Years ago, I was rejected by a handful of the country’s top writing programs–Iowa, Oregon, Montana and Arizona. So it’s interesting to hear this recent Iowa grad’s commentary on the degree.
from Cup of Chicha: “Lately, several aspiring writers have asked me my thoughts on MFA programs and whether they should enroll in one. I don’t know, I don’t know. At Iowa, I was a depressive, unproductive recluse â€” not a good representative for the average workshop experience. Also, I came to Iowa from Brown, where I wrote and studied experimental fiction (with people like Carole Maso and Robert Coover); even a two year program couldn’t mitigate the culture shock. (In a NY Times piece on Frank Conroy’s retirement, Conroy depicts Iowa as a place where writing is priviliged over theory. But that, too, is a theoretical position â€” and the one most popular among traditionalists.)
If Iowa was useful for me, it was useful as a series of checks on my writing instincts. It made writing even more slow and painful, because I suddenly was able to acknowledge the difference between myself and my readers (i.e., the associations I take for granted almost always have to be explained, or cut). But, I think I need to wait a couple more years â€” watching where my writing (and “career” – ha) goes â€” before I can make an informed assessment of my time at Iowa.”