Lost in Translation: The Workshop

Jane Roper
From the May/June 2004 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Since the Iowa Writers' Workshop began awarding graduate degrees in poetry and fiction in 1936, the number of MFA programs in creative writing has risen steadily. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs, an organization founded in 1967 to support the growing presence of writers in higher education, now boasts more than 250 member programs. And new ones are cropping up all the time.

The focal point of any MFA program is, of course, the writing workshop, in which students read one another's work and offer constructive, respectful criticism. It sounds simple enough, but as anyone who's been through one of these programs can tell you, translating peer critiques is an art in itself. For the workshop novice, here's a brief guide.

Jane Roper recently received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.