Mar 30, 2006, 1:47 PM
Post #140 of 184
Re: [mdseay] Perils/Positives of New (Low-Res) Programs
[In reply to]
I'm a 2005 grad of the Queens low-res program (in fiction), and I'm honestly a pretty big fan of their online workshop format.
The broadly-held but unspoken assumption about online workshops seems to be that you will learn craft by reading the comments of other workshop participants. In almost every case, you will not; you'll learn how your stuff is being read. You will learn craft by WRITING comments about OTHER people's submissions.
Absolutely. I agree, completely, Martin. Which is why I spend a lot of time teaching my own students "how to critique" and which was also why I was so very frustrated with the program's unwillingness, at the time, to focus on the craft of critiquing. Ultimately, I even tried to offer a service in the form of my own craft seminar on the craft of critiquing. (Let's not even get into the uneven quality of craft seminar preparation/performance, although there, too, I understand they've finally toughened up the requirement a bit.) As I say, mine was definitely a minority voice on the subject of critiquing (or any other "standards") throughout the time I was there.
Still, an argument could be made that since one's tuition dollars are going to support the online workshop, it would be nice to receive quality responses on one's work. At the time I was in the program, the student handbook stated that faculty would "assess" the student responses. This never once happened. I never once received any "assessment" of my own critiques, and I certainly never saw instructors comment on others' critiques in their responses, except to say, from time to time, "I agree with X and Y about this point." Not quite individual evaluation/assessment. And not very helpful if one goal is, indeed, to strengthen individual critique abilities so that one will, indeed, learn from the process of writing rather than reading critiques.
Similarly, I never received an evaluation/assessment of any of the response papers for those 12-15 books (not that we needed to write about all 12-15) which, as you point out, frequently fell to the wayside for many of my classmates. Maybe I had an unspoken assumption that my papers would be read and commented on. That was just one more way I found the program did not deliver: I have a number of years behind me as a student
and as an instructor, and nowhere else, in either context, have I ever encountered the phenomenon of papers being submitted but never returned/responded to. A number of us wondered if anyone ever read them. Even the paper submission/collection process was disorganized. So the lack of faculty engagement there seemed very off to me.
I'm glad if the program has matured somewhat. It does point to possible perils of new programs for inaugural students (a point of this discussion), especially if the programs turn out to be very resistant/slow to change. Four or five years is awhile, in my view, to get "features" like an online workshop in order (I don't think we inaugural students got any tuition "discounts" in the meantime!). But if such program components are working now, that's all to the good for the newer students.
Again, I think people enter programs with different expectations so even if they were to work with the same set of faculty at the same time in the same workshops, they're likely to emerge with different evaluations. When they work with different people at different times in different workshops, different viewpoints are practically guaranteed.