Since I seem to be failing miserably at soliciting guest bloggers for Friday (anybody interested, leave me a comment) I will use today’s post as an excuse to write about some bits and pieces, mostly gleaned from Poets and Writers magazine.
I generally have mixed feelings about writing magazines. They seem to range from the sometime-helpful but usually a bit too general Writer’s Digest, to the tres literary and often pedantic Writer’s Chronicle. The one that generally falls somewhere in the middle (though it clearly leans toward the Writer’s Chronicle end of the spectrum) and the only one I read even remotely regularly is Poets and Writers.
So all this by way of saying that I was reading the December issue (I know, just the wee-est bit behind the times) and ran into some good tidbits. To wit:
- In an article titled "Literary Laryngitis" Katherine Dykstra talks about losing her voice (the metaphorical one, not the vocal one) after doing too much free-lancing. She realizes that the secret of free-lancing is to mimic the voice of whatever publication you are writing for, and in doing all this aping she lost her own unique voice. The takeaway quote for me was this one from novelist Jami Attenberg: "You still resent [the freelance work], everyone resents it because the most fun is always writing the fiction…" Yes, indeed.
- There’s a whole special section on MFAs, and Joshua Henkin has an interesting article titled, "In Defense of MFA Programs." He points out that criticism of MFA programs is loud and vociferous, even though these programs have proliferated. As the proud holder of a MFA myself, I was especially pleased to read this from Henkin: "Part of the suspicion of MFA programs has less to do with the programs themselves than with broader cultural doubts about the value of the study of writing. Numerous times, I’ve been introduced to people who, upon learning I teach writing, ask, ‘Can writing really be taught?’ No one wonders whether medicine can be taught. That’s because there’s a body of knowledge to be imparted, and if the practitioner doesn’t have it, we are suspicious. We don’t close a novel when we learn that the author never studied writing formally, but we are likely to leave a doctor’s office if we learn that she didn’t attend medical school. And no amount of argument about how gifted she may be, what a talent she has for medicine, what a natural she is at healing–the kind of arguments that get made about writers–is likely to change our minds."
- Finally, I loved an essay by Jenna Blum about chasing tornadoes, despite her terror, for the sake of researching her novel.
When I was in New York for AWP, (which is the standard nickname for the annual
drinkfest writing conference put on by the organization) I actually went to a party put on by Poets and Writers. That is one of the fun things about AWP, all the magazines and little journals have parties at various venues, ranging from catered affairs to casual get-together in a corner of a bar. My wonderful friend Diana had an invite to the Poets and Writers party and she took me along. We walked from the hotel on 53rd down to the Times Building somewhere near 42nd street, in Times Square and had a blast, even though Diana was embarrassed at what a tourist I was being, taking photos of everything. (Said photos which could be displayed here if only I knew how to resize them so that Typepad will accept them.)
And really, there’s no point to that story except maybe to remind myself that I am thinking kindly about Poets and Writers these days and that I really should read it regularly again.
My other Friday tidbit is that I got the ghostwriting job that I went to LA for a couple weeks ago. Its a good one, and I am happy. The next few weeks are going to be an exercise in balance, the question being, can I get the ghost book done on time, continue to work on fiction, rebuild the writing program at MTSU and also post regularly? Time will tell.