Monday, November 29, 2010

Are There Any Other Choices?

Slate is running an excerpt from a n+1 article called MFA vs. NYC. The author, Chad Harbach (one of n+1's editors) argues that America has two literary cultures, one around MFA programs and one around the publishing world of New York.

So meaty.

Now I knew that the number of MFA writing programs have skyrocketed in recent years, and I also knew that many MFA graduates are employed teaching in MFA programs. I just hadn't realized the magnitude of the numbers we're talking here. I was only aware of one MFA in writing back in my youth, which just goes to show how ignorant I was. According to Harbach, in 1975 there were 79. Now he says there are 854. My thought in the past regarding the explosion in graduate writing programs was, How irresponsible to be training large numbers of people to do something that so few of them will be able to support themselves doing since writing pays so badly. Foolish me. There appears to be a whole industry around studying for a MFA and then teaching others who are studying for a MFA. In the MFA culture the point of publishing a book isn't so much to make a living but to earn your credentials so you can get a job at a college and make a living.

Oh, and a lot of MFA writing deals with short stories. This, I believe, helps to explain why I've had so little success publishing short stories. My writing may not actually be too dreadful to give away to an on-line publication. The competition from all those students in and graduates of those 854 writing programs may just be too great. Plus, you know, they've actually studied how to write a short story, which may bring us back to the argument that my writing may actually be too dreadful to give away.

Harbach also says that NYC publishing is moving toward a Hollywood model, something I've believed for years.

This is definitely a fascinating article that leads me to wonder which group children's writers fall into. Personally, I think I'm groupless, but what about children's writers in general? Do either of these models work for most or do we have another?

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