A reader named The Low Residency Queen has these observations on some Low-Residency Programs. Feel free to leave comments...
Here’s the rundown:
Lesley—new program, which means a lot of attention. The program director has been great to talk to. They have an interdisciplinary component, though, which I’m unsure about. I personally love integrative, cross-disciplinary stuff (hey, being a writer kind of means I should pay attention to lots of things), but going for my MFA is my way of trying to quell my dilettantish tendencies and just focus on the craft of writing. Do you think the interdisciplinary component would be too distracting, or would it be stimulating and enriching for the writing?
Queens University of Charlotte—I’m skeptical of their online workshopping method. A program director at another program who used to be on faculty there said that it didn’t work. I like a lot of the faculty there, though, and again, a friendly, helpful director. It was obvious that he had really read and absorbed my application and already seemed very invested in me as a writer. Based on my work, he already had people in mind I could work with. I thought this was amazing.
Vermont College—my writing mentor went there, so I already have good feelings about them. I like that all of their faculty members have “teaching philosophies” on the website so you know upfront how they like to interact with students and respond to work. Plus, they just added a residency in Slovenia, which is so random and cool to me.
Pine Manor College—I would be in the inaugural class if I went here, which is super scary, but the program director is so available and warm and I think with a good head on her shoulders. She founded and ran the National Book Foundation’s intergenerational summer camp which I attended last year—really good reminder of how much there is to learn from anyone if you are open. Diversity is key. They will have a third semester applied track which sounds interesting, as her objective is to show students there are other ways to support yourself as a writer other than teaching (and I don’t want to teach!) I think a new program would bend over backwards to help me (they already are), but I have no one to talk to about it because it’s never existed before! Plus, Pine Manor sounds like the name of a retirement home.
Goddard—they feel kind of touchy-feely to me, which is not a bad thing. The main thing that sets them apart from other low res programs is their teaching practicum. It seems like with a terminal degree, it might be nice to actually gain some experience teaching. This is more of a “should” I do it, not I want to, though. I just want to write. I want to improve my craft.
Warren Wilson—well, what can I say, I think they are the “best” by reputation and I grew up in North Carolina so it would feel kind of “homey” to go back to the mountains for residencies. But I don’t know much more about them than that. They’ve been perfectly congenial the little contact I’ve had with them, but not as overwhelming helpful as some of the other programs, and I have a sense this is because they know they don’t have to be. Still, I want to know what makes them so damn good, because they are the best, word on the street. Though, this is the only one on the list I haven’t heard back from yet, and as they are mythically difficult to get into, maybe this is a moot point.