Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Five People You Meet in Writing Grad School

Since I'm gearing up for Year Two in my MFA program, this post seemed apropos. I actually wrote this for a
blogging contest sponsored by Writer's Digest-- I haven't heard anything from them, so I'm assuming I didn't win and can repurpose what I wrote. Admittedly, this is a little snarky and if you're in my MFA program and we're friends, don't worry, I'm sure you don't fall into any of these categories. Because if you did, we wouldn't be friends, right?

Mitch Albom may know about heaven, but let me tell you about some of the folks you’re likely to encounter in an M.F.A. writing program.

1. The Premature Memoirist

Color me old-fashioned, but I thought memoirs were generally supposed to be written at least halfway through one’s life. And yet, the popularity of creative nonfiction as a new track in writing programs around the country has resulted in tons of 24-year-olds working on their David Sedaris-style dysfunctional family memoirs.

2. Little Miss Defensive

In workshop, she rolls her eyes whenever anyone offers constructive criticism and ferociously defends every word. But if everything she writes is already perfect, isn’t graduate school a colossal waste of time and money?

3. I-Feel-Entitled-to-Discuss-the-Assigned-Reading-Even-Though-I-Haven’t-Done-It Guy

You probably encountered this guy in your undergraduate years. He makes seemingly profound, but vague comments, frequently using terms such as “deconstructionist,” “narrative distance,” and “meta-fictional.”

4. The Hunter Thompson Wannabe

He brings a flask to class, wears aviator sunglasses indoors, never shaves, and claims to do his best writing during cocaine-fueled all-nighters. He’s more bozo than gonzo, though.

5. The Pretentious L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E/Flarf Poet

His/her poems don’t make any sense, but that doesn’t make them deep. The titles of said poems are often longer than the poems themselves. Example:

Haiku Written on My Neighbor’s Toilet While Reflecting on Proust and My Mother’s Liposuction Scars

Ketchup packets burst
Like Partridge Family pancakes

Feline clitoris

Sometimes random is just….random.

*Note: You may also encounter these types at writing colonies, conferences, and book launch parties.


Claire said...

Amen on #1 and #3

Kas said...

I agree on #1 if it's the David Sedaris dysfunctional family type. I'd say most of us who are writing memoir in the program have reasons for writing what we're writing.... Not that you're actually singling anyone out :)