Guest Faculty & Bon Voyage
I still remember when Michael White, the director of Fairfield’s MFA in Creative Writing, announced that we had the option to have a residency in Galway, Ireland. In earlier posts, I talked about those in summary but so far I haven’t talked about working with a local Irish author. I didn’t know what to expect when Michael announced that the two guest instructors would be Eva Rourke and Michael McCormack. I wasn’t familiar with them so I immediately googled them and found out as much as I could. Both sounded well established. My only sadness came when I tried to acquire one of Michael McCormack’s books and couldn’t. They were all out of print and the only ones I could find were second hand and were selling at an astronomical price.
As you’ve probably guessed, Michael McCormack was the guest faculty for the second half of my residency. A charming dark-haired Irishman, he enthralled us from day one. We are used to an Iowa based workshop methodology (Go around the room and each person provides feedback to the writer while the writer remains silent, then at the end the writer can ask questions). Instead, Michael used the opportunity to lecture for the first hour and then provided a holistic view of the piece in a more interactive fashion with the writer. He then provided more detailed criticism in writing. The other attendees were welcomed to join in and either concur or decry the instructor’s thoughts. I actually found this style to be much more productive than some of the Iowa-based workshops I’ve attended. Instead of criticism getting stuck on a point, we were more fluid and able to discuss the entire work and concept. I hope I have the chance to workshop with Michael again. Minimally, I will learn from his style and leverage his techniques in my own workshop.
As usual, the days were exciting and exhausting. By the end of the final workshop I turned to my fellow attendees and said, “I’m burnt out.” Others nodded in agreement. This had been an invigorating, educational, and once-in-a-lifetime experience, but my body and my mind had had enough.
And with this, I’ll leave you, kind blog reader, in the hopes that you have the chance to have a similar experience and that you take it.