To bring my many readers up to date, Iâ€™m still working on my MFA, and Iâ€™m still dicking around with various â€œLittle Magazinesâ€ trying to get something published. I havenâ€™t been able to kick the habit totally. To quote Silvio quoting Michael Corleone, â€œI tried to get out but they drug me back.â€ Every time I write a new story, I canâ€™t resist trying it out on some contest or other.
The MFA experience has been useful on the whole. I have picked up some new skills and read a lot of great stuff I wouldnâ€™t have otherwise read. Nevertheless, the point of investing this much time and money hangs on whether or not I start getting stuff into print. Actually, aside from publication, what would be lovely is for the workshop leader to simply say, â€œThis story is magnificent. I wouldnâ€™t change a thing.â€ I learn from the workshops, but the learning comes from being introduced to my blunders. Thatâ€™s helpful. I can usually avoid those specific blunders in the future. For instance, I am much less likely to bore a reader with long passages of dialogue that is really disguised exposition. But there are always other mistakes to make, and I never hear, â€œBy God! Youâ€™ve done it!â€
Iâ€™m reading How to Build a Girl by Caitlan Moran. Itâ€™s wonderful. I canâ€™t imagine Caitlan Moran ever hearing discouraging words from workshop leaders. The novelâ€™s heroine, Dolly Wilde, is a desperately poor, desperately horny 16 year old girl living in public housing and trying to break into rock-and-roll journalism in London. She explains that writing is one of the few activities poor people can engage in because â€œâ€¦writing, unlike choreography, architecture, or conquering kingdoms â€“ is a thing you can do when youâ€™re lonely and poor, and have no infrastructure, i.e. a ballet troupe or some cannons.â€ I am reminded of Catcher in the Rye only because Dolly is young like Holden Caulfield and also a seeker of truth. Thatâ€™s where the resemblance ends. She is so much smarter and funnier than that irritating little pill.