Online-only Exclusives

Not as Easy as You Think: Re-evaluating the Workshop Model

Oindrila Mukherjee
In his book, Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five Canon Approach, Tom C. Hunley says that the workshop method “functions more as a convenience for the instructors than as a vehicle for meeting the needs of students.

Kurt Brown and What You Can Do for Poetry

David J. Rothman
During the summer of 1990 I took a break from my graduate studies and spent several weeks in Aspen, helping Kurt Brown to run the 15th Aspen Writers’ Conference.


Heart to Chart: Helping Students Visualize Our Responses to Their Fiction

Donald Secreast
At some point in a creative writing class, a teacher must talk to a student in fairly concrete terms about the flaws in his or her writing. I prefer to conduct these serious evaluations as a personal conference in my office.

Thomas James and Lucien Stryk: “and you / My first live poet”

Susan Azar Porterfield
Lucie Brock-Broido reintroduced the poetry of Thomas James to the world some thirty years after he committed suicide in 1974, shortly after publishing his first book, Letters to a Stranger (1973).

How to Put Words in Someone’s Mouth: Teaching the Dramatic Monologue

Benjamin S. Grossberg
I love teaching the dramatic monologue, those poems in which the speaker is understood as a character distinct from the person of the poet. I love teaching the form because some of my favorite poems are monologues—and because it often occasions breakthroughs in student writing.

The Early Days of AWP

Robert Day
In the beginning, at the dawn of the 1970s, there was Verlin and Kay Cassill at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Working Men and Women: Characters & Their Development

Erika Dreifus

Ever notice how much time fiction writers spend focusing on love and love relationships? How many workshop sessions can elapse while the group dissects the plausibility of the lovers' relationship in any given manuscript? Analyzing the blossoming romances-and the bedroom betrayals? Advocating for more-or less-backstory? Arguing that any particular situation, however poignant or pressured, may seem too much like a cliche? Reading as writers, we seem nearly always to notice how characters are defined by whom they love and how they love. Whether they love. What gets in their way. How they survive love's slings and arrows.


George Hitchcock: Larger Than Life

Robert McDowell

Before I knew him, before I learned that everything about George loomed large, I saw that physically he was big. George Hitchcock, poet-in-residence at what was then College V, the arts cluster college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was crossing the college quad the night I worked up the courage to meet him.


Encountering the Muses: Conversations at the Athens Centre Poetry Workshop, June 2011

Linda Lappin
Since the early '70s, the Athens Centre has offered an international poetry workshop every summer , hosting some of the greatest names in American and English poetry: Allen Ginsberg, W.H. Auden, James Merrill. Today the Muses Workshop is conducted by Alicia Stallings, an American poet transplanted to Greece, classics scholar, recipient of the Richard Wilbur poetry prize, acclaimed translator from Ancient and Modern Greek, a Guggenheim fellow, and recently a recipient of a MacArthur fellowship.
In June 2011, as protests and riots over the austerity measures proposed in the Greek Parliament echoed through Constitution Square, I spent a week at the Athens Centre, attending Stallings's workshop. While in Athens, I had an opportunity to speak at length with Rosemary Donnelly, one of the founders of the center and current program director; with A.E. Stallings, poetry workshop leader; and with my fellow participants about this challenging workshop.

Creative Writers in the Rare Book Room

Erica Olsen
University rare book libraries are often thought of as repositories for dusty old tomes-more dead poets society than a place for living authors. In fact, many rare book libraries house contemporary materials such as literary manuscripts, small press publications, and artists' books. (Within university library systems, rare books and manuscripts are often called "special collections." Manuscripts and personal papers-such as handwritten or typewritten documents, letters, and diaries, as well as digital files-may also be housed in repositories called archives.

Attention Adjuncts: Get Paid to Research Your Novel! (or: How Teaching Comp Saved My Fiction)

Tyler McMahon
Among us writers, there are those stoics who don’t suffer excuses gladly. You know the type. They insist there’s always time to write, even if it’s an hour a day, early in the morning or late at night. After all, isn’t the best art produced under impossible circumstances, despite great odds and after much suffering? Teaching—even a heavy load—beats digging ditches, right?

Demystifying and Demythifying the Workshop: On the Supposed 'Lore' of Creative Writing Pedagogy

Gerry LaFemina
Having spent a good amount of time looking at the issue of creative writing pedagogy, and reading much of the criticism that emanates from both critical scholars and compositionists, I'm left with some frustrations and also some spaces that just might leave me with enough room to place a pry bar of thought into and wiggle an argument open. Much of what is written about the workshop and its relationship to a "lore" of creative writing pedagogy seems to be itself based on some sort of "lore" against creative writing. In my reading, I've never once seen an extensive look at creative writing syllabi,1 creative writing text books, or even the notion that creative writing-like composition and literature is taught in tiered workshops at the undergraduate level: introductory (often a multi genre workshop), intermediate, and advanced, and that at this level, it is part (in creative writing majors) of a broader departmental curriculum that includes some element of composition and literary criticism. By lumping all levels of workshop into some generalized "workshop," the critics of creative writing can say there is no pedagogy, there is no rationale for how we teach, and there is no sense of what we teach beyond "good writing" and for many critics of creative writing that means publishable in a particular way or else it means the piece reads like the faculty's stories or poems.

Toward a Pedagogy of Process for the Creative Writing Classroom

Jenny Dunning
As commonplaces in creative writing go, pushing process is likely second only to "show don't tell." Yet we continue to rely on the writing workshop as the default setting in creative writing pedagogy, despite its inherent emphasis on product and the ongoing critique that dates back to the 1980s. I want to ask what it might mean to truly teach process in creative writing, that is as a goal in itself, as a practice, which I believe is the most appropriate emphasis for the undergraduate introductory creative writing course.

Transcending Talk: The Role of Discussion & Context in the Creative Writing Classroom

Justin Maxwell
The pedagogy of mainstream workshop classes creates a paradoxical trap that pressures students to create derivative work and hampers their ability to grow as writers once they leave the classroom. This trap is a fundamental miscommunication that can be fixed by re-contextualizing student work to better focus on the writer’s agenda for the text. The modification proposed in this essay is both conceptual and structural, altering how faculty see the workshop process and how students engage their own and each other’s writing. This is accomplished when a student communicates their agenda by providing a context for successful discussion of the new work; this is necessary because even when everyone involved in the process of developing new creative writing has a student's best intentions in mind, the general structure of the creative writing classroom lacks the context needed for individual student work to remain individuated.

More than Just Mentorship and Modeling: Creative Writers and Pedagogy

Gerry LaFemina
While student writers are trying to figure out what it means to be a writer, and graduates of MFA programs have to consider what next, there is another broader question that is being asked in the recent discussions about creative writing pedagogy: what does it mean to be a writer in the academy? Many people dislike the term 'writers who teach' because it emphasizes the importance of being a writer more than being a professor, something that must be particularly galling because, let's face it, for most of us, the college or university where we teach pays our bills, puts food on our table, and clothes us. I do not make a living as a poet in America. I make it as a professor. And personally, I'm proud to be a professor. I'm a professor of creative writing and literature. I'm also a poet. When asked about his situation as a poet and professor, Robert Pinsky said "I earn my bread as a teacher as William Carlos Williams earned his as a physician and Wallace Stevens earned his as an attorney. I am also aware of Frost's opinion that the lofty title'poet' should be awarded by others. But there are contexts in which to avoid a kind of inverse pretension, I will refer to myself as a poet. That is my profession, on the most profound level. When people ask me what I do for a living I say I'm a professor. The second and third questions usually are what do I teach and where do I teach.

Border Crossings: Crossing Genres in the Classroom

Melissa Kwasny
What is a poem and what is prose?

Fibbers, Nappers, Hens: Grammar and Grading in the Creative Writing Workshop

Julie Schumacher
Whenever I teach creative writing to undergraduates, I find time at the very beginning of the semester to hand out a chart to clarify any confusion between Read more...

Carnal Knowledge and the Pedagogy of Poetry Performance

Terry Song
When the spotlight came up on the darkened stage at the local music cafe, the air sizzled with expectancy as the young college women took the stage to celebrate the 2003 student literary magazine and perform the poems they had taken care to craft, polishing until their works shimmered and sang. When they stepped up to the mike and opened their mouths to translate the poems from page to the air, they cleared their throats and apologized before reading; they said what a hard act to follow the reader before them was; they shuffled or stammered, spoke too quietly, raced through the poem, swallowed the ends of words, phrases, lines--in essence, dissociated themselves from the work, from their bodies, and unfortunately, from the audience.

More Pictures from the Institution: Some Thoughts on the Creative Writing PhD

Amy Schroeder
In a 1996 article in the sadly now-defunct Lingua Franca, Frank Lentricchia declared his career as a literary critic over—and came out of the closet as a lover of books.