Monday, August 02, 2010

You gotta know what they know

There's been a lot of thought about grad school going on in my brain lately. You'll find the following statement to be held as absolute fact: "You don't have to have an MFA in Creative Writing to be a published, successful author."

No, you don't.

But that's a limited statement and it leads to an anti-academia world view, as in I-can-be-haughtier-than-that-haughty-degree. I get it. Its tempting to want to remind oneself that the rigors of the institution are unnecessary and that letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and deadlines are for geeky, dull and depressing literary types. Very tempting indeed.

I propose an addition to that self-satisfying statement: "But you gotta know what they know."

In all actuality, that means me. I gotta know what they know. I gotta have what they have: a critique group.

To my family and friends, don't take this personally. Your comments helped me, but not enough. Only writers can give a writer the critique she...ahem...I need. It's not that readers can't point out the same problems, they just don't usually do it with the same jargon, the exacting mumbojumbo that lets me know I'm among friends. Ex: "The first person point of view gets too chatty in this scene and slows down the suspense, throwing off the pacing you created during the exposition." Yes, I tried to throw jargon in there purposefully. Yes, it actually makes sense. Right?

I can't blame it all on jargon though. I may not have asked my family and friends the right questions. I may not have been ready to hear the answers.

And so, I have decided to not decide yet. About the MFA, that is. The first step is to apply, which I will force myself to do. WTF, GRE???

In the meantime, I must devote myself to learning what the MFAs know and especially to forge a critique group. So I place myself awkwardly in the hands of social networking sites in an attempt to find friends that speak my language.

If I cannot wade through the creeps and if I cannot carpool to the writing group that is too far away, then rest assured that the next round of my beloved readers will be asked many probing questions, until the language barrier is breached.

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