FAQS: What do you read in your program?

from junkluggers.com

from junkluggers.com

At Columbia College Chicago, not only did I learn a lot about how to write, I also learned how to read. Well, I already knew how to read, but I learned how to read as a writer. By that, I mean that now, I can’t read anything without dissecting it and wondering…
“Why did the author do that there?”
“Why did they share the description at this time?”
“How did they tell this so quickly and clearly?”
Since I’m always looking for input, and for things to steal, this has really helped me and also given me a lot less patience for bad writing.

The books that a program reads say a lot about the type of writing and learning that go on at that school. In Fiction Writing, we reread a lot of old favorites as writers. Before you roll your eyes, ask yourself this: Did you really understand “The Great Gatsby” when you read it in 10th grade?
Thought so.

Here’s a list of some writers that we read a lot in Columbia College Chicago’s Creative Writing – Fiction MFA program:

James Baldwin
Valuable because he wrote essays and fiction, which was informed by the essays. Since we do a fair amount of nonfiction writing at Columbia, it’s important to see how Baldwin lets his essays inform his other writing.
“Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “Another Country,” “The Fire Next Time”

Toni Cade Bambara
Great use of voice in a first person narrator.
“Gorilla, My Love”

William Faulkner
Amazing sense of place, and he tinkers with form, which will be valuable when you do your Steeplechase.
“Light in August,” assorted short stories

F. Scott Fitzgerald
What a good writer. Boy is he wasted on high school kids.
“The Great Gatsby,” “Tender is the Night”

Zora Neale Hurston
Amazing voice, amazing description, amazing story movement.
“Their Eyes Were watching God,” assorted short stories

Toni Morrison
Messes with reality in a freeing, dream-like manner.
“The Bluest Eye,” “Sula”

Vladimir Nabokov
Not only does he write incredibly, he’s also an ace at writing about writing.
“Lolita,” “King Queen Knave,” “Speak, Memory”

Hubert Selby, Jr.
“Last Exit to Brooklyn” comes from a variety of voices while driving home the point that no subject matter is taboo.

Christina Stead
Wasn’t really feeling “The Man Who Loved Children,” but everyone seems to have to read it. Gets better after the first 300 pages or so. Shudder.

Mark Twain
Voice. Good God almighty, voice, humor, the perceptions of an unreliable narrator, and vernacular.
“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”


Get to know the program by reading its students’ writing. Here’s “Cutting the Wire” by Erik Fassnacht in The Other Room.