Caroline Waring, ‘20: New York Summer Writing Institute
I attended the New York Summer Writing Institute, a four-week series of workshops and readings at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, working with Cristina Garcia to revise and generate short stories to prepare for MFA applications.
About the Artist
Caroline Waring is a senior studying Global Cultural Studies in the Department of Literature, with minors in English and Creative Writing. She’s originally from eastern Washington state. Outside the classroom, she manages the Duke Coffeehouse and DJs at WXDU. She’s also worked with labor activist organizations, both on- and off-campus. Previously, she’s been recognized by the YoungArts Foundation, the Rosati Prize in Creative Writing, and the Reynolds Price Fiction Award.
About the Project
At the New York Summer Writing Institute in Saratoga Springs, I attended four weeks of workshops for fiction writers. Since the professors changed with each week, I was exposed to four different teaching styles, and four different ways of viewing writing. Our class size was about twelve students, and we met for workshop on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so each day we worked on two different manuscripts. I’ve taken workshop courses at Duke before, but never at this size (normally we have only about four students). This was also the first time I was in class with people who had extensive experience in workshop settings and spoke the “workshop vocabulary.”
That first week, we read “The Point” from Charles D’Ambrosio, a short story that helps teach an “A to B” plot structure, which was a clear, concise structure I lacked in my first manuscript. (The beauty of the A to B structure is that things don’t end there; in fact, point B is hardly ever a relevant piece, but the journey from one “place” to “another” provides a momentum that can be supplemented with dreams, conversations, and diversions.) During my third week, I was workshopped again under Cristina Garcia. Even though I only knew her for a week, she offered advice about where to apply to MFA applications, and told us all that we could email her with any questions. She taught us techniques for generating content; we read poems aloud, scribbled down any striking words, and recreated prose out of our observations. I met with her during office hours, and she told me which contemporary writers I should explore and recommended that I apply to USC and UT Michener (where she has taught).
During that week, I was also able to befriend some MFA students, and spoke to them about their programs at UMiss (funded) and Columbia (unfunded).
Right now, I’m revising two short stories that I had workshopped at the class. I’ve decided that I’m going to wait a year to apply to MFA programs more seriously—this year, I plan on applying to a couple that don’t require GRE, but I think my application will be a lot more robust after I have the time to study for the GRE, take another independent course at Duke with one of the new fiction professors, and generate an additional writing sample.