Review Comment

Beginning Fiction Workshop

December 20, 2010

Sears, Alexandra
Beginning Fiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Despite the fact that this was Alex's first time teaching, the semester was a fruitful one and on par with the other workshops I've taken at Columbia. While Alex's inexperience showed through at times, especially when she was unable to reel in quirky, but long-winded student's from derailing critiques with discussions about theoretical stab-wounds, I didn't find it to be at all detrimental. In fact, I thought that her inexperience worked in her favor, making her more of a humble and down-to-earth professor. This gave critiques an air of peer-to-peer camaraderie and took away the added pressure of having a professor-overseer that one had to look good in front of. That's also not to say that she completely blended in and become one of us. She consistently made the most insightful comments, clearly read our stories thoroughly, and showed off her expertise with clear and cutting suggestions as to how to make our stories better. Furthermore, the short exercise assignments were tactfully chosen. With some of them, I groaned at first, but after putting in some honest effort, I was able to figure out the rationale behind them. They did a good job of creatively challenging us to write outside of our preferred comfort zones. If you have a chance to have Alex as your teacher, I highly recommend that you take it. She is caring, thoughtful, kind, funny, and understanding. The lady seems to channel an unquenchable supply of enthusiasm and positive vibes, and gives truly useful encouragement--caring enough to make you feel like your writing matters, but critical enough to show that she's not just shining you on. A total gem of a prof!

Workload:

2 short stories, critiques and critique letters every week, a handful of short exercises, and another handful of short stories for discussion. Manageable and fair.

September 26, 2009

Sherman, Rachel
Beginning Fiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I thought Rachel was really cool. She keeps it real, doesn't let people get away with stuff. She's understanding but doesn't take bull from anyone. She's funny. She doesn't push opinions or ideas on you, and she's understanding when in the end, you decide to do your own thing with your story. She makes sure everyone gets their say. The class was a lot of fun. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Workload:

Three short stories over the semester. Tough because there was no prompting or guidelines. She'd sometimes give us stuff to read or suggest things we should read.

January 13, 2009

Russell, Karen Gold_nugget
Beginning Fiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Karen is incredible! She is enthusiastic and very positive. The workshop was very interesting as well as highly educational. I learned a lot, and it is the best course I have ever taken. The readings are fascinating and Karen does an excellent job incorporating chemistry within the different writing styles. Amazing course and fabulous professor!

Workload:

2 final stories, readings each week, editing 3 stories each week

June 10, 2008

Jones, Nalini
Beginning Fiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Nalini was great. She was really committed and happy to help with all my writing. She had some very interesting advice, was open to everyone's questions, and completely available outside of class. She brought us a great guest speaker, too. I would highly recommend her for Beginning Creative Writing--she was fun, personable, bright, helpful, and taught a lot.

Workload:

weekly crits, and, because of large class size, only 2 submissions.

January 14, 2008

Russell, Karen Gold_nugget
Beginning Fiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I CANNOT recommend Karen more highly. She is one of my favorite instructors at Columbia, and I loved her class. It was her first time teaching this class, and she was great. The first few weeks focus on reading and a few writing exercises, which aren't exactly graded, and Karen does a great job of guiding your writing and pointing out weaknesses. Then we workshopped for the remaining weeks, and Karen always allowed everyone to participate. She really helped me love fiction writing, something I had NO experience or particular interest in before last semester. Another plus--she's hilarious. If you can get Karen, you should absolutely take her class!

Workload:

Once a week writing exercises, 2 workshop pieces (5-10 pgs)
Final grade based on end of semester portfolio

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