The Momentary M.F.A.

“Take your pleasures seriously.”

—Charles Eames

Pascal writes that all men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone, but for those of us who write, this is, instead, an idyllic, necessary environment; for writers, the misery, instead, stems from prolonged and concentrated solitude, a lack of a literary community, and the necessary structured, critical conversation that turns a manuscript into a masterpiece. For while it is perhaps not surprising that writers tend to be private individuals, given to seclusion and introspection—take, for example, Cheryl Strayed and her 2,659-mile solo journey, depicted famously in Wild—there is much to be said of the writer who breaks from this solitude long enough to gain the critical feedback necessary to shape artful beauty from what such solitude produces. Revision is the bulk of what we, as writers, do, and it develops largely from the feedback of readers whose minds are uniquely not our own. This is why so often writers enroll in M.F.A. creative writing programs, but certainly not everyone has the time, money, or even interest in a multi-year M.F.A. program, and oftentimes life’s limitations keep us from such concentrated literary companionship. Thus this workshop is developed and designed to give you contacts to likeminded individuals and, moreover, a concentrated version of the close reading and community you would find in a creative writing graduate program. Ideal both for those interested in eventually pursuing an M.F.A. or simply trying it on for the weekend, this workshop will begin with a concise, sharp lesson on the shape and ambitions of the contemporary essay, an engaged conversation on several daring examples with accompanying exercises, and intense, extended critical workshops of each participant’s essay, brought from home, where classmates will offer thorough and thoughtful feedback as a way of challenging one another and, ultimately, ourselves. By the end of our workshop, you’ll have the beginning framework of several new essays, substantial notes for your own essay’s revision, and most importantly, deep connections with fellow essayists and relationships that will, ideally, continue long beyond your time in Iowa.