Monday, November 29, 2010

MFA vs. NYC. Which side are you on?

There's an interesting piece by Chad Harbach on Slate right now that argues that there are two distinct cultures in American writing right now. The first school is the MFA, the university-sponsored writing culture that is spread across the nation in college towns . The second is the New York culture; people like Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, etc.

The article makes a lot of intriguing points about how each culture produces different writing. The MFA writer focuses on the short story form more than the New York writer. The MFA writer is also better-funded than the New York writer. If you teach writing, you don't have to make money from it. On the other hand, the MFA writer is pressured to publish frequently to beef up job credentials.

What camp do you fall into? And what about the people who aren't in either camp. If I'm neither a New Yorker, nor an MFA, do I even have a chance?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ammo for Fighting Writer's Block has an on-going four-part series filled with useful advice for the writing process from numerous famous authors such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Thomas Pynchon, Vladimir Nabokov, and Toni Morrison. There is much to be gleaned here about crafting poetry, short stories, or fiction. Here are two excerpts:

Sometimes I would sit at the machine for hours without writing a line. Fired by an idea, often an irrelevant one, my thoughts would come too fast to be transcribed. I would be dragged along at a gallop, like a stricken warrior tied to his chariot.
--Henry Miller

My method is one of continuous revision. While writing a long novel, every day I loop back to earlier sections to rewrite, in order to maintain a consistent, fluid voice. When I write the final two or three chapters of a novel, I write them simultaneously with the rewriting of the opening, so that, ideally at least, the novel is like a river uniformly flowing, each passage concurrent with all the others.
-- Joyce Carol Oates

Part One "Why and How To Write"
Part Two "How and Why To Write"
Part Three "Why, How to Write"
Part Four (to be published)