“The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club. Look closely at the promotional materials of creative-writing programs and you’ll almost invariably see a host of proper names—these are the people with whom you can expect to rub shoulders, if not directly, then by association through the former graduates that have passed through the program or the mentors of your mentors whose influence will surely rub off on you. It’s about having the opportunity to insert yourself, however virtually, into that literary social network.
While something may happen in MFA programs, perhaps that thing is more behavioral than artistic. When we look at the data, the MFA seems to be helping people sound like everyone else. To put a positive spin on it, we could say the degrees help writers fit into the literary landscape. Like the universities to which these programs belong, the MFA may offer a way of gaining entrance to an elite club. You learn the rules of the road, at least as defined by the publishing industry and literary reviews. At its worst, it doesn’t do anything at all.
The CIA + the MFA = https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/
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“Words matter. A society’s books and movies impact the world. Books, in particular were often internationally influential during the Cold War. …
The CIA funded the production and distribution of individual literary projects. …
Eric Bennett, a professor of English at Providence College and author of the forthcoming Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle and American Creative Writing During the Cold War, wrote that the CIA’s efforts produced lasting and potentially damaging effects.
According to Bennett, the CIA and other conservative organizations actually infiltrated the United States’ leading writing programs and literary journals. The goal was to establish an American literary tradition that would “venerate and fortify the particular, the individual, the situated, the embedded, the irreducible.”
That literary voice would be an alternative to the Soviet Union’s socialist realism — and its selfless heroes sacrificing themselves for good of the revolution.
Soon after Pres. Harry Truman founded the CIA with the National Security Act of 1947, the agency began focusing on the arts.”
From, and continue reading on the CIA role in shaping American literature: isnblog.ethz.ch/intelligence/the-cia-battled-the-kremlin-with-books-and-movies-2
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“Readers may assume that killing-off a character, and a major one at that, is usually the moment of careful, systematic and exciting plotting for every fiction writer. Or that, it may be nothing further away than ‘a treat’ for the narrator who manoeuvres and ruthlessly employs every brilliant gimmick possible, bring down a character that has succeeded in either winning the hearts of readers or breeding loathing only letters can illustrate. Thus, the writers’ genius creates the monster or angel that must surely be killed. How can this be made tangible? Writers will agree that killing-off a major character in a story takes great writing skill, precision, suspense, style and timing and perhaps a lot more. Without some of these ingredients, a story where a major character (or even a minor one) is killed-off may appear vague, unjustified, irrational and unreal to readers who hold unto every word that leaps out of the paper with an almost total innocence. However, it will not be irrational to conclude that almost every committed fiction reader is far from naivety and digs into the story the writer brings alive, with a fierce critical mind that always produces a quiet plea that seems to say: “convince me that I am not reading fiction but reality reincarnated.”
“In genre fiction, it’s not like that. People usually begin their careers by having their writing rejected by their undergrad creative writing professors. Then (since they don’t get paid by MFA programs), they must write in silence and obscurity—choosing to write even when it means taking time away from their jobs and their families—for years! Since genre workshops tend to be self-organized, even if the writer does go to a regular workshop, their validation usually only comes from their peers (rather than from authority figures). Oftentimes their first real validation is when they sell a story: something that often comes after five or more years of constant rejection, with only extremely infrequent pats on the back (as opposed to the creative writing student who gets some praise at least three times a semester, when they turn in their stories for workshop).
How do writers come up with story ideas and turn them into novels?
“If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you feel you could do something with it, then you toss it around, play tricks with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to start writing it. That’s not nearly such fun – it becomes hard work. Alternatively, you can tuck it carefully away, in storage, for perhaps using in a year or two years’ time.” Agatha Christie
“The well-worn formula beginning/middle/end is the default mode for pretty much all of the commercial and “literary” novels that currently jostle for ascendancy on our bookshelves. We like our entertainment to make immediate sense, or if it doesn’t at first, it should explain all at the end. Repeat ad infinitum. I would argue there is something crucial lacking in this formula: the power of ambiguity. Closure belittles the complexities of meaning: our meaning, our being here. So what does this desire for closure say about us as readers? Why are we so fearful of ambiguity? Why do we desire novels that, to paraphrase Alain Robbe-Grillet, do the “reading” for us?
Life isn’t like the narratives that make up the majority of novels in circulation today, or like the well-rehearsed scenes we enjoy at the theatre, or in the movies. It’s more complicated than that: steeped in confusion, dead ends, blank spaces and broken fragments. It’s baffling at times, annoying and perpetually open-ended. We have no real way of predicting our future. So why do our novels have to tie all this stuff together, into a neatly packaged bundle of ready-made answers?”
Perhaps it is the paint-by-numbers approach of the publishing industry where adopting uniformity is the goal? The endless pursuit of more books in the vein of this-or-that title stifles creativity. This drive to deliver books created according to the above formula is particularly prevalent in the anglo-american publishing world. Check out Cortazar’s Hopscotch, for an example of a book with neither beginning, middle, or end. Read it from any point.
Read More: http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/nov/23/novels-neat-conclusions?cat=books&type=article
Jack King “A new King of thrillers”: http://www.SpyWriter.com
Is it possible that waning interest in literary fiction is the result of the army of
Borg writers driven by a single collective thought, producing clones of the same book?
“Here come the writers: hundreds of them, liberated from their garrets and suddenly overrunning the country, going from invisible to omnipresent…
The answer is that they come from creative-writing programs, which have emerged in the new century as the indispensable nurseries of literary fiction in North America. Half of all published authors in Canada have studied creative writing, according to a 2010 survey, and enrolment in postsecondary creative-writing courses is booming even as interest in traditional literary studies declines. …
One now-traditional criticism of such processes is that they produce homogenous results, often identified as “workshop stories” or “Iowa novels” by skeptics. Most teachers deny it, naturally, pointing out that creative-writing courses have broadened access to the art and are in part responsible for the new diversity of Canadian literature. But the taint remains.
Fictions that carry it tend to be “highly competent but dull,” according to Hollingshead. “The rule is the telling detail,” he says, “so you get all this surface information, but to no effect. You have a kind of aesthetic sheen on the prose but you’re not getting enough ideas and you’re not getting enough dramatic energy.” He is confident in the prospect of literary renewal, but doubts such a thing will emerge from the creative-writing academy.”
Presidents are chosen, but not elected. The Black Vault. http://www.SPYWRITER.com
I did not realize that my novels involve a technique called kishotenketsu:
“Japanese writers are trained in a literary technique called kishotenketsu that is entirely different in structure from stories written in the Western literary model with conflict and pronounced outcome. In kishotenketsu the supporting points loop around the main point without creating a linear argument. The points are intended to only obliquely reference the main point, it is up to the reader to infer how this relates to the implied main thesis.
There is no firm conclusion, only an ambiguous ending that might point to several possible outcomes. Again, it is up to the reader to form their own conclusion.”
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Writing books is a job, not unlike that of a worker on a manufacturing line, where the publishing model forces one to churn out books as mass products (consider a certain suspense writer who signed a publishing contract to produce and deliver 17 novels in 3 years):
“Since when did being a writer become a career choice, with appropriate degree courses and pecking orders? Does this state of affairs make any difference to what gets written?
In the last thirty or forty years, the writer has become someone who works on a well-defined career track, like any other middle class professional, not, however, to become a craftsman serving the community, but to project an image of himself (partly through his writings, but also in dozens of other ways) as an artist who embodies the direction in which culture is headed.
One of the myths about creative writing courses is that students go there to learn how to write. Such learning, when and if it takes place, is a felicitous by-product that may or may not have to do with the teaching; the process of settling down to write for a year would very probably yield results even without teachers. No, the student goes to the course to show himself to teachers who as writers are well placed (he imagines!) to help him present himself to the publishers. Most creative writing courses now offer classes on approaching agents and publishers and promoting one’s work. In short, preparing for the job.”
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