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Benjamin Nugent, who recently graduated from the program and already has a deal to get his first novel published next year, recalls that he was accepted in 2009 after sending in a manuscript of a comedy about fraternity brothers who accidentally turned their mascot into a demon that sexually assaults them.

“I don’t think that’s what they were writing at Iowa 75 years ago,” says Mr. Nugent, who wrote, “American Nerd: The Story of My People,” before he was admitted. “I think it is a different place.”

At the same time, Mr. Nugent says he’ll hand-write the first drafts of his stories or even use a typewriter. Like most of his classmates, he does not own an e-reader and prefers paper books. He says he was scolded by a tradition-minded instructor when he turned in his first workshop story for writing about a character that used Google. And although he is as quick-witted as they come, Mr. Nugent does not use Twitter.

“Lack of distraction is so important when you are writing a novel that using Twitter seems like putting my head on a guillotine,” he says. Nonetheless, a university spokesman, Winston Barclay, says he expects “a steady stream of blogs and tweets” to come from writers at reunion events.

There is also the distraction of the business side of writing. Agents and editors routinely come to meet with students and get samples of their work. Mr. Hemenway says he and other students know they have to engage industry representatives, “but no one likes doing that.”

Mr. Simonoff says Iowa’s administration has long been conflicted toward the publishing industry, trying to give students access without taking their focus away from learning their craft.

“And I think that’s right,” he said. “It’s useful to know that at one point one will have to market oneself, but I don’t think the time to do that is when you are in [a master of fine arts] program.”

Joe Fassler, a 27-year-old recent graduate, says he often writes at an old, dark bar called the Deadwood - a popular haunt during the 1960s workshop days of writer Raymond Carver - to avoid the distraction of a fast Internet connection. In an interview in one of its booths, Mr. Fassler says he is inspired to write fiction as an alternative to the constant drumbeat of traditional and social media.

“The reason it’s modern and the reason it’s so radical now is it’s such a slow-burning, heavy-attention medium that really demands someone who is mentally present and not just giving you superficial attention. I really love that aspect of it,” Mr. Fassler says. “I want to convince people that, in this world of beeps and tweets, spending meditative time with an analog paper book is a worthy pursuit. I want to write so well that I can convince others of that.”