Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sackett Street Writers

A Note from Julia Fierro at Sackett Street Writers. Check it out if you're in New York. -- TK

Hi Tom,

I'm a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and run an independent
creative writing workshop in New York – The Sackett Street Writers'
Workshop. In four years, we've had over 400 writers pass through
Sackett Street and many of our graduates (40 at last count) have gone
on to attend top MFA programs. We recently added an MFA Application
Prep Workshop because so many of our students apply to MFA Programs.
I consistently send them to your blog as a resource throughout the
process, especially when providing manuscript consultation. Last year,
we enrolled several students who heard about us through comments on
your blog - two Sackett Street students had responded to one of your
posts and recommended our classes as a great way to prep for the MFA
Anyways, I just wanted to introduce myself and thank you for
continuing to provide such an essential resource for the writing


Julia Fierro, Director
Sackett Street Writers' Workshop (we are in the process of redoing our site)


sackettlady said...

Thanks so much, Tom.
In case anyone is interested, we also provide MFA Application consultations.

Julia Fierro

Victorya said...

Wow, interesting seeing this here.

I took two classes at Sackett Street awhile ago. One class was absolutely amazing. We have to hand in copies of our critiques to the instructor as well as the student whose work we are critiquing. The instructor was wonderful in picking apart our work, as well as critiques - making us see things we so overlook. In the one-on-one section of the workshop, he went through my peices line by line as well as answering MFA questions (even if he did tell me I probably wouldn't get in on my first try applying. I did BTW, but not with stories I worked on in his workshop although I did apply some of his advice to the ones I sent in).

The other instructor was the worst I'd ever had. She couldn't explain tone vs. mood when someone asked, her critiques were flaky at best and the way she 'ran' the class, well, I've never dropped out of a class before but felt she was doing way more harm than good and while there were no refunds, it was actually worth it to pay that she not talk to me about writing anymore. I wasn't the only one to drop the class.

Just thought a first hand account would be appreciated. I suppose it's the same with all programs - they have faculty with amazing pedigrees, but like everywhere else, that doesn't always translate into the classroom.

Unknown said...

I took three classes at Sackett Street with Julia and had a truly wonderful experience. Although she's a very busy lady, she had nothing but time for me and my writing. It's a rare combination to find in writing teachers: equal passion for their own work, for their students work and well-being, and for the literary tradition. But, Julia had it! One of the classes I was in was filled with many of the other Sackett Street teachers and I have to say that the quality of their comments and the acuteness of their observations was on par with feedback I receive at the MFA program I'm currently at, Sarah Lawrence. I'm sure my acceptance to SLC is due in no small part to the advances I made in my fiction during my time at Sackett Street. I worked on the stories for my application at there, but I also was able to enter MY program having been transferred so much of Julia's experience at hers. And, if I'm not mistaken, there are no personal conferences at Iowa as there are at Sackett Street - every time you submit a story you get a one-on-one conference with the teacher in addition to the detailed feedback letters and attention you get in class. Not many people get to feel like they've gotten the best of the Iowa Writer's Workshop if they haven't gone there, but if you take a workshop at Sackett Street, that's exactly what you get.

nick0102 said...

In the past three years, I have attended three different workshops at Sackett Street, two for short stories and one for novel writing. They were fantastic, really. I'm not sure what bad experiences Victorya had with Sackett, but mine were nothing but great.
I took several workshops as an undergrad at U-Iowa, and those could not compare to Brooklyn with Sackett. Julia, the director, not only gave wonderful (and helpful!) feedback, but taught all of us workshoppers how to critique in a useful way, looking beyond just negative feedback and finding what specifically worked and didn't work in stories and how to get there. The best part: everyone else in the workshop was equally dedicated. Much better than Gotham.

Beth said...

I have also taken three classes at Sackett Street. They have all been nonfiction classes with Nancy Rawlingson and I recently completed the MFA Prep course--also led by Nancy.

The quality of instruction I received at Sackett was every bit as good as the writing classes I took as an undergrad. Applying to MFA programs is extremely stressful--even a casual observer of this blog knows that. Nancy created a structured environment that allowed for specific and general MFA application questions, and the bulk of our time was spent refining our work, which we all know is the most important part of the MFA application. Every student submitted twice for critique, and I always left class knowing what I had conveyed successfully and what was not working as well.

I now have a list of eight schools to apply to, one strong essay completed and another one that I am currently revising. In other words, I'm in good shape. I know I am submitting the best I have to offer at this point in my writing life, and I know that Sackett Street in general and Nancy in particular have been instrumental in helping me get to this point.

TavishD said...

I have taken several classes at Sackett Street. What I found most unique was the complete commitment to critiquing each writer's work on its own terms. I have never been in a class before where the personal taste of the instructor had no bearing on the workshop. This lead to each writer working in their own style or genre, without judgement, and an instructor who helped "make it work," rather than urging you to tailor it to their own tastes or personal literary agenda.
Sackett Street is indespensibe for any writer who really wants a clear-eyed look at their work and a safe, nurturing environment where they can improve.

mummy licker said...

I was just checking out the website, and it seems that the program is tailored towards fiction and nonfiction writers. does anybody know if there is something like this for poets?

cath said...

I really cannot say enough positive things about Sackett Street. Highly recommended.

Mimeo said...

I've taken six Sackett classes. Yes, six. Although I already had an MFA, the Sackett approach was unique in its combination of rigor *and* support -- that is, extremely close reading and intelligent examination of craft, but no mean-spiritedness. Each session pushed my writing to a new level of development and revelation about both writing and reading, and I've made incredible friends in the process. If you live in New York and want a workshop that is both serious and supportive, I can't recommend Sackett highly enough.

Mimeo said...

I've taken six Sackett classes. Yes, six. Although I already had an MFA, the Sackett approach was unique in its combination of rigor *and* support -- that is, extremely close reading and intelligent examination of craft, but no mean-spiritedness. Each session pushed my writing to a new level of development and revelation about both writing and reading, and I've made incredible friends in the process. If you live in New York and want a workshop that is both serious and supportive, I can't recommend Sackett highly enough.

Laura Scott said...

I'm skeptical about the authenticity of some of these comments. I find it odd that most of these glowing reviews come from blogger profiles that were created this month. Also, how is it possible that two people can leave the same detailed comment about their individual experience?

lis said...


It does, at first glance, look like an occasion for skepticism, but this is really the experience Sackett Street Students have. I have taken four classes with Sackett Street instructors and they're incredible. I think Julia's philosophy has a lot to do with it; she's extremely supportive, on point with her criticism, and encouraging in how she challenges you; the other two instructors I've had (took two with Anna Solomon) have also been that way. I think that the people coming to the workshops also often share that philosophy, and so workshops tend to be fulfilling, thoughtful, and a great experience. My only negative experience had to do with a group of people not jiving, with a couple of them eventually dropping out because they were defensive about criticism. But honestly, don't you get a few bad eggs once in awhile just about everywhere?

Of course, it depends on how an individual gels with the class and the instructor. But I have to say I've referred people, and they've come back thanking me. From the looks of things others feel that way, too.


lis said...

(And if it assuages your skepticism at all, I've had my blogger profile since 2003 or so.)

jean said...

Julia of SSWW, has been an endless source of professionalism, knowledge, support, and guidance as I make my way through the MFA application process.
I was enrolled in the Advanced Fiction wkshp that I had to withdraw from due to a personal situation. It was my first workshop experience and I was able to refine my piece that I am now submitting through the workshop and in my individual consulation with Julia. The instructors at SSWW are passionate in helping you make the best choices as a writer.
Julia has personally selected published stories that helped to refine the point of view for my essay.
It's been an incredible experience and one that I've learned a great deal from.

Victorya said...

Laura - that double comment resolves back to the same person who is, I beleive, an instructor there. Sketchy.

Notice, my review wasn't all positive, and I stand by it. If the rest are to be beleived, more power to them. I did, however, have a wonderful experience and a horrid one. It's the horrid one that drove me to the loving and supportive arms of the YMCA 92nd street where I had an absolutely amazing experience with a teacher now out on a book tour with starred reviews (josh henkin) who also talked at length about the MFA programs (and has recently published two peices about MFAs)

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Hi - I'm one of the Sackett Street instructors and I just wanted to let everyone know that we can provide MFA consultations for those not in the New York area also, working via phone and email.

Thanks to all the people who have commented here so far - we love getting your feedback.

nick0102 said...

No authenticity problems here. Just forgot my password, so I created a new account.

Regardless, Sackett Street was all good. Seriously.

Jackie said...

I'm in an MFA program now and wish that I could just go back to Sackett and get a degree from them instead... Seriously, Julia is a genius! And she handpicks and coaches her instructors so I can't imagine there would be anyone as offensive as victorya suggests. I got accepted to several programs because of her advice and her real commitment to her students... as well as the advice of this blog. Thanks Tom!

Caeli said...

Hi there - on the "sketchiness" of my double-posting -- I'd like to think that I'd be able "hide" my identity on a blog comment if I wanted to -- the duplicate-post was simply a result of a forgotten password / uploading glitch. Anyway, Victorya, you are correct indeed: I am a student-turned-teacher for Sackett, but what could be a better testament to the quality of the program? Certainly, no workshop will please all participants all of the time, but I so enjoyed and benefited from taking Sackett classes that I jumped at the chance to teach fiction.

And on a side note: Funny, I heard Josh Henkin on Leonard Lopate the other day, and I thought his ideas about teaching writing were incredibly well-aligned with Sackett -- in fact, I downloaded the podcast to play in my workshop!


Lizzy said...

Hey, Sackett Street people!

Lots of folks come to the blog--esp. now that application season is at its apogee--for good, solid tips on how to get the best MFA application packets together and in the mail.

My challenge to y'all, as it sounds like many of you must have MFA experience, is to ask you to consider pitching in where you can, with your best pointers. I think that would be highly appreciated by everyone all around.

One way to contribute might be to stop in at the "Mailbag" posts that are opened every week, and using the comment box to leave your wisdom for guests with questions. I mean, it wouldn't have to be a regular gig or anything, but even one question answered would probably be nice and helpful for someone or someones out there, I'm sure.

Nycguy said...


I was thinking of taking a class at "Sackett Street". I was wondering the names of the instructors you liked and disliked. Thanks.

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Anonymous said...

I've taken two classes at Sackett, and both were disappointing. Like any school, there are your good and bad teachers, but I did not find either teachers helpful. In one instance, the teacher was really flaky in theory and comment, and even the critiques weren't helpful--at best they were vague, at times they were wrong, and when some students stood to correct the teacher (for instance, on grammatical structure) we were told we weren't right without a reasoning as to why (I think all of us would have appreciated if we were told, oops, I'm wrong). The second instructor was specific, but almost didactic on how Great Literature should be formulated. Anything that deviated from this formula was Bad Literature, and the classes were comparing how well our writing did according to the Formula. I'm sure there are good instructors at Sackett, and I'm sure the glowing reviews are true for these instructors, but there are also instructors where you just wonder how helpful this is to an aspiring writer, and you're better off not being there, and going through the frustrating experience--especially if it's something you love.

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Professor Migliaccio said...

Anyone take a Sackett Street class with Naomi Leimsider? I am considering one this summer. Many thanks.

Professor Migliaccio said...

Anyone take a Sackett Street class with Naomi Leimsider? I am considering one this summer. Many thanks.

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