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.
I cannot recommend Kal Wagenheim as an instructor. He is a published writer with an impressive resumÃ© (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.
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.
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.
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.
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-.
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.
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.