A Noble Tool For Aspiring Writers

Poets & Writers, Sep/Oct 2012 Issue


I’ve subscribed to this ambitious writer’s mag magazine for a lot of years now, and my relationship to it has changed over those years. I used to plumb the interviewed writers’ minds for writing tips, always unsure of my own skills. But you can’t write seriously for two decades and not grow past such, and that’s my story here. Now I have an eye out for commiseration from these essays and interviews in a writer’s market overloaded with MFAs, a market constantly unsure of what it wants from its writers. Maybe this down, overloaded, and unsure-of-itself market is the way of this postmodern era, I don’t know. 

At any rate (did I mention MFA?) this is the MFA issue. Before I read though those pearls to wannabes, I read articles by writers struggling with trying to maintain a writership within the old 9-to5, the onus of several failed novels, the perils of marriage and parenthood, and the inevitable magnetic force of teaching as a way out of writing recognition’s frustrations.

To me – and this issue pretty much exemplifies this – the MFA factories are caught up in one thing and one thing only: teaching creative writing. Within the industry, this means technique, technique, technique. I see little anywhere to urge aspirants toward the richness of life that engenders a perspective worthy of writing about it, much less of reading about it – even when fictionalized. And the whole industry seems rather incestuous: get to know a select group of teachers and writers, let them teach you and inspire you, so you can take their place within roughly the same writerly mindset. 

Of course, none of this is P&W’s fault – the mag only writes about what’s going on in the writing biz – from the writer’s standpoint – gives some tips on how to stay afloat in it, with an occasional commiseration or two.

Me? I do read the mag, but less avidly now. My interest lies more in the classifieds, where maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a home for some of my stuff. And sometimes I do.





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