Friday, April 4, 2008

all fiction is fantasy, part 2

the majority of my students want to write science fiction, fantasy, horror, alt history, children’s stories, rom com and satire. some of them will take a stab at surreality or themes of contemporary alienation. some will attempt complex, paranoid thrillers. very few are interested in domestic realism or political/cultural subjects unless the stories feature some moment of extreme violence or are set in the past. I rarely see regional writing unless that region is part of a coming of age story. they all write at least one coming of age story, as we all do, eventually.

the coming of age story is often as close as they come to writing conventional literary stories, and even then they don’t like the term literary, preferring market terms that describe content over labels that describe . . . oof.

the bad news is that these students, even the ones who are technically sophisticated, are still finding it tough to get into grad writing programs. the good news is that it’s not as rough as it used to be. eighties minimalism is loosening its grip, and the “workshop story” is fading into myth, as elves and mages grab their seats at the seminar table. an influx of pop writers, along with the usual suspects, will be great for programs. I hope.

we talk a lot about what a real writer is, and we say impossible things like, "a writer writes every day." Ugh. a writer, given the chance, will eventually come to write every day. may I amend that threat to something more honest? a writer reads every day, and with luck, she'll do so fearlessly.

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