To bring my many readers up to date, I’m still working on my MFA, and I’m still dicking around with various “Little Magazines” trying to get something published. I haven’t been able to kick the habit totally. To quote Silvio quoting Michael Corleone, “I tried to get out but they drug me back.” Every time I write a new story, I can’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 wouldn’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, “This story is magnificent. I wouldn’t change a thing.” I learn from the workshops, but the learning comes from being introduced to my blunders. That’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, “By God! You’ve done it!”
I’m reading How to Build a Girl by Caitlan Moran. It’s wonderful. I can’t imagine Caitlan Moran ever hearing discouraging words from workshop leaders. The novel’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 “…writing, unlike choreography, architecture, or conquering kingdoms – is a thing you can do when you’re lonely and poor, and have no infrastructure, i.e. a ballet troupe or some cannons.” I am reminded of Catcher in the Rye only because Dolly is young like Holden Caulfield and also a seeker of truth. That’s where the resemblance ends. She is so much smarter and funnier than that irritating little pill.