Jul 18, 2007, 2:36 PM
Post #514 of 764
For what it's worth, Cornell was maybe the only school I would have seriously considered over Iowa, mostly because of the awesome funding package, which includes a year of teaching post-grad as an instructor, if I'm not mistaken. As someone gearing up to look for full-time teaching work, I can say that having that under your belt would really help in your job hunt.
On a semi-related note ... and this isn't meant to be in response to Junior's comment specifically, but to several comments I've heard/read in these parts and others, all of which are some variation of "Sure, Iowa grads used to be great, but now they're pretty lame and unremarkable." Since a lot of people make decisions based on what they find here, and because I know how easy it is for rumors to become gospel (I used to believe Columbia was filled with nothing but snarky, backstabbing trust-fund babies, until I met some in person), I would just like to dispel that particular myth.
Just off the top of my head, and including only people who were there when I was there (the class that graduated a year before mine, and the one that just graduated this May)...
-stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, the O'Henry Prize Stories, Best New American Voices, and Best American Non-Required Reading.
-stories have been published in The New Yorker, Playboy, the Paris Review, Zoetrope, VQR, Tin House, A Public Space, OneStory, Agni, The Missouri Review, McSweeney's ... pretty much every respectable journal I can think of except Ploughshares, and really, that mag's a total snoozefest these days anyway (how's that for a snarky generalization?)
-at least three collections, and two novels, plus a few more that are under contract/forthcoming
-a Frank O'Conner award and Guardian First Book award winner (both won by Yiyun Lee)
-at least three full-time professors (and lots of lowly adjuncts!)
-a Stegner fellow, a couple Wisconsin fellowship winners, a Provincetown fellow, a Gettysburg College fellow.
One thing I can say about Iowa -- there's never a lack of pressure from your peer group! The other day I was feeling pretty good about myself for having a story accepted by The Southeast Review and another by an editor putting together a Bush Years anthology for a small press, and then I was fishing around online and realized a guy from my first-semester workshop had a story in the friggin' New Yorker.
And then I bought an overpriced 6-pack from the corner deli, arranged myself on the couch, and watched Rock of Love With Bret Michaels until I felt better about myself.
Thanks for the insight!
Along the same lines as what you were saying toward the end... almost every book, thread, or blog I've come across has referenced Iowa's tiered funding situation as a bad thing (creating a competative environment instead of a supportive one.) Then, I asked one of my undergrad profs -- who has had five books published and got his PhD at Florida State -- what he thought about Iowa, and he kind of shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "I know its reputation for being a top program, but other than that...," but when I told him about their tiered funding he brightened up. He threw out the comment that that type of environment might push you, make you want to write better, a perspective that seemed incredibly obvious to me the second he said it, yet flew in the face of everything I'd read previously.
It's one of those key principles for improvement in any field: surround yourself with those who are better than you are. Like golf, for example... my handicap hovered at around 100 for about five or six years. Then, one summer, I started playing with a roommate of mine with a 5 handicap. Within three months, I'd shaved ten strokes off my game. It wasn't just that he gave me pointers as we played; it was that I pushed myself to try and beat him on every hole... and I actually did every once and awhile.
Okay, I'm rambling -- and hungry -- so I'll stop for now.
Again, thanks for the post, mingram!