Lan Samantha Chang interview

Based on your brief, most recent impression, how in your view has the workshop changed since you were here, if at all?

I'm not sure that the best, most important parts of the Workshop have changed at all: the focus is still on writing and not publication; the faculty are still humane and deep; the students are still highly talented and motivated.

What do you think is the key to Iowa's remarkably long-lived success and how can that be best sustained?

In my opinion, the success of the Workshop stems from its irreplaceable and brilliant faculty and from its students. The Workshop students are at the heart of its extraordinary achievement; their enthusiasm, talent, and passion has made the Workshop what it is. I'd like to work on creating more financial aid so that we can remain competitive and continue to matriculate the best applications.

Any scary or funny stories from your time here that you'd like to share?

I led a tame life. The most exciting thing that happened to me was one Chinese New Year, when I threw a very large party and one of the guys brought in a huge bunch of 16-year-old and doubtless illegal firecrackers. We set them off on the driveway, not knowing if they'd explode into the air or into our faces, and we were stunned by the extraordinarily beautiful blossoms of color that shot way above Burlington Street, a brilliant signal to the Iowa City police, who fortunately had better things to do that night than check us out. Ironically the house has since burned down, not that night, but several years later.

Would it be a good idea to foster more links between the fiction and poetry programs? Have students take one workshop in the other genre maybe?

I love the idea of partnerships. Poets and fiction writers have an enormous amount to share with each other. Without interrupting the autonomy of the two genres within the program, I would love to see more interaction, such as a special joint workshop.

Many fiction students focus on the short story for two years and then graduate and realize they want/need to write a novel instead and their skills may not exactly apply. How can novel writing be incorporated better into the workshop -- or can it?

[Here LSC rightly pointed out her talk on craft, which provides a lot of insights into writing novels. See SER's post for a detailed summary of that inspiring discussion.]

What is an area you might want to focus on in your tenure?

There are many things I'd like to do, but first and foremost, I'd like to raise money to be used to guarantee free tuition, or at least in-state tuition, for all students. That would be a beginning.


PJKM said...

Don't we all get in-state tuition now? Please let me know if I'm deluded on this one, because it's something I've been telling students assessing various MFA programs.

Grendel: one thing you might consider asking the other two interviewees, presuming you're not drummed out of town before getting to them, is this: what do they see as the challenges right now for the IWW? And do they have any thoughts on why the student intake is not particularly diverse, considering our vast numbers of applicants?

Pete said...

I'm pretty sure you only get in-state tuition if you're 1) a TA or 2) a fellow. So that's most people, but not necessarily all. (Am I wrong?)

Grendel said...

I've always been under the impression that all MFA students are charged in-state tuition, but I'm not sure why I thought that. Anyone know for sure?

Your questions came too late, I'm afraid, for Jim Shepard. Sarah and I interviewed him today -- or rather, she did and I sat there scribbling notes I can't read now. Mr. Marcus can field those, perhaps. Good questions.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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