DO NOT TAKE A CLASS FROM RACHEL SHERMAN. I can't believe she is teaching at Columbia again. She was incredibly impatient when explaining her thoughts and would snap at students if they asked her a question about what she meant. She gives terrible, rushed critiques. One of my friends received a critique on her final submission that was no more than three sentences. She clearly picks favorites. She also makes enemies out of some students and is then super passive aggressive with them. She canceled classes multiple times with very short notice and rescheduled them for reading week, but was also somehow super serious about attendance. She is kind of racist too. Seriously.
I disagree with the previous comments, she's gone out of her way to meet with us and she wrote three pages of insightful criticism for every story I've turned in. She's published three books and has plenty of excellent advice for aspiring novelists. She will also look at chapters from larger works instead of only accepting short stories like some of her counterparts. Her writing style is language-loving, rhythm conscious and beautiful, so her edits will reflect this tendency. She also emphasizes character interaction and effective use of detail.
You're probably reading the previous reviews of Beller and thinking "he can't be that bad, I'm sure it'll be fine." That's what I did. Word to the wise: it is that bad. I took the "Fiction Workshop" which is supposed to be the most advanced level of class and it was a joke. First of all we didn't turn in revisions of our stories, nor did we hand in a portfolio at the end of class. I mean WTF? If you're like me, a big part of the learning experience in a writing class is writing something, having it critiqued, and then re- working it and getting new comments on it. Well, in that ain't gonna happen in Beller's class. Also, his written comments were pretty short and not particularly incisive. In class he tends to ask the class leading questions, very obviously fishing for somebody to vocalize his opinion, instead of just coming out and saying it himself. Compared to other teachers in the writing department Beller is decidedly sub-par and not nearly as engaged in the teaching process as he should be. Such an anticlimactic way to end an otherwise great writing program. A previous reviewer said it best: an expensive disappointment.
Prof. Brown (or Wesley, I suppose - he's not picky) was always engaged in our class discussions and cognizant of what each writer was trying to do in their work. He also managed to find interesting things to discuss no matter how bad the story was, although nearly everything that I read this semester I found fairly interesting. Wesley always had good reading suggestions and an ability to steer the discussion to areas that needed work in each piece. Interestingly enough I found his verbal in-class comments to be much more helpful than his written comments, but by taking notes on my own work I was more than happy with what I got out of class discussions. Recommended.
I really enjoyed and looked forward to my class with Kennedy who is a sweet little man and subtly witty professor. True, he is a little hard of hearing but I imagine I will be too when I'm that old! During conference, he's very friendly and interested to learn more about you as an individual. As for feedback, he writes a good amount of comments on students' work and is genuinely concerned with providing constructive criticism. Having said that, your experience in one of his classes will largly depend on the input of other writers since they are workshop based. I am surprised by the two disapproving reviews below but suspect the writers received poor grades. True, your grade may seem arbitrary since it pretty much reflects Kennedy's taste but creative writing is a highly subjective field itself (unlike Calculus or Physics) so it's unfair to single him out. Kennedy tends to go easy on euphemisms so you'll know early on in the semester what he thinks about your pieces. He told my class that the abilty to write is something that you are or are not gifted with much like musical aptitude, which I don't agree with but is good to know before the class or else you may feel upset to learn he thinks you're not innatly endowed with literary genius. Just REMEMBER: like any professor of writing, his opinion is only one of a bizillion. Sure, you will be taking a gamble signing up for the course as far as your grade goes but, more importantly, whether he likes your writing or not, he will make all efforts to help you reach your potential (be it high or low potential). Also, it may be a good idea to read some of his books to get an idea of how he writes. I ended up loving the class and the professor but you may want to test it out for a week or two before comitting.
I'll be honest, at first, I absolutely hated this woman. I even tried to see if there's anyway I can switch into someone else's workshop. Let's just say I am very glad that Leslie did not let me switch. This turned out to be a great class! Sigrid is an acquired taste, that's true, but once you acquire it, it's awesome! Yes, she's harsh. But not overly so. The woman is honest and blunt about it. I disagree with the previous review that Sigrid expresses favoritism. I did not get that impression at all, and I can not think of anyone who she favored or disfavored. I thought she was very fair in her treatment. If she doesn't like the piece, she'll trash it, if she doesnt like your attitude, she'll yell at you, if you're not participating and clearly haven't read the piece, she'll pick on you to comment. But if you come prepared, having read the pieces, if you offer helpful comments, and if you take everything with a grain of salt, she'll absolutely love you. The woman is also hilarious. Overally, if you can take a bit of criticism and sometimes an attitude, take the class, you'll have one hell of a time. If you're gonna cry every time ur piece gets trashed or the prof snaps at you for talking to your neighbor, or you get grossed out easily, then stay away, because you'll be cringing all the time.