Mar 27, 2006, 3:36 PM
Post #123 of 184
Re: [Tweedy] Perils/Positives of New (Low-Res) Programs
[In reply to]
A few thoughts:
1) Online workshops don't have to be a drawback. When I was at Queens (2001-03), they really didn't work very well at all. My major frustration was with the apparent unwillingness to improve them, but I understand there have been a few changes more recently, and I hope they've helped.
2) Remember that many low-res programs have very large faculties (Queens fits this description). And like the students, each member of the faculty is an individual. Some are better teachers than others. Some are much more helpful than others. Some--whether because of temperament or style or subject matter or other teaching/writing commitments and priorities or any of a number of other highly unpredictable factors--are better teachers and more helpful for some students than for others. And different low-res programs have different policies (as we've previously learned on this board) regarding how those matches are made.
Side note: if you have a "bad match" one semester you'll be very happy to have the possible sustenance of at least one or two members of your online workshop.
3) I'm not sure what you meant by the Queens "syllabus." Do you mean the list of books you're supposed to read for the craft seminars during the residencies? In my experience, this changed every semester, depending on which faculty were giving the seminars. That may be the case elsewhere, too. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a system in place for feedback on the short papers we wrote for those seminars at Queens. None of my workshop faculty assigned other reading, so the list of readings for seminars was really the only "syllabus" each semester.
By the way, I noticed a few months ago (before the January residency, I think) that the Web site was going to post the "current syllabus," but as of now that page seems to be still "under construction." Ditto the Residency Schedule page. (For a program that employs online workshopping, Queens has never seemed adequately tech-savvy to me.)
It's true that the reading (reading in general, not just "theory" assignments) and critical writing components of the Queens program are much lighter than what's found elsewhere. The problem is that (when I was there, at least) many people came to the program with fairly weak preparation in these areas. This did not help the workshop situation. Of course there was resistance to acknowledging this problem, too.
I found it very frustrating, but as I was repeatedly told by the administration, I was in a minority in this respect. But I also came to the program with a pretty strong academic background and was accustomed to rigorous coursework. Looking back, it's pretty obvious that in many respects, this was not a good program match for me. Which doesn't mean it isn't a good match for others. And which doesn't mean that I could have predicted all the "mismatch" elements beforehand, with the possible no-brainer (as I see it now) that I missed: a program that doesn't emphasize "outside" reading/critical writing is not likely to attract a community that believes those things matter very much for a writer's development.
4) Which leads (sort of) to a more general comment for the thread. I'm a little concerned for people who ask the board for ideas about Program A vs. Program B. First, no one can possibly know the intricacies of two programs without having some direct experience with both of them. And second (this is a big, general point with me), each of us approaches the MFA with our own academic background, writerly strengths, writerly weaknesses, work habits, and so on down the line of variables. There's a lot of good advice in these threads--I hope I've offered some, at times, myself--but remember that it's also often very anonymous commentary, in both directions, and everyone really needs to consider his/her own case in its own context.
Quiet Americans: Stories
(This post was edited by edwriter on Mar 27, 2006, 5:31 PM)