That old, creaking diatribe against young writers and the workshops they attend appears yet again as it has appeared for years within the workshop/academic world in house organs such as the Associated Writing Programs newsletter and Poets and Writers magazine, among so many others.

It's the same old story: "evidence" of writers whose writing reads as if it's been written "by committee"; the suggestion that the workshop community pales next to the mythic Hemingway/Stein/Joyce/Shakespeare and Company model of a real writer's community, that if one is not having "adventures" a la, say, Jack London or Jack Kerouac (real life), then one is writing from what one knows, which is, therefore: suburban, dull, insular, academic, writing-about-writing and/or (fill in your favorite objection).

When not writing this "diaristic, autobiographical and confessional speech," the students waste their time in meaningless debates about the shades of politically correct language.

Having spent two years at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop (1984-1986), I can only say that my experience was the opposite of Mr. Altacruise's. My teachers and fellow students were open-minded to both avant-garde and traditional forms of writing, and were consistently intelligent thinkers and conversationalists.

Professors encouraged variety and experimentation, and neither they nor my fellow students tried to force student writing into a prescribed mold . . .


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