December 29th, 2011
We fly to Nebraska Thursday and I always look forward to meeting the new group of grad students. Teaching creative writing is exciting if you’re doing it right. Maybe like inventing worlds would be. You can feel sparks in the room, ideas flying.
My friend who is going off to a new MFA program feels a little trepidation. She’s looking forward to the sparks, but what about the odd cutting remarks whether intentional or otherwise? What about the whole David Lodge problem with academia which is that most people in academia don’t work a full work week so they have time for slashing other people, making other people’s lives miserable. Now that can be a full time job. Most academic institutions I’ve been around are full of unhappy people who resemble squirrels (tendency to run about chattering about nothing, fondness for nuts) or cauliflower (white boring vegetable, only has taste when you put something foreign into it…but let me stop myself there,) and of course tofu—probably good for you but never really has any flavor or ability to stand up on its own.
If writers are strange, hot cold, and certifiable, most academics are more like tepid tap water.
I had lunch with two writers on Wednesday who teach in two of LA’s big universities, neither are boring in the slightest, in fact, I would describe Percival Everett and Marcos Villatoro as wildly alive. But that’s because they’re writers who just happen to teach writing, not full time academics. Some academics are surely fascinating people whose ideas would make your heart skip a beat, just not most of the ones I’ve met.
But, the MFA program I teach in is taught all by writers and even the people running the program are writers, so it’s chaotic, funny, alive, crazy and full of bright people. Nobody is nodding off in workshop, lecture or reading.
And I can’t wait to make sure the bartender Mitch, (he works at the Lied Lodge inNebraskaCity—super cute!) still knows how to make my martinis.
I am going to give a lecture on how to get published. Maybe it’s a bit soon to give this info to a bunch of writing students, but I believe in thinking ahead. In the birth room, start planning for college, if you have a son, start stocking up on condoms, a daughter? Most people would say guns, I’m really big on the need for patience when raising girls. As they said in the Lion King (a really bad remake of Hamlet though Jeremy Irons was a great Scar/Claudius) “Be Prepared!”
So, I’m going to prepare them for the pitfalls in the world of publishing. The disorganized editors, the possible need for publicists, the world of agents, I am going to roll it all out there like a sheet and when I’m done, they will have their own Rosebud sled and be ready to sled down the hill, write a book about it, get it published and made into a movie starring Orson Welles. Who by the way is dead. Details. Some other actor then. You get the idea.
There are three kinds of people when it comes to social awkwardness vs. confidence.
Choose which kind is you.
- Do I look okay? I wonder if they’re laughing at me. Is there anyone here who doesn’t like me?
- I have arrived! Let’s get this party started!
- When can we go home and watch Star Trek?