course
Structure and Style I

Sep 2007

Yvette is a caring, generous, and sensitive professor. She treated our class like her own family, often brought us snacks, and even invited us to her apartment for a get together towards the end of the summer. Sometimes I felt she was a tad too lax-- it was a workshop style class and although she did tell us to read everybody's pieces, she didn't require us to make any written comments so it was easy to get away with not reading everything, making for a poor discussion at times (although our class was usually pretty good about it). However, she always reads everybody's work closely and makes really helpful comments that actually help the writer which is pretty rare. She is also very available to students and welcomes them to her office hours and even to her actual office at the New Yorker, which is an awesome experience in itself. She really loves what she does and cares about making her students love it too. She also has an awesome book collection. I'd definitely recommend her class to any student.

May 2007

Professor Wagenheim is a man of simple and good stories. He is a personable character and reminds me a bit of my grandfather, which is a good thing. However, he does not make a great writing professor when it comes to actually helping you with your writing. He has some good advice concerning the writing industry and his opinions on the changes in the writing department are admirable, but his criticism hardly rose beyond a few "good"s in the margin, a check or two, and maybe three phrases to sum up his feelings at the end. The workload was not bad, but the classes often turned a bit boring with lack of discussion or an anecdote from Prof. Wagenheim that went on a bit too long. Also, the fact that the class was never required to take home any of the works led to often shallow criticism from the class. All in all, the class wasn't terrible, but not recommended.

Feb 2007

Priscilla is a truly wonderful teacher, probably one of the best I've had at Columbia.I took Structure and Style 1 with her and then ended up (happily) in her Structure and Style 2 class as well. Unlike other writing teachers that make themselves the focus of the class, she really runs a great workshop, where she allows students to develop and advance their own critiques of other student's work. Her suggestions, however, are always insightful and thorough, inspiring creative criticism from the rest of the class. She doesn't have a standard style or subject matter that she favors, but rather allows students to improve their work while guiding them to develop their own strongest points. Often writing excercises can feel limiting or confusing, but Priscilla uses them as a way to open up new voices or ways for expressing familiar ideas. She encourages students to take risks, but also appreciates simple, well-written pieces. She is really serious about writing - she is a talented and highly acclaimed poet - but she is equally serious about teaching. Perhaps those students that reviewed her negatively mistook her seriousness for a lack of caring or openmindedness. The truth is, if you put yourself into the class - both the writing and the workshopping aspects - you will get twice as much back. Especially if you go to office hours, as she encourages everyone to do, Priscilla really will help you become a better writer and more appreciative reader of good writing. She is not an easy teacher, but it is possible to do well in her class if you care about the work and take risks.

Feb 2007

I don't know why the other reviewers seem to be so harsh on Priscilla; I guess they don't know how to appreciate a no-nonsense writing instructor. I, on the other hand, found this approach very refreshing. When confronted with ambiguous poetry, she was not afraid to ask, "What does that actually _mean_?" She really challenged me to be a clearer, more developed writer, and did not hesitate to give her true opinion. This is not to say she was insensitive - far from it. She was just honest, and clear about how she wanted to run her class. I am grateful for her help, and know that she helped my development as a writer. Her class was enlightening, interesting, and fun. I recommend taking a class with Priscilla, if you want real concrete help.

Jan 2007

She is new, young, and approachable. I think for every Structure & Style I class you are placed in a glass box and with her it is the same.

Dec 2006

I cannot recommend Kal Wagenheim as an instructor. He is a published writer with an impressive resumé (he's been published in many notable publications) but these credentials do not make a good teacher. He is a very genial and easygoing guy (I feel a tad guilty writing a poor review, in fact) but his critiques of my writing always lacked insight and depth. He limited himself to a brief line or two of perfunctory suggestions and no more. His shortcomings as a professor were placed in high relief by the University Writing instructor that I had had prior to him who was absolutely outstanding. All in all, a very nice chap but not the one to choose if you're looking for useful guidance and incisive critiques to help you grow as a writer.

Sep 2006

A weird lady. She chews each bite of food 40 times. But a very helpful teacher if you make the time to go and see her. She isn't around much so you have to seek her out. She is VERY gruff and no nonsense. But this is good. She will give you HONEST feedback, so an ideal writing teacher is she! I did well in the course, I think because she knew I worked hard and cared...probably more than she merely liked what I was writing. She is a fair grader, nice, actually, to those who didn't deserve it, but she saves the A's for those who earn them. The quality of the workshop will depend more on the other students than on Priscilla. She is very expressive of her sometimes strange opinions, but an experience in herself that is not to be missed.

May 2006

Prof. Lipsyte is a really good creative writing professor, and I enjoyed his class more and more as the semester went on. His dry sense of humor make the class really funny, and as a published author he definitely knows his stuff. Plus, he encourages us to visit him during office hours to talk more about our latest writing. He's usually really quick at getting you feedback for your work, and he writes lengthy comments on everything you turn in. He's also pretty laid back, so if your printer breaks down and you can't get your story printed in time for class, he'll probably just tell you to bring it in tomorrow. As long as you're willing to speak up during workshops and put real effort into your writing, you'll get a lot out of his class.

May 2006

If you love to write, take this class with this woman! She teaches something many young writers do not really: DISCIPLINE. If you take her, you will write every single day. Although the daily writing exercises are optional, she will have you pick a friend and write he/she a postcard every single day. Don't think you can get out of it; each week, you will have to type out 6/7 and hand them in. And this is worth it--at the end of the year, you will look back on them with pride. You will also write something larger pretty much weekly, with the largest project being your final piece. This class requires a lot of attention (often, I spent my entire Sunday afternoon working on it). Her grading style is anal, but sing the class is 90% effort, simply doing EVERYTHING and handing it in on time (from the postcards, to response paragraphs, to identifying say, the "action" of a chracter in a scene) will start you off with a pretty good grade. Put some effort in as well and you will be golden. Most of the classes are workshop style, and you will definitely be workshopped 3-4 times. In addition, every week you'll get feedback on whatever longer thing you wrote. Ellis Avery is simply wonderful...this was the first time anyone forced me to take my writing seriously, and to regard writing as a skill that must be honed through practice. Some of the readings she assigns are sull, but many are helpful, and if you listen to her and read well, you certainly will become a better reader and writer. Oh, and don't take this in tandem with LitHum, UWriting and a history class with a huge final paper as I did...

May 2006

Underneath what may seem like a gruff exterior is a kind and brilliant professor who truly cares about her students. Priscilla is a great writing instructor, and her comments on student's work are always insightful, and honest without being too harsh. She fosters a great workshopping atmosphere - so great that it's sometimes hard to know when to move on from one workshopping piece to another! She does have her no-nonsense qualities; on the subject of being late or absent - don't do it. She will publically call you on it. Go to every class, and arrive five minutes early. Have all your assignments in on time, and have copies for everyone. Don't screw around. The good news is that Priscilla will make you want to work hard. I was always so disappointed when class ended - I could have happily stayed for another hour or so, and that's a rare statement coming from this compulsive classroom clockwatcher.

May 2006

This class was a huge waste of time and embarrassing to call a "Columbia" class. I was more motivated, stimulated, and received more helpful, more critical feedback in an 8th grade writing class. The Instructor wastes most of the class telling you what authors/writers he likes, and then giving ridiculous and juvinile assignments such as "write a poem using the letters of your first name as an Acrostic." There was virtually no "workshopping" done in this joke of a writing class. Therefore the only comments we recieved were those of the instructor -- which were not only not helpful, but often just reflected his personal taste, commenting little, if at all, on how you can improve your writing. It astounds me that this person is allowed to instruct. DO NOT TAKE INSTRUCTOR'S SECTION if you want to immprove your writing.

Apr 2006

Prof. Avery is a good writing proffesor. She comments on all the work she gets, even though she gets a lot of it every week, and is always willing to meet with students--she puts a lot of effort into the course. THe class itself basically consists of workshopping other peoples work, so that has less to do with her than the kids, but she keeps it organized and make sure everyone gets and equal amount of time to be workshoped. She is fair, and square, and grades very exactly--the only thing is that there is alot of work in this class, or at least I found it to be a lot of owrk. Usually there are two writing assignments per week plus required feedbacking of other students. But if you like writing, its not bad.

Apr 2006

The teachers in the writing department range from fantastic to terrible, and Aaron is the worst of all of them. Like all the other reviews say, he is insecure and arrogant. He was entirely disinterested in the students' work, and instead spent most of the time validating his own career and reminding us that he has published one book of short stories and a novel, and trying to cover up the fact that he hadn't read our work closely (if at all). Note: all of the teachers in the writing department are professional writers... One of our homework assignments was to come up with a question to ask him about his career as a writer. He graciously provided index cards for the exercise. What a joke. I didn't learn anything in this class, except that people who are that into themselves should not teach. There are plenty of excellent teachers in the writing department -- STEER CLEAR OF THIS GUY.

Jan 2006

I found Prof Kendall to be a complete delight. She has a wonderful energy that she brings to the classroom and is very supportive. She also offers helpful criticism and insight to her own career. Taking class with her brightened a semester of annoying self obsessed profs and goes highly recommended.

Dec 2005

Overall, a good class. Not stressful, not an unmanageable amount of work to do. A good introductory class in writing for the student who enjoys writing something other than mandatory term papers. Kal is extremely relaxed and creates a positive class atmosphere.

Nov 2005

This was such an enjoyable class. Ms. Avery is kind and sweet, and she gives so much heartfelt encouragement along with in-depth, helpful comments that really help to improve your writing. At first she seemed a bit cold and even forboding, but I think it may have been her own nervousness as well as ours for those first few days of class. Once we all warmed up, she gets funny and personable and the class was helpful and even...fun (gasp!). She's a published writer (I think all the teachers probably are) and she uses her own experiences to give advice on how to write, create characters, the actual process of writing/being published, etc. Contrary to what the other reviewer wrote, I didn't find the workload to be bad at all. Yes, there is a daily writing assigment...but it's a total of about five minutes a day, and it actually turned out to be my favorite part of the class (and actually of my whole semester). She gives out readings but they are not dense or time-consuming, and it pays off in your writing if you read them. Ms. Avery's class definitely improved my writing and made me love writing even more than I already did.

Oct 2005

I would highly recommend avoiding Hamburger while making your way through the writing department. He's the most mediocre teacher I have encountered so far at Columbia. I think this little anecdote sums him up best: To try to "liven up" the class a little bit, he taped up a piece of paper on the wall-- titled the "Word Hall of Fame." Aaron would arbitrarily pick a word- such as PERFECT or MYRIAD, say something like-- "what is truly perfect, anyway?" write it into the Retirement Home, and declare that we were not allowed to use that word in our writing. Besides that, Aaron seemed to have barely skimmed over everyone's work before reviewing it (which was evident in the fact that he constantly misquoted people's work, was extremely egocentric, would take up class time talking about his many successful readings, reviews, etc and generally just didn't want to be there.

Sep 2005

In my opinion, the biggest problem isn't his arrogance or his insecurities, but instead, the way he validates himself by attacking other students' writing, and putting himself on a pedestal. News flash, Aaron: we *know* you're an accomplished writer -- the class isn't about you! What I disliked the most was the way he would go about critiques without saying anything nice about a student's work. Of course in an intro creative writing class we're not (typically) going to have works of genius, but I found his disregard for the term "constructive criticism" to be very self-serving. Even if he liked a piece, the most you could get out of him was a, "this metaphor was good" -- or something like, "this reminds me of my own excellent use of dialogue" -- because come now, this class isn't actually about the students, it's Aaron's own support group, manipulated to make him feel good about himself.

Aug 2005

I thought Louisa Ermelino one of the best teachers that I have had yet at Columbia. She is kind, she is funny, and her comments are always straight to the point. If you require hand-holding, don't take her class. If you want to learn how to write, and write well, then sign up early. I was lucky enough to have a great group of people, but the ones who seemed less than satisfied were also the same people who didn't prepare properly, made excuses, and were defensive. What a coincidence...

May 2005

Marcus is a pretty nice guy, and is very generous with his compliments. Of course that can be annoying when you begin to notice that even the worst writing earns his praise. The workload was pretty light, and overall he's lenient about deadlines. But whatever this class will do for you, it definitely won't help you hone your writing skills. If you happen to get lucky and have some talented writers in your class, good for you. Otherwise this class is a wasted exercise. Marcus means well, but he doesn't do a good job of it. If you're the type that expects an English instructor to know how to spell, pronounce words correctly, and understand semi-abstract ideas, this isn't the one for you. It's not a hard class so there's no great harm if you do land up here, but it's no fun either. Try for a different section if you're passionate about writing.

May 2005

Priscilla's a published poet and always gives interesting handouts to read. It's my first class on writing and I didn't know how or where to start nor what I needed to focus on when revising. She only had time before class available and wasn't on campus other days making it hard to get real feedback. It would have been nice if she handed every student back her comments but you had to go see her for those. The classroom was laid back but honestly I would have liked to be worked harder so I could really learn from this experience. I felt like I wrote the assignments and that was it. When I treid to revise it, I was lost. I put more effort in than half the class (several seniors and people who seemed to care about just handing something in). I had 1 absence, mostly went on time, revised and I ended up with a B. If you want a laid back class, as did a lot of seniors, this may be the option for you but if you want help improving I'd look at other options.

Mar 2005

I couldn’t tell what other people in the class thought of this guy but he was probably my least favorite person ever. From other reviews, I can see I am not alone. He is pretentious, pompous, and arrogant. If he can’t relate to your material (subject matter), it’s crap. Once we were doing sentence writing exercises. He told everyone to pick their favorite and read it out loud. When it came to his turn, he said “Oh, they’re all so good,” (giggle), “I’m going to invoke my right as a teacher to read two, because I can’t decide.” (note, this is not verbatim, but it is the general jist... and the giggle was certainly there). Ahh, the modesty. If this is what writers are like, I fear becoming one. Furthermore, He wants you to write a certain way and if you don’t, he gets upset and passive aggressively gets back at you during your critique. For In the poetry section, you had to be crystal clear – and explain everything… no obscure poems. Blake, Pound, and Yeats would probably not have succeeded in this class – but I guess they are not good writers. All the writing he used as examples is artful and pretentious, which is writing I don’t like – so it was hard to stomach it. He comes across as a wimpy, whiny, full of himself kind of guy – he’s ENORMOUSLY passive aggressive, and will suffocate your writing. Like the other reviewers, I have to give credit to the other students in the class – a few sucked up to him, which drove me crazy, because I really couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in him, but other than that, the other students were very helpful and accepting of each other’s writing.

Jan 2005

Overall, Kal was an amiable guy, but I would have appreciated more feedback rather than loads faint praise. Not all of the little advice he did give was valuable either. Particularly in the poetry section, he kept emphasizing clarity of meaning rather than on other aspects. I regret not yelling aloud that the student shouldn't make the imagery more clear but that the metaphor was already too obvious. Clearly, Kal and I prefer different types of writing. The main problem is his limited comments on a piece. If some part of a work is bad, I want to know it and I want some ideas on how to go about fixing it. The only time he took position was after we had received our grades, and he sent an e-mail reminding us that "hard work is important, but some people possess more talent than others." This is true, but I, for one, did not want to be reminded of this as I received my grades. From my limited knowledge of what grades people received, I don't really agree with what he gave. Personally, I was happy with my grade, but a couple of my favorite writers got A-s instead of As. No one in the class received terrible grades.

Jan 2005

Do not take this course. I completely agree with the previous reviewers about Aaron's inability to inspire his students and his unfortunate preoccupation with none other than himself (and his own writing and literary tastes). You would think the cliche of 'the writing teacher who doesn't like your writing and just doesn't give you a good grade' would be obliterated in a Columbia creative writing class... that is very far from the case with Aaron. There were no criteria for grading and assessment, and the class became a bizzare free-for-all, in which Aaron served as a somewhat random dictator of 'word choice' and literary taste. Also, you will never know what grade you are getting in this class, and he will spring it on you in the end. He will say things such as, "The grades really don't matter... what matters is you as a writer" and "It is not a judgment of you but of what is in your portfolio." As you and I both know, such statements are sickeningly contrived, and only leave students guessing at what the teacher does and does not like. The only saving grace in the class was the students. The students were often very insightful, and the majority of the student comments on drafts completely disagreed with Aaron's somewhat sparse remarks. Overall, I'd say this class is more apt to make you dislike the writing program than continue with it. Steer clear.

Jan 2005

Professor Rosario is an outstanding teacher. Sharp, witty, and creative, she can really inspire you to produce some exceptional work. Her class and assignments are a lot of fun, and she is a VERY fair grader. I certainly recommend her.

Jan 2005

Louisa is a trip. Her grading is very fair and mostly based on effort but the workload is a little heavier than most S&S I classes. You have stories to read & respond to, character worksheets to do, writing excercises... most of which I found unhelpful and generally time-sucking. She has a tendency to make mean under-the-breath comments which are less than supportive but she has a good sense of humor. As long as you're on her good side, the class will go well for you. I really think these classes depend more on who's in the class with you and I happened to have a pretty good section, but, I think Louisa's method of critiquing (having people read their stories aloud in class and then giving instant verbal feedback) is pretty ineffective and doesn't really allow anyone to absorb the material or give constructive feedback. Also, her critques themselves seem uninvolved and distracted. She generally says the same things over and over again.

Jan 2005

A great teacher. Scott's definitely no-nonsense, but he's kind, incisive, and brilliant. He runs a tight ship, giving what students jokingly call the "death penalty" for being late or absent (2 lates or 1 unexcused absence = automatic 1/3 grade penalty on your final grade) and demanding that you speak up in class (will send you a personal email if he felt you were too quiet). It's worth it, though. This guy will work wonders with the writing you submit. Am I the only one who thinks he looks like that gymnast guy, Paul Hamm?

Jan 2005

Eh. Unfortunately, no other word better summarizes my experience in this class with Aaron. He's ok--he sometimes gives interesting insights into the writing process but never inspired me. He's one of those teachers that's more interested in having you do what he thinks you need to do rather than what you want to do with your work. This class would have been much better and useful if he had been more flexible. He also doesn't make much of an effort to talk to you beyond his office hour, so if that time doesn't work well for you tough luck, even e-mailing him doesn't help much. It wasn't the most awful class in the world but it wasn't the greatest either, you can do better with Structure and Style.

Dec 2004

I didn't know what to expect from Structure & Style, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Kal's handling of the class. Be warned, if you are looking for dead-on criticism ("This is what is wrong with your writing, this is how you have to fix it"), that's not what you'll find here. Rather, Kal creates an environment of general encouragement for whatever kind of writing each student wishes to pursue. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if he actually likes your work or if you're being damned with faint praise, but, again, that's not the point. The class is perfect for students who want a good amount of creative freedom and want to work within a positive, stress-free framework. As with any writing class, there's a healthy portion of snobbery and hot air going around, but it is what you make of it, and Kal does a fine job of being supportive without interfering.

Dec 2004

Despite Aaron's impressive background--at least, impressive to him--of graduating from Columbia's own graduate writing program, publishing two books to date, and teaching for eight years, he failed to connect with me as an instructor or as a person. My beef was not with the absurd number of little demands Aaron placed on students, but with his general demeanor, which struck me as condescending, insecure, and utterly pretentious. In the end, he was like a lukewarm shower: so mediocre I would have just preferred a personality who was too hot or too cold. If it weren't for the other students, who I found more brilliant and humble than Aaron himself, I would say it might be better to stay dirty than jump in this shower.

Dec 2004

Kal is really a nice guy, but in my opinion an awful writing instructor. The problem isn't that he gives hardly any criticism, but that he knows very little about writing. He has no interest in language or imagery (even in poetry!) and is entirely obsessed with plot. My classmates and I watched as he would accuse obvious metaphors of being "too confusing" and demand that EVERY poem have a linear, obvious narrative attached to it. After he emailed us his own short story and his "prize-winning" poem, I realized he didn't know much beyond non-fiction and Spanish translations. Some might apologize for this and call it "traditional"--he is in his late 60s or early 70s--but literature has always been about the use of language just as much as any plot. With grading, BEWARE. he grades bizzarely: it seemed to me that some of the worst writers in our class got the best grades, and many of the best writers got an A-.

Nov 2004

Anyone who took a class with him will agree with the reviewers. This man is incredibly charismatic. Where else do you get a writing teacher who worked in disneyworld as Eeyore and Buzz Lightyear, collects Elvis memorabilia and met Tom Jones in Las Vegas? Scott made me realize that there is some hope for poets in a class called Structure and Style. His workshops are run like graduate classes, and it's probably more work than a normal SS section, but I enjoyed it, and so did all of my peers. No wonder his SS1 and SS2 sections this year have gone first in the registration. Beware, if you're looking for an easy grader, Scott isn't. He'll grade you hard and make you earn your grade--but oh with what pride did I earn it!

May 2004

Donna Masini is exactly what I needed in a writing instructor. Definitely choose her section if you have already done a lot of creative writing and are looking for an instructor who will actually give you useful criticism instead of babying you. In response to the previous reviewer, I don't think she played favorites at all, and I actually found her to be steering us away from sentimentality and cliches - something I greatly appreciate as I see overcoming stereotypes as an important part of growing as a writer. I think Donna is actually interested in her students' pieces, which is something not often seen in college classrooms. This made all the difference for me. In addition, she once taught our class while having a migraine, which shows some incredible dedication! In short, you can take a class where the instructor and your classmates will respond to your writing with, "Oh, I really liked it, it's great...next person, please," or you can take Donna Masini's class and actually learn something. I definitely reccommend her.

May 2004

As you can already tell from the reviews written, Scott was just an incredibly wonderful writing teacher. Not having taken a writing workshop in a while, and having had experienced some pretty unhelpful ones in the past, it was a relief to have Scott as a teacher. Scott knew how to make the class work. The mandatory meetings forced us to fully recognize the direction of our own writing and fully understand what we wanted it to become. It was great that he made us critique others' work as we became very aware of what an audience needed from a writer. Sometimes the peers' comments were useful, sometimes not, but I always took Scott's comments very seriously and my work always came out better in the end for it. Overall Scott's strength came in knowing how to direct a good story to become exceptional (which comes from being a fantastic writer himself, which we found from him inviting us to his own readings in the city and from him showing us his own work). He took immense interest in us and was just a great guy overall. The class was fun and I always looked forward to it (which, since it was on a Thursday night from 7-9, is a pretty amazing statement). He created a comfortable environment for critiquing without harshness. He was a stickler for punctuality and the class was well organized, but not in a stifling way. If you can get Scott as a teacher, do it.

May 2004

brevity is the soul of wit, so i'll make this brief. scott snyder is awesome-- not only he is an amazing writer (as you will discover when he shares his stuff with the class) but is also a great teacher. his advice is always useful, and besides that, he is genuinely interested in getting to know each and every one of his student's style of writing, suggesting authors he/she would enjoy, etc.. that's all i have to say... if you have a chance, take s&s with scott, you won't regret it!

May 2004

Scott is a terrific teacher who makes one proud to be at Columbia. He gives everyone a chance to speak, allows for participation and interaction between both the students and himself. He makes sure that he gets to know you on whatever level you choose, forcing you to come to office hours once every three weeks and willing to speak to you on a variety of subjects about creative writing. He will go out of his way to recommend writers to you, and has an always interesting take on your work while its workshopped. As long as you hand in your work on time, and arrive to class on time, Scott seems to reward your efforts

May 2004

The class itself is fun and 2 hours go much quicker in S&S I than in CC or any other 2hr class I've taken. The input from the class (and yes, people participate A LOT more than in core classes) is valuable at times, although people are sometimes quicker to say something harsh a la Masini to get her approval regardless of whether or not it is actually pertinent to your writing. She is willing to help after class but sometimes she seemed to have this attitude that it was a burden to help you. When I did meet with her I never really felt like I got a lot out of what she had to say - and usually she's just like "rewrite this entire..." She played favorites in the class, and underappreciated other peoples' great writing or great ideas. I'm not sure how she grades - you have NO idea how you're doing in terms of that - the only grade I know is my expository writing log (write about a few poems, stories, etc) grade. Basically, in writing for her she seems to like that bullsh*t sentimental stuff, all flowery and sorta cliche and angst-ridden stuff - she doesn't seem to be as big a fan of the stark, humorous qualities in writing. Her comments basically flow along those lines. The workload, however, is probably the lightest you can get for any class - basically write 1 poem, 1 short story, and 1 scene from a play and keep a writing log on some poems that you had to read from class. Just on a side note - she knows nothing about Pop Culture - and even admitted that she just found out what the Knicks are (and she's been in the city forever). That's it.

Apr 2004

After reading other reviews on courseworks about Structure & Style I, I was very worried, going into the class, that this wasn't what I wanted. Scott did a great job of proving me wrong. He teaches the class as a graduate course and is very helpful and constructive. He'll set up appointments with you (every week if you want!) outside of class and will help you get to the root of what you want to say. He's a real stickler when it comes to punctuality and attendance... but hey, it's only once a week. He's a great professor and a great guy. What a wonderful way to begin the writing program!!!

Apr 2004

I personally did not appreciate Donna's style at all. It may be because I enjoy workshops that are more relaxed and fun (and productive, of course). Her class was too serious and just uncomfortable to me. She was very cold and discouraging when I asked her for help with my writing. The class is productive and her comments are valuable, but it was just devoid of any enjoyment.

Feb 2004

Wonderful instructor. She understood that for most, this class was their first ever college writing course, and graded based on effort. Very encouraging and open to meeting with you outside of class.

Jan 2004

Donna is a great teacher not only because she's personable but also because she tolerates little bulls**t. She handles an intro writing course like S&SI well, exploring writing tactics as they come up in pieces and providing very constructive criticism. If you are looking for a teacher that will give you honest criticism (though this may include negative comments), take this class!

Jan 2004

Leslie is great. The words that fall from her mouth are like little truisms waiting to be imbed themselves in your brain and vocabulary and give you a new window on life. She is obviously primarily concerned with finishing her own book, which occasionally makes her a little absent-minded (she told us the same stories sometimes five or six times, but we always liked them and didn't want to hurt her feelings), but she does well at bringing us back the essence of what we're trying to do. She did kind of slack on giving us assignments - a high school creative writing class would have given you more of a portfolio. But she is a great writer and a great counselor - expect class to go long quite often, because she doesn't keep track of the time well.

Nov 2003

I've taken Josh Green twice. That in itself should say a lot. The man knows how to work with student writers. He definitely takes all styles of writing seriously; we had a range of voices in our class and I feel like he respected everyone's style and tried to help students acheive the effect that THEY were striving for, not the effect that he personally would prefer (which is something I think a lot of writing teachers end up doing). What I respect most about Josh is that he does not feed anyone fluff about their writing. He is critical yet fair and gives so many helpful comments written on the work itself, during the workshop, and especially during office hours. Bad writing workshops can go one of two ways: the teacher can be offensive by being too critical and disrespecting the students' voice and aims, or the teacher can be offensive by being so condescending (or even just too kind) and praising any kind of work that's turned in, giving no contructive criticism whatsoever. Josh takes the middle path. On top of that, he's a funny guy (weird in a cool way), and he's BRILLIANT (when did he get a chance to read all those poems, books, critical essays--and retain everything?). There are some drawbacks, of course. Occasionally workshops meandered a bit...tangents were really interesting but once in a while a bit much. And he gives a lot of reading (like most writing profs, i believe) and requires occasional courseworks postings (unlike most writing profs, i believe), and though the work all seems worth it (it VERY MUCH IS), it's a bit overwhelming on at some moments throughout the semester.

Nov 2003

The thing you'll first notice is that Professor Avery is one of the kindest people you'll ever meet. I really enjoyed her as a person in and out of class. However, i must warn: unless you intend for Structure and Style to dominate your life for the entire semester, for the love of God, AVOID THIS WOMAN. I've talked to people from countless other sections of S&S 1, and none of them do even CLOSE to the amount of work required by Prof. Avery. But if your sole passion in life is to write, take her. She's extremely devoted and a great instructor/encourager. Yeah, she's a little hippyish and strange, but as i said extremely kind. Whether or not you want to devote your entire semester to this course should determine whether or not you take in from Prof. Avery.

Nov 2003

GREAT instructor! A pleasure to have his class. He provides good, solid feedback on your writing. He NEVER makes you feel bad, even if what you've written is total garbage. He has a nice balance of positive and negative criticisms.... A little bit of a tough grader despite his laid back attitude and numerous tattoos (ask about them and he'll explain each one for you).... Always helpful and insightful. Highly recommended!

Aug 2003

The other July 2003 review of Montgomery is completely on point. Just to add to it, Montgomery is a writer's writer. Meaning, he will look for the positive in your writing however bad your stuff is, and always be encouraging. He is a nice guy, and very laid back. From what I hear from takers of this class with other professors, Montgomery's class was an easy one.

Aug 2003

Expect a lot of the same "this-comprises-good-writing" platitudes (often quotations from the likes of Faulkner and Bly) you heard all throughout your high school writing classes. Expect a lot of the same over-emotional bullshit about "the heartbeat of the poem" that you heard in your high school writing classes Expect predictability. Do not expect to be enlightened in this class. Do not expect (unless you are really, really bad) to get a whole lot of helpful advice on your writing. I found that most of the criticism Noemi gave of my pieces were just watered-down versions of my OWN criticisms of my writing. Very little of said criticism was even in-depth or thorough. That said, maybe the problem is less with the professor than with the set-up of Structure & Style. Admittedly, S&S is inherently sort of a gut course, and admittedly, it's very, very basic. Regardless, had Noemi Cress been a great instructor (which she wasn't), she could have lifted the class from superficial nonsense to inspiring aid. And, hell, short of that, had she been a decent babysitter (which she also wasn't), she could have intervened when class "discussions" got out of hand (read: redundant input from every kid in the class about a given piece, tendencies to euphemize the hell out of everyone's writing in order to give the correct ratio of praise to criticism, etc.). Noemi Cress is not a terrible teacher. But she is very, very far from an interesting one. Whatever you get out of the class will most likely be the contributions of yourself and your classmates, since seldom will Noemi do much but moderate. If you want some basic instruction in the formulation of a chunk of writing and if you'd like to know just where (for instance) your conclusion to a short story went wrong, Noemi Cress's class would be a passable choice. But if you're taking this class as a prereq for bigger and better writing courses, it will remain little more than what S&S classes have already acquired the reputation of being: unhelpful filler classes that totally gloss over everything but the fundamentals of writing.

Jul 2003

Following the Structure & Style curriculum, this class was a survey of basic forms (the poem, short story, play, etc.). Montgomery comes from a playwriting background, but is a good judge and teacher of other forms as well. He managed to avoid the usual "this-is-how-you-structure-a-plot" sort of claptrap and generally tried to give assignments that would allow us to follow our interests and experiment within forms. Most of class time was taken up with workshopping, with two or three interesting readings (Marianne Moore's "Poetry," or a scene from Beckett) sprinkled throughout the semester. Workshops, if not always helpful, were at least seldom harmful; he was very encouraging to those he considered "real writers" and tried to point others in the right direction, too. If class discussion wandered into the inane, he usually did a good job of bringing it back. All in all, Montgomery is a decent professor with a good sense of fun, but it is a writing workshop, so how much you end up liking it will depend a lot on how much you like your peers.

May 2003

Allowing students to critique each other's work was a positive aspect of this class, because the ideas of many were able to be expressed instead of a professor having a narrow-minded approach to the class. She seemed to be partial to some works over others, although she said that she wasn't. The "class dating" approach worked really well IMO, because the students got to know about one another and it make the environment much more conducive to improving and getting along.

May 2003

I liked Josh. His comments were on point and helpful, and he was more critical than any of the other professors I've had. There's something about him that's vaguely sketchy, but not in a threatening sort of way. He was available to his students etc. He's teaching a poetry section that's probably pretty good. He was most helpful the few weeks we did poetry. He studied with Simic, and I think poetry is his primary area of interest.

Apr 2003

UMMMM... a manly man to begin with, and a self-professed "conservative writer." we did no exercises or anything to get creative juice flowing, besides reccommended but obviously taken as a joke practices like -"Hey write a two page dialogue like this hemingway piece" (and he loooves hemingway, of course) or "write every day for an hour" ... yeah right. unfortunately, im not a disciplined writer, so i got nothing out of this, esp. not from him. the class is just a workshop, was only good because i had a talented class, and his comments are always "i think that _______ element of the story will really open it up-- reexamine that part and try to make that the point where you crack it all open" or "where you earn the tears at the end". and for some reason these "places where we should open up" are always the wrong places at the end of our work. just plain bad advice. and offensively manly, genders EVERYTHING and divides the class

Apr 2003

Kal is a great, funny guy. He's a little too nice in his comments, though--not critical enough. Workshops were mainly cheerleading sessions; people would fawn over good pieces and fawn just slightly less for really bad pieces. But overall, if you're looking for a light intro to creative writing, then take Structure & Style I with Kal, because he really is a likeable guy who'll make the class fun.

Jan 2003

What a goddess. I don't know where to begin praising Leslie. She genuinely cares about each and every student and about each and every piece of writing set in front of her. She has the magical ability to take on a piece with as much interest and devotion as if she were its author, balancing that with the distance of a smart, canny editor, which makes for a fantastically inspiring combination. In class, she lets her students take workshops as far as they can, nudging them along on their way to becoming better writers by turning them into better editors. Of course, she always offers her own ideas for revision, always humbly, humorously, and brilliantly: she might tell you to change a single word or restructure the whole thing, but she's always dead-on. Her office hours are a treat: there, you get her full attention for as long as it takes to make you feel comfortable and capable. She's warm, kind, generous, both playful and sensible, and a damned good editor. How can you not love a woman who says things like, "I don't want to put fur on your whale"? What a lovely experience.

Dec 2002

Absolutely incredible. Susan is both tough and caring at the same time. If you want theory or a regimented writing class, this class is not for you. There is little structure-you are basically free to write whatever you want within the genre, and Susan will give you helpful comments. The class is largely up to the students-Susan encourages free discussion and most time is spent critiquing each other's work. She's not embarrassed to discuss any subject, and cares about and encourages her students as both writers and as people.

May 2002

If you're taking structure and style expecting a Dead Poet's Society - Mr. Keating type, SNAP OUT OF IT. That said, Dale is good enough professor. If you're planning on completing the entire writing program here, he is as good as anyone to stick through the initial requirement of structure and style with. Since it's a workshop of student writing, some of the things you read will be incredible and some things will out-right suck. But Dale's leading of discussion helps students to make critical comments aimed to help your work, and his comments on handed in work, though not so lengthy, at least bring up some valuable questions to think about. (granted I wouldn't take both semesters of structure and style with him, on the off-chance that there is a Mr. Keating somewhere in this department)

Mar 2002

He was a funny guy in a low key sort of way. Read his book its funny. Its called Nothing is Terrible. Its quite absurd. In class was pretty good at keeping the class going. He was a little too generous with his complements though, and so our class did not criticize our stuff very much

Jan 2002

I found Prof. Charlotte to be an incredibly inspiring teacher. She opened my eyes to new writing methods that helped me to better articulate my ideas. Every class, approximately three people would have their works read aloud and afterward Prof. Charlotte would provide constructive criticism that was never humiliating to the writer. Some people apparently did not appreciate her stylistic advice, but if you followed her guidelines you found that your writing was definitely improved. I recommend this class whole heartedly.

Jan 2002

More or less the way you imagine the class to be, people sitting around a big table reading each others work .... which ranges from more garden variety coming of age type work to work that you can't believe people of our age wrote. Sometimes the class felt like group therapy- Susan (never Professor Thames, always Susan) goes around at the beginning of class and asks you individually how you're feeling and asks if you had a "date" the previous week- as for that, she wants you to hang out with a person in the class outside of class every week so that you all know each other better- an eccentric idea that can lead to many an awkward moment but can also make the peeps in the class more comfortable with each other. Susan is really good about leading discussion and getting peoples criticisms and compliments out without naming them as such (which part of this work is most effective? Least effective?). Her comments are often helpful, she picks up on the things you thought nobody would pick up on. She can be blunt but that's fine, she mixes it with equal parts of sweetness and it's better than being coddled. the semester is divided into three parts: poetry, playwriting and fictionwriting, with one assignment in whatever genre you're in every week. The class itself is not that hard- you just need to take it seriously and say stuff in class. And how hard can that be when all you have to do is say what parts of a poem you liked or didn't like and why? Overall, i would definitely recommend her class. You've got a ton of freedom here, and if you're motivated enough about using it and pushing yourself, Susan will notice.

Nov 2001

Wagenheim is a really nice guy, like writing, and likes to teach. He's not very interesting and in his 60's, which makes him a little old-fashioned about things. Everything I got out of this class came from the other students, not him. He just doesn't know how to criticize work and most people ignore the comments he gives. His personal experience is mostly non-fiction and playwriting, so beware to the short-story writer or poet.

Jan 2000

I came to this class excited for the opportunity to write something other than analytical paper, but came away disappointed. Professor Adams is so sweet and grandmotherly, talks in a cute accent, and is just a bit absent minded, but she is completely clueless about teaching. Her classes consist of students reading their works aloud, which can sometimes be interesting, and sometimes be utterly painful. Her individual comments are sparse and useless, usually focusing on one sentence in the work, without any comment about the work as a whole. I don't feel that my writing improved one twit.

Jan 2000

16-20 students participate in a round-table discussion and workshop of each others work. You will be asked to turn in a variety of assignments (poems, free verse, short stories, and a one-act drama) that are designed to challenge you. These workshops are moderated by the professor but the bulk of the comments are by other students. But this is standard Structure & Style stuff. What makes Woodard worth choosing is her attitude towards the whole thing. "If you write it, I read it" is her motto. Frequently, I find that the workshops become love-fests and criticism is lacking; in that respect a hyper-critical person might bring the class back to criticizing, not flattery. But Woodard is not hyper-critical. The grading is easy and the work load is not difficult, although not exactly light. If you are interested in writing, take the class; you'll probably enjoy it. If you are looking for an "all poetry" or "all drama" class, this is definitely not your thing.