Intermediate Fiction Workshop

Dec 2019

Crystal is a lovely teacher! She is kind and devoted to the class. We went over papers and how to properly critique each other. Workshops can be nerve-wracking, but the environment was welcoming. She is understanding if you talk to her regarding missing classes or whatnot. I cannot recommend this class enough.

Dec 2016

Professor Lee is the most hands-off (by which I mean uncaring, withdrawn, and lazy) professor I've encountered at Columbia. She would give students written critiques that were barely a paragraph long and littered with typos; she hardly ever spoke up in class; and she seemed determined *not* to get to know any of her students or create a warm atmosphere for the workshop. While I ended up enjoying this course thanks to my wonderful classmates, who put in a lot of work and really ran the workshops each week, I was truly taken aback by how little effort Professor Lee seemed to put into the class; at times, it was almost insulting, given how much effort the rest of us were putting in. Moral of the story: if you have good people in your class, Professor Lee won't ruin it, but she won't contribute much either. I'd recommend taking the workshop with someone else if you can.

Jun 2013

Marie is an insightful and accomplished author whose comments in class really dig to the core of a piece. She offers up thoughtful and useful advice, that is, when she participates. Workshop itself is almost entirely guided by the class, but the conversation created is almost always the most valuable aspect of the course. Marie pushes for an open environment where no one feels hesitant to try something new with their writing. In all honesty I think we as a class could have gotten away with much more experimental (and much shorter) pieces, but we were pretty straight-laced and submitted your typical 8-10 page traditional pieces. If you want to be bold, you're encouraged to in this class. Marie's presence in class is minimal, however. She doesn't offer much feedback on pieces, sometimes writing only a couple of sentences about them which can sometimes be synopsis or grammatical pointers. She seems to record critiques submitted for peers' work, but never seems to grade them. The requirements for critiques were also vague. Because of that I received critiques ranging from paragraph length to several pages in length, and never knew quite how much or about what to write myself. Despite her sometimes detached presence, Marie's class is good for budding writers because she doesn't judge too heavily, and just encourages you to write often. Even if she's not perfect, she doesn't dare burst anyone's creative bubble, and that's great for writers at this stage.

Apr 2013

Professor Hannaham is one of those professors you secretly wish would tell the class "Just call me James," but never, ever will. He definitely is of the mindset that experience makes the writer, and therefore everyone in this class has a lot to learn. He's not pretentious - just extremely sassy and not afraid to correct bad habits, which is a good thing as long as you're somewhat confident in your writing ability. This is honestly one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia so far, just because of the open, honest environment James was able to create within the class. I was a bit disappointed that we never had to revise one of our stories or do any shorter exercises, so the entire class grade was just based on 2 stories (an easy A, if you put in a minimal amount of effort). However, both from James' comments and reading so many other young writers' work, you will be able to get a lot out of this class as long as you put a lot in

Jan 2013

Although not outright unpleasant, and actually quite funny in person, James doesn't have a whole lot of insightful comments to make about your writing because as far as I can tell, he doesn't have any interest in the craft of writing itself. Intermediate Fiction was entirely directed by the class (with James poking his head in at awkward moments) but not in the productive sense. There was a required packet of reading that was never once opened, and he scores the two submissions "like the AP," (that is to say out of 5) based on whatever internal logic he comes up with. If you are literate, Intermediate Fiction with him is a guaranteed A, but you will come out having learned next to nothing about fiction. He will give brief explanations of the very basics if he is absolutely forced, but at this level one should already know the difference between first person and third person without having to be told. He's a nice guy, just not the greatest teacher.

Nov 2012

Heidi Julavits is brilliant. She's always sharing the most interesting stories or commenting on the day's events, and when she does, you don't want her to stop talking. She really cares about each person in the class and always takes the time to ask how they're doing. She's also very generous with the time outside of class she spends helping and critiquing the students' work. If you do the work and genuinely care about writing, she will make you a better writer without doubt. Needless to say, she's also a very talented writer herself. Getting into a class with her should be considered a steel. The only problem I had with the class was that the students were doing most of the talking, as it was a fiction workshop, but even there, her critiques taught me a lot about writing. I was lucky enough to get a really smart and interested group of students, so that also helped.

Nov 2012

James Hannaham is incredible. You're lucky to be in his writing class. He's a really intuitive reviewer of fiction work and quickly gets a grasp for who your voice is and tries to work with you in that context. The first day of classes, he very quickly establishes the tone of the room: a community of writers who should be comfortable opening up and being genuine with each other, because their writing's about to get real and people have to feel comfortable discussing their work. He's funny and nice and snarky and honestly just a great guy. TAKE THIS CLASS. You'll immediately get close to your peers and will find that it is a warm and academically challenging environment. Seriously, I can't believe how lucky I am to be in this class.

May 2011

Ryan is a great teacher. He's a little on the easy side and would improve if he toughened up a bit, but overall he's terrific. He's very kind and patient, and will spend as much time with students as he needs to in order to make sure they're happy with their progress. I also thought he came up with some great writing exercises. The only issue is that he gives his students a lot of wiggle room--as in you can do a lot of work and really challenge yourself, or you could probably get by with less effort/skill and still do okay. I decided to challenge myself as much as possible in this class and Ryan encouraged me the whole way. I would strongly recommend his class, but only if you're fairly self-motivated. If you're more into coasting, you will still enjoy the class, but you probably won't get as much out of it. Ryan will not push you beyond your comfort zone, but if you resolve to go there on your own, you'll have a very patient and knowledgeable teacher there to guide you.

Jan 2011

Jenny is such a sweet, funny person, and boy does she know her stuff! As a warning--you don't do as much writing as you would expect, and I do wish that we'd at least revised both stories (see Workload) and perhaps written a third. The revisions seemed to be just because she didn't want to read any more, but the limit to two stories wasn't really her fault--for some reason, and most unfortunately, all creative writing classes only meet once a week. However, despite coming out of this workshop with less writing than I would have liked, I definitely came out knowing HOW to write, which is more important, since it gives you a tool to do as much writing as you want in the future. Each class was a workshop of other students' stories. We read a couple of professional pieces--not enough; I think she should have assigned one or two a week, since they were fun, pertinent, and definitely helpful in seeing how the techniques she talked about were utilized. Still, enjoyed every minute of the class.

Dec 2010

I found Greg to be really insightful about writing, especially about a writer's unconscious motivations, particularly when things in a piece aren't quite working. I think his critiques were thoughtful and engaged, although I wish that he would have given more concrete, specific advice in one-on-one meetings. In these conferences, it really felt like the onus was on us to discuss our own work, and while that can be useful, I thought he was a little too passive in the whole thing. Workshops were usually useful, although (and this could probably be said for many writing profs), I wish he had been a little more active in guiding them. Sometimes, it wasn't quite clear whether we were calling on each other, or he was choosing who was to speak. Overall, though, I thought his central teacherly conceit (being aware of "experience" vs. "thought" in a piece, and how they're connected) made sense. I'd recommend him.

Jan 2010

Decent. His reading selections were predictable, his comments logical and thoughtful, but overall I found him to be rather plain and uninspiring. There was no spark to him; I don't think I learned very much. In an Intermediate class you expect something...more. The exercises were interesting, but nothing overly stimulating. The reading of weekly stories, in addition to the three short stories written by our peers became difficult to fit into a meaningful discussion. He did attempt to focus on a 'craft' element each week (plot, character, dialogue, etc.) but this was just a vague point of introduction at the start of class-- he did not really add anything to a beginning student's knowledge. It's possible he'll improve over time, and I think he has potential. Something he should definitely consider changing is the manner in which the stories are workshopped. HE chooses the order, and if it were an unbiased order I'd have no problem with it, however it was blatantly obvious that he had the worst story of the week go first, and saved the best for last. That seemed unfair to me, even though my stories were read last. The students themselves should decide who goes first/last so that there's no awkwardness between the students; no sense of inferiority. In fact I think class cohesiveness suffered due to this tactic, and I sincerely hopes he changes it in the future. He also needs to work on his moderator skills, blind pilots fly with a greater sense of direction and purpose than did our class. He's a nice guy, no doubts there, but a mediocre creative writing professor at best. He was going to grade the stories on a numerical scale before realizing it was an absolutely impossible system. In the end I think he just based the grade off a personal vibe, or a random system we were not privy to.

Sep 2009

The other review here is pretty far off the mark (hence 3 disagrees and no agrees). Jenny is the worst teacher I've had in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia. It is true that she is disorganized, which seems to be par for the course with writing and nothing, in itself, to be held against her, but she is also condescending (but I was left baffled as to why), a bully pulpiter (if that's a word), and I often got the impression that a) she didn't read my submissions very carefully and b) she thought Columbia students sort of sucked. All in all, she was a bad, bad teacher in a department where I've had the best (read: most interesting and fun) teachers at Columbia. Avoid her.

Apr 2009

Jenny is a great teacher. I had her for both a writing seminar (Unhinged Narrator) and an intermediate fiction workshop, and both were really good experiences. She is laid back, smart, funny, and always has great stories to tell. Although she's a little disorganized and would sometimes run out of time, she always had insightful things to say. In our workshop, she always was willing to meet to talk about our writing one-on-one and she gave very good written feedback.

Dec 2008

Ed Park is a very nice person. He's also a careful and considerate reader. With time, he will be a very good teacher. As it was, he was okay. The only writing assignments we had were two stories, plus the weekly feedback for the other writers in the class, though the feedback was never collected. As the semester went on he got progressively better at directing the in-class workshops, but there were many times when the discussion would stall on a minor or irrelevant point (for example a couple of times a first chapter for a novel was submitted and several people thought it was a short story, in an effort to accommodate their idiocy, Professor Park would lead part of the discussion towards how the chapter read as a short story...completely unhelpful for the budding novelists in our group). Workshopping is an indispensable part of becoming a good writer. It is often easier to recognize the mistakes in other stories that we make in our own. Even more indispensable than workshopping is actually writing, something I would like to have done more of in a creative writing clas. I wanted to write more than just my two stories. I wanted some directed exercises designed to practice a specific aspect of writing, or some assignments to help break us out of our comfort zones, or anything really. Some readings would have been helpful as well. There were a couple of quick articles that he gave us, but they felt incidental to the course, more like an afterthought. The real mystery about this course was the grading. I assume that the two stories I turned in were in some way responsible for my grade, but I honestly have no idea. In the syllabus it says that participation is important, but how does he judge participation? Some more concrete feedback regarding how I was fulfilling the requirements of the course would have been helpful. Basically, I have no idea how this course was graded. I liked Professor Park. In the one on one conference he gave extremely helpful feedback and advice. I just think he needs to get a little more experience under his belt and provide some more structure to his class.