View Full Version : What do people DO in creative writing programs?

02-20-2008, 07:40 AM
So, I ran away from grad school before they could suck me in. I went to the orientation weekend and flipped out when I found myself surrounded by a bunch of professors who clearly had no connection whatsoever to the real world. I ran out and left a day early... and they were paying for my hotel!

I keep in touch with a friend who ended up going to that same program. She's now earning a PhD in Creative Writing at a fairly prestigious university. She teaches undergrad courses. She's very literary and I'm sort of the bastard genre whore. :)

And I'm helping her with her agent search.

Due to my own internet research and being a member of AW, I am 100% more educated about the world of agents and book publishing than she is after 4 years of post-grad schooling. IN CREATIVE WRITING. I mean, I'm sending her links to Query Letter Hell and explaning that a "proposal package" is for nonfiction.

I'm just wondering, isn't "How to get published" something a creative writing program should, you know, address? What's the frickin point of learning how to write Great Literature if you can't get it published?

02-20-2008, 07:44 AM
They get creative?

02-20-2008, 08:09 AM
Let's see...in my three years in a creative writing program I:

read a lot of literature
discussed a lot of literature
wrote a lot
discussed my writing with fellow grad students
revised a lot
busted my ass as an editorial intern at a literary magazine
produced a couple of my plays
organized poetry readings
participated in academic conferences
taught 2 Freshman Composition classes every semester
drank a lot of booze and engaged in sexual escapades I look back on with a bit of embarrassment
drank a lot of espresso and engaged in angsty discussions I look back on with a lot of embarrassment
discussed vaguely on a few occasions submitting my work to reputable literary magazines.Does that clarify things?

02-20-2008, 08:16 AM
They paint. Seriously Creative Writing helps you with your writing, not with getting published.

02-20-2008, 09:54 AM
The problem is fitting the 'material' into a course.

Most schools like to forget that there is a real world out there and they need to prepare their students for it with practical courses in the curriculum.

02-20-2008, 10:40 AM
They focus on the "creative" part and not the business part. They teach you how to write novels -- plot, structure, characters, etc. You also read a lot, and critique a lot.

02-20-2008, 06:27 PM
IMO, websites like this one should be a course requirement in creative writing classes.

02-20-2008, 07:07 PM
Like Ray said, it's "creative" writing, not "selling your" writing. They teach you how to write gooder.

02-20-2008, 07:18 PM
Yep - it's all about writing, nothing about business. This is not to say I don't occasionally wish I'd accepted the scholarship I was offered when I got my BA, and gone for my MFA. But I doubt I would have come out of it with any idea how to get published.

Hell, I took an advanced class for my undergraduate degree that was specifically titled "Getting Your Work Published". We spent a lot of time reading and critiquing each other's work, and it was a good time. The word "agent" never came up once. I don't think the work "market" came up once. I left it as clueless about the world of publishing as I'd gone in.

(I also left it with the impression that genre fic was for lazies or crazies, but that's another barrel 'o fish.) :)

02-20-2008, 07:20 PM
Makes you think - they should add a second part to the class: How to sell what you wrote.

But that would burst everyone's ideals and get away from that literary, academic, coffee house, smoke-filled illusioned, we're just a bunch of artists talking art and writing mentality. Getting down from the clouds and into the street takes a bit of re-directing brain energy ... and a lot of gin.

02-28-2008, 07:03 AM
I took a writing seminar ever semester I was in college, and again in the summer. Never any preparation for publication. Just workshops mostly. You read out loud. Everyone gets a copy. Everyone critiques. Depending on the professor, some comments were nice, some were allowed to be brutally honest. In one class, a 40-something woman looked me dead in the eye, smacked her palms against the table, and in a tantrum-like way said, "I don't like it. It makes me think too much."

I wish I could say I made that up.

02-28-2008, 07:11 AM
I took economics. I never learned to do my taxes.
I took Spanish. I never learned I had to be careful as a blond in Spain.
I took creative writing. I never learned how to get published.
I took cancer epidemiology. I didn't learn to quit smoking.

Practicality is not a big thing with college education, I've noticed. You learn to DO a task, then you have to figure out how to apply it to real life on your own. And/or with the help of the internet. :)

02-28-2008, 07:17 AM
I love this thread.

02-28-2008, 07:30 AM
I thought there were two types of people in creative writing programs. The first sticks a finger down his throat and hurls onto a page, and the second type comes along and takes a dump on it.

At least that's what the brochure said. :D