Monday, August 24, 2009

UVA Orientation Day

by Jonterri Gadson
So, I was about 10 minutes late for orientation today. That sucked but things happen. I like to set low expectations and then totally surprise everyone when I actually do what I'm supposed to do lol. At UVA, the MFA orientation is more of a meeting between all of the faculty and the students. It's pretty informal but fairly informative. I don't mind this format at all.

After introductions and departmental info, we split up by genres. So all of the poetry people got to meet with Greg Orr. The 1st and 2nd year poetry students will workshop together. There are 10 of us. All 5 of the entering poets this year are female! So there are 2 male poets in the program all together. Pretty interesting.

So Greg released the 2nd years so he could have a moment with just the 1st years and basically tell us everything we really needed to hear. He told us to expect a breakdown in our writing, but that it's a good thing that will ultimately lead to growth. That was comforting. He said it's common. He explained to us that we don't have to turn in a poem each week for workshop. We can workshop as little or as much as we want, which was a total surprise. I can definitely see the difference between undergrad workshops and graduate level workshops. In undergrad, we were required to have a new poem each week and we were given assignments on types of poems to attempt each week. Now, we don't get any assignments and we can share as much as we'd like. There are no texts for the workshop. This is a totally different approach than I expected. We have the option of signing up for weekly conferences with Greg in addition to the workshops, which is great and I will definitely be taking advantage of that. Oh, I will also be taking advantage of the opportunity to workshop right away so more news on that next Monday.

After the meeting, we went out for drinks and that was great. Today was my first time meeting anyone from my program in person though I felt like I knew some of them already from Facebook. I've always gravitated toward people with a passion for writing and it's nice not to have to seek them out, they are right here! That's one of the best things about MFA programs.

Up next for me--literary journal editing class tomorrow night with Jeb Livingood! I'll let you know how it goes!

Fun fact about Charlottesville: There are random displays of art in the medians and on hills. I like this. I feel like people in this city should understand me because of this lol.


  1. Yay! That sounds similar to way my low-res first meeting went :)

  2. That's excellent! I am definitely a fan of "informal but informative". And very interesting that you workshop as much or as little as you want to; I guess that really is an accurate preview of the writing life - you've gotta have the ambition, instead of everything being an 'assignment'.

    Hope the rest of Week 1 goes well for you!

  3. I'm at UNCG, and we also have 5 incoming poets, all of which are women! I know fiction has a few male students, but only one or two of the six or seven. Interesting dynamic. I'm curious to see how our workshops come together! The second year students are also sitting in our workshop, but only for this first semester. It will be nice having a group of 11 of us working together.

    Your workshops sound very flexible, that should work to your advantage! Can't wait to hear how everything progresses!

  4. That is really interesting about how you can workshop as much or as little as you like. I'm so jealous, we don't do workshop first semester!

  5. I really like the idea of non-mandatory workshops. Denis mentioned on his individual blog how apathetic students can really ruin a classroom environment. And writing is so intimate and involved! Better that everyone show up because they truly feel impassioned about writing and the particular day and want to participate.

  6. I wonder about the non-mandatory workshops... Is this the same as 'no workshops?' I mean, if they aren't mandatory, that implies that they are not a part of the program, and therefore those that do them are doing them in their free time.

    I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with that, especially if those who wish to workshop have others to workshop with. But is that the case?

  7. Keith, you still have to show up for workshop, you just don't have to submit your own work if you don't want to. So we'll all still have plenty of eyes on our work.

    Whitney- wow! you all have all females too. That's crazy! I wonder where all the guy poets are this year? lol

  8. Both the incoming poets at Penn State are female too, same for CNF. The new fiction writers are 2 males and 1 female.


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