It was peak reading season, and Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was gamely juggling a call from a reporter, interruptions from her 7-year-old as well as a 10 percent surge in applications to the University of Iowa’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing. Chang was in the thick of decisions about who would fill 50 spots evenly divided between the fall fiction and poetry workshops.“I’m deluged,” she said, surprised by the number of applications she was sorting through — 1,380 — especially in a year with a stronger economy, a condition that typically causes graduate school applications, never mind those to fine arts programs, to drop. More likely, the swell in applications is not so weird.“Explosive” is the word routinely used to describe the growth of M.
”Perhaps, she speculates, the surge is a result of the juggernaut HBO series called “Girls,” the one where the neurotic aspiring novelist Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, takes off to the Iowa cornfields and shines a bright light on the venerated program. Sample manifestoes from blogs and chat rooms: “Why you should hate the creative writing establishment (…as if you needed any more reasons)” and “14 Reasons (Not) to Get an M. Mc Gurl, a Stanford English professor, describes the M.
“I’m not even sure what I’d be writing now if I hadn’t gone.”Success stories like Ms. “Too white,” he wrote, “as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc.).”Cornell’s current director, J. Díaz’s student cohort was “100 percent writers of color,” which Mr. community get impatient with the discussion of whether it’s worth taking on debt for an M. “The number of writers has increased, but the number of readers has not,” says Joseph Harrison, senior American editor for Waywiser Press. Harrison is coordinator of Waywiser’s Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize.
Most famously, Junot Díaz wrote in a New Yorker essay last year about racial and ethnic insensitivity during his time in Cornell’s program in 1992. Debt is important to consider, he says, but so is passion. It’s not so bad to make a sacrifice.”The monthly magazine Poetry receives 100,000 submissions a year and publishes 300 poems.
Some elite, smaller programs waive tuition and provide a stipend (Hopkins pays $30,000 a year, Cornell $26,000) for every student, typically requiring work in a related position, such as being a teaching assistant. programs is likely to be partial, if available at all. Brooklyn College may seem a bargain at $14,580 in tuition for its two-year program ($20,700, out of state) but the program loses talent to schools that provide full tuition remission and stipends, Ms. The class entering Boston University’s one-year creative writing program this fall will be the first in which all students receive a full tuition waiver and a $12,800 stipend.
Robert Lennon, says that while the program lacked a diverse faculty 23 years ago, half of today’s tenure-track faculty members are “writers of color” and split evenly between men and women. Díaz did not report.“I don’t doubt that Junot had a hard time here; some students do,” Mr. “The workshop can be a contentious and at times hurtful environment, and I’d imagine that it can be particularly vexing for students who experience discrimination every day outside of class.”•One equalizer has been the availability of more financial aid. This year, the competition drew 33 percent more submissions.“We can only publish so much,” Mr.
John Mc Nally, an Iowa graduate who based a satirical novel, “After the Workshop,” on a washed-up graduate of the Iowa program, has described his own experience there as affected by “bitter jealousies, competition” and writing to please instructors and classmates. David Win-grave, a New York University student, says that at first the camaraderie, the attention on his work and the mounds of feedback were “thrilling.” But it was easy to lose focus and feel frustrated, and he learned to rely on only a few trusted readers.
The writer sits silently while classmates comment first on what is working, then go back around to comment on what is not. “We try to see if a person seems rational and, frankly, unneurotic, because if you get someone with a screw loose, it can be disruptive to the group.”Achieving workshop harmony can be a challenge. He also points out that criticism is coming primarily from peers who “are people who don’t know anything about writing, which is why they are in the program.”The workshop can take getting used to.
candidates, she says, need to ask: “Am I prepared for that kind of life? U., I got those things.”At the same time, he harbors no illusions about the road ahead.
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