Sunday, May 28, 2006

Spalding University

Grounded Temporarily in Germany asks about Spalding University, which I don't know much about. Can anyone out there give us insight? Thanks in advance.


wishy in az said...

I have just returned home from my first residency at Spalding and now I am beginning my first mentored semester at home writing fiction. I’m exhausted from the packed, intensive week, but energized by the support, great writing and crackling atmosphere of Spalding.

I can’t say enough about Spalding. Sena Jeter Naslund began the program and she addresses all incoming students with the same advice: “Your competition is not in this room, it is in the library!” Spalding truly is a community of writers committed to bettering our writing and to spur one another on to our best work.

Spalding is unique in its cross-genre writing and learning opportunities. All Spalding students receive editorial experience working with The Louisville Review, now in its 30th year of continuous publication (impressive longevity for a literary magazine). Faculty members are tremendous writers and excellent teachers. They make themselves accessible during the mentored semesters above and beyond even the mentor packets. Spalding also emphasizes inspiring artists and writers with interrelatedness of the arts events during residencies. At last week’s residency, we attended a performance of the musical-in-progress based on Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel Ahab’s Wife. We also attended a private showing of the film Frida, followed by a discussion with the film’s chief artist and painter who was responsible for the painting reproductions in the film.

Spalding students read a “Book in Common” each semester, regardless of the genre the student writes, giving all Spalding students common ground. This adds to the community atmosphere at Spalding and it gives all Spalding students a breadth in our writing. The author of that “Book in Common” each semester, then, addresses all the students in plenary readings and discussions. This residency, author Susan Vreeland not only read her work and lectured to us, but she participated in workshops and lectures, adding, again, to the professional atmosphere! Each semester, all students in a particular genre also read a common faculty work, as well, again adding to our shared experience and adding to our appreciation of the spectacular work of our faculty.

This residency, also, included an editor and agent panel where we were free to question agents and an editor on publishing today. It was refreshing to see publishing actually addressed in an mfa program because in my experience publishing can be completely ignored in many mfa programs!

The heart of the residency, of course, was the workshop. This residency we experimented with a smaller format with 5 or 6 students and one faculty member, instead of the prior larger format with 12 students and two faculty members in one workshop. The smaller format lent an intimacy and intensive quality to the workshop, with each day’s workshop dedicated to only one student’s work. With the smaller format, also, we were able to concentrate on shared published work as a kind of “Master Class” on craft and the intensive focus on published work set a high bar for the tenor and quality of our discussion of student’s work as well. I was extremely impressed with my fellow student’s work both in workshop and in student readings during the week. I was also, of course extremely impressed with the quality of the faculty lectures and readings during the week (if you haven’t yet, pick up Spalding faculty member Kenny Cook’s new novel The Girl from Charnelle. It is exceptional.).

Prospective students are encouraged on the Spalding website to request a copy of High Horse, an anthology of Spalding faculty work. This anthology and the offer to send it to prospective students exemplifies the professionalism permeating the entire Spalding program. You’ll also see, right on the first page of the Spalding mfa website, an excellent article on “questions to ask when considering an mfa program”. Again, this superior advice speaks to the professionalism at Spalding.

The directors and faculty (and students, for that matter) at Spalding are regularly working to improve the already-fantastic program. For example, they are determining now whether to maintain the smaller format workshop approach, the larger format or to alternate from residency to residency with both formats. Feedback is openly requested from students to continue to make Spalding a rewarding, enriching, inspiring and rigorous experience. After my first residency, I am certain I made the right decision to choose Spalding as my mfa program!

jaywalke said...

I just wanted to thank Wishy in AZ for posting. I am looking at low-rez MFA programs for '07, and Spalding is near the top of my list.

Wishy: I'll be following your blog. Good luck on your first semester at home.

Grounded said...

Thanks, Wishy, for your detailed response about Spalding's program. I've recently heard great things from a graduate of Spalding as well. Best of luck with your writing!

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