Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Take on What Workshops DON'T Do

Came across "Show and Tell" from the June 4 (I think) New Yorker magazine. Although it's largely a book review of Mark McGurl's The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing the author, Louis Menand, spends a good deal of time both attacking and, in the end, talking up (a little) workshops, particularly poetry workshops. Although his approach differs from mine he takes good swipes at the workshops and the notion that they really do anything for writers. What I like is his focus on the problem, as I see it, that "Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem." Where he uses the word "publishable" I would use the phrase "workshop-acceptable". The book itself looks at writing programs and how they have changed the creative writing landscape in the last several decades. It is no doubt worth the reading but I urge you first to read Menand's article.

Menand ends his New Yorker piece by affirming the value of camaraderie found in writing workshops and this I heartily endorse. As I have urged earlier here, if you are going to attend workshops, once you've gone to one or two don't go to learn anything more about writing but rather go to give as much help as you can to the other participants who are not as far along as you.

So long for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment