Goddard College: Talking with Writers about Teaching (Part 1)

Post by guest-blogger Michael Klein.

My friends and colleagues Darcey Steinke and Douglas A. Martin and I all got together one afternoon during a break from the Goddard College MFA low-residency program where we all teach to talk about the MFA degree in general, what we feel is different about Goddard and  how teaching one-on-one informs us as writers and teachers. Our first and longer video deals with letter writing, writing as community, classroom vs. the worldroom and doing what you’re good at as a writer. The second video, to be posted next week, delves into working with students, hybrid texts, and our mutual love for Denis Johnson.

The video was made in the cottage at Goddard, which used to be the President’s quarters and now serves as housing for the faculty and guests during residency sessions. It was, of course, very hot that day and we put seltzer and figs and cheese and crackers on the table which none of us, I don’t think, ever took.


Darcey Steinke is the author of the memoir Easter Everywhere (Bloomsbury 2007, New York Times Notable) and the novels, Milk (Bloomsbury 2005), Jesus Saves (Grove/Atlantic, 1997), Suicide Blonde (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992), and Up Through the Water (Doubleday, 1989, New York Times Notable). With Rick Moody, she edited Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited (Little, Brown 1997). Her books have been translated into ten languages. Her novel Milk was translated into French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Nonfiction has appeared, among other places, in The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Review, Vogue, Spin Magazine, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and the Guardian (London). Her web-story “Blindspot” was a part of the 2000 Whitney Biennial. She has been both a Henry Hoyns and a Stegner Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, and has taught most recently at Columbia School of the Arts and Barnard College.

Douglas A. Martin is the author of three novels, most recently Once You Back (Seven Stories Press). Other books include: They Change the Subject, stories;Your Body Figured, a lyric narrative, and In the Time of Assignments, poems.

About Michael Klein

MICHAEL KLEIN’s latest book of poems, "then, we were still living" (GenPop Books), was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. His first book, "1990", tied with James Schuyler to win the award in 1993. A collection of short, lyric essays, "States of Independence" just won the 2011 BLOOM Chapbook contest in non-fiction judged by Rigoberto Gonzalez and will be published in the fall of 2012. Recent work appears in Fence, Tin House, Lumina and Ocean State Review. And his new book of poems, "The Talking Day", will be published in 2013 by Sibling Rivalry Press. He teaches in the MFA Program at Goddard College in Vermont and has a blog at boysinger.wordpress.com.
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One Response to Goddard College: Talking with Writers about Teaching (Part 1)

  1. Julie Greene says:

    This is a wonderful clip. Michael, I was wondering…you mentioned books you particularly liked of collections of writers’ letters…which books do you generally recommend?

    As a young reader I was highly influenced by a book I found in an antique shop written and edited by a descendent of Nadja von Meck, the wealthy widow who corresponded with Tchaikovsky for many, many years. The book contained many of their letters. They were two very shy people who were scared to meet in person and the snail mail venue suited them fine. It put a frame on their relationship. Though the widow was much older, the two died around the same time, and there was a bit of brokenheartedness in the story.

    Darcey, the idea of writing what you’re good at certainly appeals to me. I’m told I’m good at dialogue and I must admit, if nothing else, I have a real blast when I get on a roll with it. I think when a writer is on a roll, it shines through and the reader has a satisfying experience.

    Regarding the question everyone seems to ask and I’ve heard again and again, “To MFA, or not to MFA,” I can only speak from my own experience. I don’t think I could have learned as much as I did any other way. I have a BFA from Emerson College (’03) and MFA from Goddard (’09). The other day, I had to go through a formality with the police (no, no, I’m not in trouble) and their attitude was very interesting to me. They were a bit impressed that a person labeled “mental patient” in society’s eyes could be so articulate…based on the stereotype of what folks think someone with my history should be like. The subject of “master’s degree” was brought up in conversation. I must say, again and again (I know this sounds rather silly) I can flash around my degree, which I worked darned hard for, and have this legal thing, this diploma, to show as proof. Sometimes, the average person, with all their assumptions and biases, even a cop, needs a bit of hard evidence to kick them in the butt and let them know I don’t mess around.

    Julie Greene