Three months away from receiving an MFA from the Queens University of Charlotte low-residency MFA program, I think about what I would do differently if I had the opportunity to do it again. At the top of my list is this. Every month, I would post the feedback I received from my faculty advisor in a place where my fellow students could read it, and I would convince my fellow students to do the same. Here's why.
In this two year program, I will have submitted 24 pieces of work, an average of 1 per month, to faculty. I have studied with 4 faculty advisors, so each advisor read and gave me feedback on 6 pieces. Every advisor gave me excellent help. Each had a unique teaching style. I go back and study their responses. I make lists of ideas and post them. My writing has changed, and I hope it's better.
However, the Queens program has many faculty who teach in the fiction genre, namely:
Helen Elaine Lee
[wow. look at the shape of that list; pregnant belly; brimmed hat]
I only studied with 4 of them. I chose 2 more as thesis advisor and thesis reader, and a second thesis reader from the CNF genre. Still, look who I missed. Now imagine doubling or tripling that list if I'd also been able to read the feedback remarks from the CNF and poetry faculty. Should I list them? Go to the Queens website and find out who they are.
I would have been so embarrassed back at the beginning. I was embarrassed anyway, to know that 2-3 other students heard about my gaffes every semester. But if I had been less fragile, more willing, and if everyone else in my class had done the same, we would all have heard from all the faculty, and even when the faculty were not reading our work, we still would have learned things we didn't learn.
Less ego. More ideas. And Monday morning quarterbacking, too.
Note that many Queens faculty also teach workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which is a splendid place to spend time.