Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A WOMAN'S PEROGATIVE


A WOMAN’S PEROGATIVE

I had another posting ready for today but decided to put up this one instead.  The reason for the switch is a blog by Ryan Boudinot I read recently entitled, “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach In One.”  If you happened to come across it, you may have had a strong reaction to it.  As I did.  And as over eighty-five commenters (as of this writing) did also.

In case you haven’t read the blog, you may be interested to know Mr. Boudinot is an author of some note (i.e. Blueprints of the Afterlife, Misconception), the director of the Seattle City of Literature and an erstwhile teacher in an (unnamed) MFA program.

The thrust of his blog is largely a rant, bitter at times, concerning the quality or lack thereof of  MFA students.  He castigates them for lack of talent, not starting the creative writing process early enough in life, lack of drive, lack of imagination, lack of interest in the classics, yadada, yadada, yadada.

Understandably, the bulk of the 85 comments consist of high charged outrage, calling Boudinot burned out, a mediocre writer, insensitive--you get the drift.  But I’m not weighing in on the blog for any of the above reasons, but for the following paragraph, which I’m quoting verbatim: 

“It's not important that people think you're smart.

After eight years of teaching at the graduate level, I grew increasingly intolerant of writing designed to make the writer look smart, clever, or edgy. I know this work when I see it; I've written a fair amount of it myself. But writing that's motivated by the desire to give the reader a pleasurable experience really is best. I told a few students over the years that their only job was to keep me entertained, and the ones who got it started to enjoy themselves, and the work got better. Those who didn't get it were stuck on the notion that their writing was a tool designed to procure my validation. The funny thing is, if you can put your ego on the back burner and focus on giving someone a wonderful reading experience, that's the cleverest writing.”

In this, if arguably not in his other observations, Mr. Boudinot is, in my opinion, spot on.  So you can see the whole picture, here’s the link to the blog.


 Comments, anyone?

7 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Interesting! And I love the quote you selected. The way I, as a reader, totally immerse myself in a story is if I'm enjoying it. Although I have a feeling MFA programs have an entirely different goal. Maybe that's where he was conflicted.

jean harrington said...

Anne Marie, maybe he was conflicted about the basic purpose of an MFA program, but I did get the impression that he was confining his remarks (read ire) at the quality of student writing. Anyway, an interesting, somewhat passionate, observation on his part.

maymay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clare London said...

I removed the previous comment as marketing spam.

I will read the article later, Jean, but like you, I think that excerpt - even or maybe especially taken out of context - sums up the whole issue of my writing to me. Thanks for the (indirect) validation on this grey, chilly morning! )

Toni Anderson said...

I haven't read the rest of the article but I totally agree with this. It feeds into what Elmore Leonard said about writing.. (taken from http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/304)

What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing: *

Never open a book with weather.
Avoid prologues.
Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

***
My only comment against this is that everyone is different, and there are some people who like reading/and writing what they see as complex prose. I think they probably shouldn't be writing genre fiction.

jean harrington said...

To All, As Woody Allan has famously said, "A writer's job is to entertain. If he also says something meaningful about life and death, those are happy acidents."

I think I quoted Woody correctly--we're on a first name basis!--but the gist of his meaning is there.

Rita said...

Late to the party. I AGREE! And Toni Yes I also agree everyone is different. he reason we have many books to select. Thank the powers that be.