Shop of work, or something like that
So, I’m teaching a grad-level fiction workshop for the first time next fall. I’m excited and nervous. It feels like a big deal. In my pedagogical statements, I write about how many fiction students don’t know how to read. That is, they read like they’re lit majors: they read for analysis and to say something clever about the text. (I was no exception before and during my MFA.)
BUT, but, writers read in a fundamentally different way. We read with our own writing in mind: what works, what doesn’t, what should we take from this writer, what does this writer do that we also do that fails, etc.
My undergrad fiction workshops are always very reading heavy. We read something like 8-10 books. Every book comes with some kind of “craft” lesson. I attempt to teach students how to read as a writer. Mostly, it works.
But grad workshops seem like very different beasts. In many ways, the grad workshops I took didn’t really work for me, even though they were all wildly different pedagogical models. One had us read 6 books and do presentations, plus 2 workshop stories. Two had us read an anthology and do presentations, plus 2 workshop stories. One had us read 0 books and do 0 presentations, plus 7 workshop stories. Arguably, I hated the 7 workshop model most but I got the most “bang for the buck” there. (I know Michael Martone does something similar to this at Bama.) But 7 stories is grueling on both the student and the professor. You submit half-thought stories, unedited and messy.
What was your grad experience? What would you want out of a grad workshop? Would you prefer more stories, half-baked and pumped out, or fewer stories, cleaner and edited? Would you prefer collections/novels or an anthology?
I’m thinking of an anthology (Conjunctions fiction anthology or 30 under 30, even though that’s self-promoting), plus a subscription to two regularly publishing journals/chapbook series (NYer or Harper’s and MLP).