What can you expect to achieve here? I believe workshops are valuable for writers: hearing the sustained criticism, over time, of one’s peers; the exercise of that criticism, evolving into self-criticism, is part of what we try to teach. Will teaching jobs await you? Will you be published? Win prizes? There is, of course, no guarantee of any of those things. We can say that our graduates in each genre have accomplished a good deal.
Quite recently our graduates in poetry have won the $30,000 Whiting Award, the Barnard New Women Poets Series, a grant from the NEA, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America; there have been three winners in three years of the Discovery/The Nation award, and two winners of the National Poetry Series. In fiction, our students have also won the Whiting Award, along with an inordinate share of the nationwide Henfield Awards. Not a year goes by without several graduates of our program bringing out novels or books of stories; remarkably, over the eighteen-month period from 2002 to spring of 2004, eleven of our fiction writers brought out first books, all of them from major publishers, and several of these young writers have two book contracts to boot. Since her graduation, Sue Miller has published many such volumes and won a good deal of fame, and some fortune as well. So has Arthur Golden, whose Memoirs of a Geisha was started in our workshops. Two holders of our M.F.A. were on Granta’s list of young writers. In 1999 our writers swept every major literary award in the country, with Ha Jin winning the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner, and Jhumpa Lahiri the PEN/Hemingway and the Pulitzer Prize. Moreover, a number of our graduates have found work in teaching, some at schools in the area (Tufts, Emerson, M.I.T., Harvard College and Extension, Phillips Academy at Andover, Exeter, the Groton School). Three of the finest programs in the country, those at Washington University at St. Louis, the University of Michigan, and Florida State, have been or are directed by our graduates, respectively, Marshall Klimasewiski, Peter Ho Davies, and Erin Belieu.
Over the last decade we have placed more than a score of our graduates in tenure-track positions at major American universities. But let us be realistic. My own hope for our students is that during this year they will get some glimpse of the best they can do, and a bit of courage needed to go ahead and do it. That happens.
Again, my thanks for your interest, and a last cheery word: good luck with your writing!