Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Dec 22, 2009, 2:18 PM
Post #2104 of 2528
Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Our family dog passed away on Sunday. With that, Christmas, and the rush to get everything together for graduation, it's been kind of crazy around here.
Okay, what did you want to know about my experience at VCFA?
My advisors were all terrific. I knew very little about any of them before I started the program, but I felt they focused on my goals, my needs, my particular writing issues. My first advisor really helped me think about the tension in my fiction. My second advisor pushed me to finish my novel (I did!) and to work on such craft issues as deepening POV, tightening the prose, and enhancing character motivation. My third advisor worked with me on my critical thesis and some short fiction. She was a fabulous editor who really showed me how to edit my own work. She also helped with tips on dialogue (one of her strengths). For the critical thesis, she was a tough task-master, forcing me to narrow my focus about my topic. (I think I re-wrote it four times!) My last advisor took on the job of whipping my novel into publication-ready shape--all 470 pages! We spent the semester working on indepth revisions, cleaning up dialogue tags, repetition, flabby scenes, little places where I was "telling," etc.
In general, I found Vermont to be incredibly nurturing. They take pride on making this a safe but challenging place to improve your craft. The administration is absolutely tops. If you need it, they make it happen. I've developed some life-long friendships with many of my fellow students, and we chat often by email or on FB. In that sense, it's a great networking resource, as people are quite receptive to passing on leads for publishers, markets, grants, agents, etc.
The negatives-- (fairly mild, but I found them a negative) The housing conditions are, uh, primitive. Think 1960s-style dorm rooms, and you have a good picture. If you decide on Vermont, invest in a nice comforter, a good pillow (although blankets and pillows are provided), and one of those Temperapedic mattress pads (for a twin bed). The mattresses suck! The food is okay, sometimes better than others, but it's cafeteria food. It's prepared by New England Culinary students who sometimes create rather strange experiments... Library and staff are fabulous. If they don't have it, they'll find it. The computer lab is decent, and most of the campus is now wireless.
Residencies also include some downtime and entertainment. In addition to the lectures, readings, panel discussions, workshop, and visiting authors, winter residency has a New Year's Eve party, talent show, and auction. Summer residency has a baseball game/picnic, talent show, and auction. The talent shows are always a hoot.
Students are encouraged to be as involved as they want. You can help with recording the lectures, running errands, etc. Graduating students often return as grad assistants (I've applied for a slot.) Faculty are friendly and supportive.
Does that cover it?