, say, to reading the collected works of Wallace Stevens). In
terms of "criticism," I've read ORPHAN FACTORY, a book of essays by
Charles Simic, and THE BOW AND THE LYRE by Octavio Paz, both of which
are very "poetic" criticism.

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