I was posting this as a comment on someone else’s blog, but I decided that since it’s the time of year when people start looking at grad schools, I should go ahead and post a more detailed version here. Specifically, a hopeful MFA-draftee was finding herself obsessing about getting into a top-ranked program. As someone who turned down a spot in a program ranked #5 in the country (up to #4 this year) for a program ranked #109, I wanted to emphasize that there should be a lot more to your decision than how good Poets & Writers thinks the school is. Their criteria should not automatically be yours.
I didn’t ask to be part of an oppressed minority group. You could make the argument that I chose it, because I discovered that no matter how sincere one is in wishing to change one’s sexual orientation, it’s not possible to do so, and I decided the mental health issues associated with self-identifying as part of an oppressed minority group are less severe than the mental health issues associated with the ongoing, self-loathing battle to be straight. But, nonetheless, life wasn’t fair to me when the “sexual orientation and its associated difficulties” cards were handed out. Recently, however, I once again found myself in the “it’s not my job to teach” conversation regarding minority voices in fiction, and I figured I should probably codify my thoughts here.
My first attempt at lit fic was well received by my class and instructor. Not loved unreservedly, of course, and they had a lot of input on things that could be made stronger. In considering how to fix one of the issues they raised, I came up with a solution that would only be possible if the story was published as a traditional printed object (in a book or a magazine). That, in turn, got me thinking once again about the future of the physical book.
So, by now you probably know that part of my financial assistance package for grad school is that I’m working in the office for the school’s literary magazine. That means that part of my job is to read every piece of fiction that gets submitted. (We re-opened for the semester on Sept. 1 after a long summer hiatus, so that’s been a lot of reading this week.) I honestly didn’t think I would learn a great deal, because I’ve read slush before (for a theatre company), but there is one insight that came to me this week. Good writing is not your goal; it’s a prerequisite.
TM Magazine‘s current issue (under the Emerald Sky imprint) just dropped, and is currently available as a free, online preview to convince you to subscribe to the magazine. It features a story by me, “Another Generation’s Problems.”
If you’re having trouble with the TM website or if the September issue is no longer current by the time you’re reading this, it’s also accessible through Issuu.
And I have to add that I love the tag line they came up with for my story. “Forgiveness can take generations. Some problems need solving now.”