Forget Finding Your Voice, Find Your Subject

All this hand-wringing over writers finding their voice. Find your voice, writing instructors told me. Here’s how to find your voice, craft talks assured me. Once you find your voice, it will unlock everything, writing books promised. I’m starting to question, though, that voice is the big deal everyone seems to think it is. I’mContinue reading “Forget Finding Your Voice, Find Your Subject”

Advanced Fiction Workshop Syllabus

It took me longer than planned after heat waves and migraines, but hey! It’s done! Here at last is the course syllabus for this semester in the Accessible MFA. Currently, I’m hovering around Week 4, but remember in this MFA (not accredited but open to all), each “week” can take as long as you want.Continue reading “Advanced Fiction Workshop Syllabus”

Ableism and Classism Underlie the MFA Model

Every few years, a white man in the mainstream literary community publishes a curmudgeonly piece about how entitled, lazy, and whiny creative writing students can be. They often point to these qualities as the only things that hold back writers, aside from another likely possibility: a lack of talent. Recently, I came across just suchContinue reading “Ableism and Classism Underlie the MFA Model”

What’s the Point of Literary Theory Anyway?

Literary theory is a trip. I just spent a year studying this for the first semester of my Accessible MFA. I watched Professor Paul Fry’s 26 introductory lectures at Yale. I created a JSTOR account (for free) so that I could read most of the assigned readings. And I bought The Norton Anthology of TheoryContinue reading “What’s the Point of Literary Theory Anyway?”

To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race”

Since the 1930s Formalism has positioned literary art as independent of author, era, and even possibly meaning. It promises that if readers would just focus on structure, symbols, and tensions within the text itself, all will be clear. Although this approach still holds sway in literature and creative writing classes, Critical Race Theory has challengedContinue reading “To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race””

When Literary Criticism Doesn’t Work

I first read James Wood’s How Fiction Works nearly ten years ago, shortly after it was published. And it hasn’t aged well. It probably didn’t help that the first time I picked it up, I assumed it was a volume of criticism from the 1950s or 1960s Reading it this time around for my MFA has been,Continue reading “When Literary Criticism Doesn’t Work”

Literary Theory: The Class Everyone Loves to Hate

Different institutions give it various names. Narrative Strategies. Textual Strategies. Literary Theory. Readers and Writers. But whatever you call it, it’s usually one of the first required classes. It’s also the class I’ve heard the most MFA graduates groan about. What’s the point? I’m never going to use this stuff. So, here I am, making upContinue reading “Literary Theory: The Class Everyone Loves to Hate”

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I inherited my mother’s rage. And she had a lot to be angry about. Growing up in small-town Kennewick in the 1950s and 1960s, she was told she couldn’t do what the boys did. Couldn’t race bikes out in the street. Couldn’t beat them at math. So she did. But, as a consequence, she couldn’tContinue reading “Rage Against the Dying of the Light”