Interview with P. Gale Nelson, Brown University

5716603757_5a3f4f1f0c_zP. Gale Nelson is author of This is What Happens When Talk Ends, Ceteris Paribus and Stare Decisis, and has work included in the anthology 49+1: Nouveaux Poëtes Amèricains. He teaches and serves as Assistant Director of Literary Arts at Brown University.

Robin Tung: What criteria are used for Brown’s MFA admissions?

P. Gale Nelson: 99-100% of the decision is based on the review of the writing sample. Rather than thinking of there being a particular “right” style, at any given moment, we anticipate that there will be as many different styles of writers (and writing) as there are writers attending the program.

RT: How closely do faculty work with graduate students?

PGN: In most cases, students find many opportunities for intensive work with faculty members, within the workshop, at social settings (receptions, readings, coffee hours), but also through office hours. With only five students accepted into any given genre in a year, the ratio of faculty to students per year is roughly one to one. Even if the students cluster toward one faculty member or another, the ratio can never be more than five to one.

RT: What are alumni doing post-graduation?

PGN: We did a review of our alumni who were five years out or more — and slightly more than half had published at least one book. Our alumni are writing and teaching, but also working in countless other fields — both related (literary agency, editorial) and less related (physicians, lawyers). The degree is not a professional degree, but rather a studio degree. We are proud of our alumni in their diverse approaches to writing and living.


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