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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Barnard writing program

There was a nice piece about Barnard's writing program in the NY Times last week (thanks, Ben, for reminding me about it). I took two semesters of Mary Gordon's writing class when I was a senior and used some of the work I did in that class as part of my Centennial Scholars Project later that year. I workshopped some of what I had written in class, but I also worked with Paula Loscocco, who taught seventeenth-century English literature at Barnard at the time. Some days, I'd go over to her apartment and talk for hours about all the books I was reading. It was immediately clear that I was a better reader than I was a writer. When it came time for me to give a public reading for the Centennial Scholars Program, I had a predictable problem: I could only see what was lacking in what I had written, and I didn't want to present it to people.

That night turned out to be one of my favorite nights of college because I had to come to terms with that fear in front of a medium-sized group of people. I explained my worries to the audience--most of whom had seen me struggle with perfectionism in other circumstances--read some of my work, and then spent a lot of time talking about what I liked to read. So my experience with the Barnard writing program didn't end with a book or even an empowering sense of what my writerly voice was, but I got a great sense of what my talking-about-writing voice was. And for that I will be eternally grateful to Mary Gordon, Paula Loscocco, and the Barnard Centennial Scholars Program.

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