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Windiciti



Oct 25, 2006, 7:33 AM

Post #176 of 235 (3061 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Well you'd love my teacher. She does extensive line edits through the whole story and types about two pages of comments before class, and during class she is always trying to be specific and force others to be specific in their advice and opinions


Yes, Clench, I'd say you've got a really great teacher there! "extensive line edits....two pages of comments before class"!

I've rec'd a few pencil squiggles, and a typewritten paragraph in reference to the squiggles, which I didn't entirely understand.
I like the professor very much, but I'm not getting the solid type of advice I've rec'd from other grad teachers.
It's more about " tell me more about these characters, (not the main ones), expand the story, etc." not much which I can work with, nothing I regard as solid advice yet.


sibyline


Oct 26, 2006, 7:20 PM

Post #177 of 235 (2992 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

of course a lot of this depends on the teacher, but here at cornell, the standard seems to be individual consultations with the faculty member after your story gets workshopped, so the workshop itself mainly focuses on the feedback of other students, with the professor acting mainly as facilitator.

i personally find this feedback extremely valuable, especially because it comes from people who are, shall we say, in the trenches with me. the thing about the greats is that they've already found their voice and there's something about getting feedback from people who are on the road with you that makes a big difference. fiction is an evolving form, and people who have taught it for a long time tend to utilize already-established ideas. it's great to hear from people who are still undergoing wild experiments.

there are definitely people in workshop whose read on my work i don't necessarily agree with, but that will always happen. but when i've implemented changes in revision, i have to say that i've so far taken other students' advice as much as the professor's.


Elika619


Oct 27, 2006, 1:52 PM

Post #178 of 235 (2938 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Sibyline! Quick question for you (not sure if you know but thought I would give it a shot!). I am applying to Cornell and am really excited about it. I am in the midst of my on-line application, however my recommenders are having trouble with the on-line recommender form. Cornell's website has a supplemental form for recommenders. Do you know if it's ok if I submit my application electronically, but send in my LORs as hardcopies?

Thanks!


renapoo


Oct 27, 2006, 2:58 PM

Post #179 of 235 (2926 views)
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Re: [Elika619] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know what Sib's take on this is, but I'm applying to Cornell too and am sending in my recs as hard copies. I don't think it matters much, the on-line forms seem to be more for the recommender's convenience than the schools.


Vermont


Oct 27, 2006, 7:27 PM

Post #180 of 235 (2897 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

 


(This post was edited by Vermont on Jan 3, 2007, 10:02 AM)


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Oct 27, 2006, 7:54 PM

Post #181 of 235 (2890 views)
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Re: [Vermont] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

This is why I can't imagine going through an MFA program that's all or mostly workshops. My workshop experience at Bennington hasn't been quite that bad; most of the commentary has been polite and at least trying to be helpful. The most constructive written commentary I've had on a story was by one of the multi-published novelists.

But on balance the workshops are definitely the most disappointing thing. With the rapid proliferation of programs I don't think MFA workshops are populated with enough students who know or care what they're talking about. I wonder if creative writing programs will ever de-emphasize workshops and start having the faculty teach the students like every other field.


Vermont


Oct 27, 2006, 8:49 PM

Post #182 of 235 (2878 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

 


(This post was edited by Vermont on Jan 3, 2007, 10:03 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Oct 28, 2006, 3:16 PM

Post #183 of 235 (2828 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

What programs are all or mostly workshops? Or are you talking about low residency stuff?
Cause I get the impression regular MFA programs are all pretty much the same with one workshop a semester.

"I wonder if creative writing programs will ever de-emphasize workshops and start having the faculty teach the students like every other field."

Well, this is a fine arts degree. I think all the MFAs require you to actually create art and turn it in.





Banyon


Oct 28, 2006, 3:30 PM

Post #184 of 235 (2826 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Clench,

I think that they prefer getting feedback from instructors (professional writers) than fellow students. So they prefer the low-res route where they just have a mentor to read/critique their work for most of the semester (and only a brief residency period with workshops).

Personally, I learn a lot from my peers in workshop. In most of the workshops I've taken, I've gotten wonderful feedback from at least a few people in the class (and it's not hard to pick out which students "get" your work/vision and want to help you pursue that). I've found some of the flaws in my own writing by seeing those flaws repeated in others' work. Also, other workshoppers occasionally "get" my work better than our professor, though it doesn't happen often. Who knows--maybe I've just gotten lucky as far as my classmates go. Even in high school workshops I learned a lot.

-Banyon


blueragtop


Oct 28, 2006, 3:48 PM

Post #185 of 235 (2822 views)
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Re: [Banyon] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Earlier this month, quite a few of us were talking about "top" programs vs. mid-range to average schools, and this workshop problem Windiciti brought up is a very serious concern for me. An MFA is great, but I want to work with the best people. Bad writing certainly outweighs good writing, and I want to be in a program with the best possible writers. I work hard at this and if I'm in a workshop, I always give the best feedback possible. I look at the work from all possible views and give the best advice I can. I've been in some workshops where the students aren't well-read and have no idea what the hell is going on. Outside of funding, this is the most important factor for me: quality of peers. Sure, you never know who will be your peers, but the top schools have a lot more applicants and they can really pick who they want.

Since academia is such a business, I'm sure that tons of bad writers are getting MFAs and I really want to avoid them as best as possible. If I had to guess, I say the top 10-15 programs have extremely good writers, and then after that it gets murky. Also, if I had to guess, I think the talent in low-residency programs might not be that great. I really believe the best writers are at the top programs.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Oct 28, 2006, 4:32 PM

Post #186 of 235 (2816 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

What programs are all or mostly workshops? Or are you talking about low residency stuff?
Cause I get the impression regular MFA programs are all pretty much the same with one workshop a semester.

Not in my experience, which I admit is dated and limited, I usually took two workshops and one academic course per semester. Of course, that included different genres--i.e. poetry and novel-writing or non-fiction the same semester.

Some workshop teachers are more than others, more willing to voice their opinion or play devil's advocate. Others are more available/honest one-on-one. Still, I've never had one sit back and let peers do all the work.


rooblue


Oct 28, 2006, 4:52 PM

Post #187 of 235 (2809 views)
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Re: [melos] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Melos,
I hope you'll rethink your assumption about the calibre of writers in low-residency programs. Most people choose low-residency not because they can't get into regular MFA programs, but because the circumstances of their lives won't permit that choice. I'm about to graduate from Warren Wilson and I can tell you that the students there are for the most part extremely talented and hard-working. There is a range of skill of course -- some of us are more experienced than others -- but the quality of writing in general is very high. I regularly see my peers' names in major journals, and many of them have at least one book out. On the poetry side, the poetry editor at Slate graduated not too long ago. I'm not sure of the exact percentages, but I think Warren Wilson accepts around 10 percent of its applicants each term. Surely that is at least as competitive as many regular MFA programs.


writerle


Oct 28, 2006, 7:33 PM

Post #188 of 235 (2792 views)
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Re: [rooblue] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

I can second that. I'm at Vermont College and, so far, the quality of writing that I have seen in my workshops is very high. Vermont College alumnae have a very impressive publication record. Also, many of the top low-res programs are fairly competitive and have a relatively low acceptance rate. I don't think it's fair to assume that someone enters a low-res program simply because they weren't good enough to get into one of the "real" MFA programs. In my case, I have a husband and four children and do not live anywhere near a university with a traditional MFA program. It simply wasn't feasible for me to sell my house, make my husband quit his job, pull my kids out of school, and move to someplace such as Iowa for two years. There are many different phases of life, and not all of us are at the same place when we finally decide to pursue our dreams.


Windiciti



Oct 28, 2006, 9:51 PM

Post #189 of 235 (2780 views)
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Re: [writerle] [rooblue] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course you two are right!
Low Res programs like Bennington and Warren Wilson are VERY select. Both turned ME down, even though I am a pretty decent writer.

So maybe what I am experiencing in one of the places which DID accept me, and actually had the MOST difficult application process IMO, is not surprising, or maybe it was the luck of the draw of how the other students who registered for the same class write.

As I've said before, I've seen better stories at Iowa and Madison's summer workshops, where EVERYONE could get in!
But, I don't have enough information yet...this is my first trimester.


sibyline


Oct 29, 2006, 1:15 PM

Post #190 of 235 (2747 views)
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Re: [Elika619] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

I seem to remember doing that, submitting my application electronically and doing hardcopy LOR's. So it seems like it should be fine.


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Oct 29, 2006, 11:36 PM

Post #191 of 235 (2699 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
What programs are all or mostly workshops? Or are you talking about low residency stuff?
Cause I get the impression regular MFA programs are all pretty much the same with one workshop a semester.

"I wonder if creative writing programs will ever de-emphasize workshops and start having the faculty teach the students like every other field."

Well, this is a fine arts degree. I think all the MFAs require you to actually create art and turn it in.




When I researched MFA programs some of the residential programs sold themselves blatantly as requiring little of their students outside workshops. Students in a couple of programs told me they didn't even have to show up for the craft courses - one said it was an A if you came and a B if you didn't.


Windiciti



Oct 30, 2006, 10:54 AM

Post #192 of 235 (2658 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

My residential program is 50% of each. But frankly, I wish I'd applied to a 100% workshop type program!
However, I am going to make damn sure that my electives are all non-fiction WORKSHOPS. Yes, workshops. Because in spite of all my complaints, I still think you learn by doing, at least I do, and even the workshop I'm in now IS getting better as we all get into our critique and writing (better) mode.

What on earth are "craft" classes? Are they not about doing...in this case writing?

And BTW can anyone tell me what a "typical" workshop story is?
People mention it as an easily recognizable "product" that emerges after the workshop process, but I'm still not sure what it looks like.
Thank you!


__________



Oct 30, 2006, 11:08 AM

Post #193 of 235 (2653 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

What on earth are "craft" classes? Are they not about doing...in this case writing?

I'd like to know, too. But from what I hear, they seem to be exercise based, and revolve around specific technical readings, say, modernist novels. I'm just stoked about any class that might address syntax, paragraphing, etc...actual writing.


And BTW can anyone tell me what a "typical" workshop story is?

Endlessly Googleable. Stories carried over from the Carver 80's: realist, preferably minimalist, plainly prosed, scant plot, 3-4 thousand words, emphasis on "character development", capped with a trite epiphany. Considers itself artsy, though really, what it is is mistake-free, more or less, syntax wise. Group-lens filtered. Most likely focused on some Other or another--Asians and Indians are big right now. First paragraph is generally good--because we all know it's the most important--then the quality drops. The ending merely ends. Makes you say, not Wow, but rather, Well, that wasn't too disagreeable.



six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Oct 30, 2006, 11:10 AM)


Windiciti



Oct 30, 2006, 11:27 AM

Post #194 of 235 (2640 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Endlessly Googleable. Stories carried over from the Carver 80's: realist, preferably minimalist, plainly prosed, scant plot, 3-4 thousand words, emphasis on "character development", capped with a trite epiphany. Considers itself artsy, though really, what it is is mistake-free, more or less, syntax wise. Group-lens filtered. Most likely focused on some Other or another--Asians and Indians are big right now. First paragraph is generally good--because we all know it's the most important--then the quality drops. The ending merely ends. Makes you say, not Wow, but rather, Well, that wasn't too disagreeable.

Thank you, Junior Maas! I've never seen it put so plainly...

What does "endlessly Googeable" mean?

HMM...mine are generally under 3k words, not too wordy, have a plot, and almost mistake free, syntax-wise, because I AM a HS English teacher. Just now started writing about the OTHER (Latinos), have written ONE story set in Injah, and my first paragraphs are generally good!

However, I can't judge for myself whether my characters' epiphanies are trite, because although they are not "group lens filtered," they are filterd by MY experience or my own imagination.

Please tell me more! You are the first person who has given me anything I could understand when I asked this question aloud, though people mention these type of stories OFTEN on the forums.
Thank you!


laughingman


Oct 30, 2006, 11:39 AM

Post #195 of 235 (2638 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow. Pretty solid summary (indictment?) of the "typical workshop story," I'd say. Anyone else care to weigh-in for or against "the typical" ? I'm copying this one, titling it "what not to do," and hanging it above my computer.


Quoting Junior Maas:

And BTW can anyone tell me what a "typical" workshop story is?

Endlessly Googleable. Stories carried over from the Carver 80's: realist, preferably minimalist, plainly prosed, scant plot, 3-4 thousand words, emphasis on "character development", capped with a trite epiphany. Considers itself artsy, though really, what it is is mistake-free, more or less, syntax wise. Group-lens filtered. Most likely focused on some Other or another--Asians and Indians are big right now. First paragraph is generally good--because we all know it's the most important--then the quality drops. The ending merely ends. Makes you say, not Wow, but rather, Well, that wasn't too disagreeable.



Clench Million
Charles

Oct 30, 2006, 1:00 PM

Post #196 of 235 (2615 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
My residential program is 50% of each. But frankly, I wish I'd applied to a 100% workshop type program!
However, I am going to make damn sure that my electives are all non-fiction WORKSHOPS. Yes, workshops. Because in spite of all my complaints, I still think you learn by doing, at least I do, and even the workshop I'm in now IS getting better as we all get into our critique and writing (better) mode.


I must say I'm a bit confused. Your residenitial program is 50% workshops?! I'd assume you normally take 4-5 classes a semester at a typical residential program, so you are taking 2-3 workshops? Or do you merely take 2 classes a semester? And there are residential programs that are 100% workshops!?

I can't imagine how that is sustainable, unless each workshop is so pointlessly large that you don't get to turn in more than once a semester. My workshop is, I think, a fairly typical size (9 students) and I am turning in 4 times. If I was taking two workshop I'd have to be turning in full first draft every two weeks. I wouldn't have any time for revision or non-workshop work.

I agree that workshops are good and you learn by doing, but how can you sustain more than one workshop without seeing a serious drop in the quality of the work the students are doing in an individual workshop? Even in my undergrad they highly discouraged anyone from taking 2 workshops (say fiction and poetry) because you wouldn't have enough time to really devote yourself to two.


Quote

What on earth are "craft" classes? Are they not about doing...in this case writing?


I think craft classes are just a broad term for any class (be it a large lecture or a small seminar) in an MFA program which is devoted to the study of the CRAFT of writing. Which is to say, as opposed to an english PhD class which would be an academic study of writing. Instead of analyzing The Trial from a post-feminist perspective or writing essays on bird imagery in the awakening, you are studying the methods the writer used to achieve x,y and z. Talking about what boundries this book is pressing instead or how it's form benefits it's content instead of how we can read the main character of Wuthering Heights as a homosexual or Frankenstein as an allegory of post-colonial struggles in some small island or another.

Junior Maas's
description of the typical MFA story is a perfectly true (and hilarious) although I think its become acceptable to be less minimialist these days. I'm definitly thankful I'm not in a program that revolves around such things. Has there even been a truly notable writer of that kind of story since Carver and Cheever? No wonder the short story is so neglected by the reading public these days....

Seriously, other than people who get a bit of hype for one book and fade away, the only peoole doing that kind of work that people talk about in the literary scene are this or that hip author of the new hip ethnicity for the season. Even those tend to fade out of memory pretty quickly. Seems to me all the notable story authors of the past twenty or so years (barry hannah, saunders, denis johnson, david foster wallace, lydia davis, murakami, etc.) have veered far away from it, yet it still totally dominates the MFA world.
Sigh.





__________



Oct 31, 2006, 1:56 AM

Post #197 of 235 (2559 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

For the love of God, please no one listen to me! I remind you, you guys are in the good programs--I'm just at bat. So remove that paper scrap from above your computer!

But as workshop stereotypes go, that's the best I can tell. The corollary to that, of course, is that nothing on that list makes anything bad, uninteresting, or workshop fiction. For instance, I dig Carver, Joyce had epiphanies, and I happen to love what people might call immigrant fiction. I've thought about this a lot lately, and as far as I can tell, the arguments against the workshop story are a little unfounded. Maybe the nugget of truth in all this is that, just starting out, we're more inclined to trust our favorite author's instincts over our own, write like they do, instead of like ourselves, which is just being hammered out at the moment. I could see that leading to competent, but 'uninspired', fiction.

Anyway, I know P&W's own 'Mingram' has convincingly addressed these issues in print:

http://www.storysouth.com/...004/shortshorts.html

http://www.storysouth.com/...er2005/mfaessay.html


six five four three two one 0 ->


Windiciti



Oct 31, 2006, 8:35 PM

Post #198 of 235 (2500 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

I am only taking one class at a time! It's a 10 course program. Each course is $2170 and I am paying for it myself. I believe 3 courses wd. be considered a FULL load, but fortunately this is an evening program, aimed at working professionals, so no one takes more than 6 hours.

With subbing and taking care of senile dogs, aging parents, etc. and now trying to aim my best stuff to mags instead of competitions, I am quite busy.

I heard yesterday that they are trying to turn this MCW degree into an MFA, and I wd. really welcome this, even if I had to take more courses, Clench. I am trying to become a college teacher, since I am tired of high school teaching.

The Art Institute of Chicago is an MFA program that is ALL workshops. It is about $3000 a course, and of course, is much longer.


Clench Million
Charles

Nov 3, 2006, 2:00 PM

Post #199 of 235 (2432 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

Having smaller class requirements for working professonals makes total sense, of course, but I'm not sure what to think about an all workshop MFA.

How is that really an MFA? Merely because its at a university? If there isn't any requirements beyond a few workshops, why couldn't Gothem Writers Institute or any group like that just give out MFAs?


Windiciti



Nov 3, 2006, 2:17 PM

Post #200 of 235 (2428 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Workshop stories [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not really sure about all this, Clench.
Every program I applied to had a diffrernt percentage of workshop versus other courses.
I am also taking a workshop NEXT trimester, so I'm not sure how the other type of class will be.
If my program goes from an MCW---30 hours, 10 courses now---to an MFA, which they are considering.they are going to augment it to 15 or 20 courses. I will stay for the ride if they do!
As I said before, I am so keen to also write for consumer mags, that I am going to take the extra workshops for that.
And do a creative writing teaching practicum at MY university, which will be GREAT!

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