Sunday, June 14, 2009
Creative Writing Programs: Good, Bad?
Seth Harwood reading.
There is a long piece in The New Yorker this week about the efficacy of writing workshops. I did the Breadloaf thing a few years ago and because of my years didn't get to sleep with anyone who might advance my career. I was tempted to chase down Charlie Baxter, but my husband was with me and wouldn't give me the go sign.
My personal instructor, I won't mention her name, had one piece of advice that she ran by us like a mantra. "Go deeper into your character."
Not good advice for someone who didn't know how to plot.
I also did four university workshops. I don't think any of them really helped me as much as the 25 years of reading short stories and fiction that came before it, although my instructor was entirely supportive and the dearest man in the world.
It did help me to learn what a story was. Okay, "what's this story about"?" was the most common criticism. Duh, it's about Fred who hates his father. And then what?
Yes, I found it hard to plot. I still do. Did you take any writing workshops? What was the most valuable thing for you in learning how to write? What writer spelled it out best? I'm still looking for the magic formula.