Monday, October 24, 2011

Heffalumps and Woozles (Writers and Readers)

I just want you all to know I've got Winnie the Pooh on my mind:
Heffalumps and Woozles: They're black they're brown, they're up, they're down They're in, they're out they're all about, They're far, they're near they're gone, they're here! They're quick and slick they're insincere Beware! Beware! Be a very wary bear A heffalump or woozle is very confusil A heffalump or woozle's very sly! (sly) (sly) (sly) They come in ones and twosles but If they so choosles Before your eyes you'll see them -multiply (ply) (ply) (ply)
Writers and Readers. Heffalumps and Woozles. What do they have in common? "They come in ones and twosles," that's what. They need each other (I'm conveniently ignoring the bit about them being quick, slick, and insincere).

Composition theorist Peter Elbow agrees:
People who get better and get published really tend to be driven by how much they care about their writing. Yes, they have a small audience at first--after all, they're not very good. But they try reader after reader until finally they can find people who like and appreciate their writing...It may sound so far as though all the effort and drive comes from the lonely driven writer...but, often enough, readers play the crucially active story of how writers get better.
 Also, I'll have a readable second draft of my novel ready by the end of December. Hint, hint.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I find this sort of ironic. Throughout my undergraduate career, I told myself I'd do NaNoWriMo but inevitably chickened out because I had "too much to do." Four years in a row, I chickened out.

Well, guess what. I finally broke. As a first year graduate student who also happens to be teaching (or attempting to teach?) a bunch of freshman how to write, I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. It's a desperate act. I'm a desperate individual. I want to finish the novel I've been working on for three years. It is time.

I'd like to say that I've finally mastered the art of time management and that, although my workload is exponentially larger, I have everything under control. But that would be a lie. I still procrastinate and reading still takes time (theory reading takes obscene amounts of time). I'm just frantically scrambling to finish my "small" sets of weekly work before November arrives.

Hey, I've never claimed to be completely sane...

Anyway, in honor of the approaching madness, I've complied a list of the five craziest writers I've heard of/admire most (in no particular order of craziness or admiration):

1. Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing, anyone?)
2. Jack Kerouac (hobos and mushrooms and booze, oh my!)
3. T.S. Eliot (because an Insane Asylum is not an appropriate way to separate from a spouse)
4. Sylvia Plath (Bell Jar...mhmm)
5. Lewis Carrol (tea time, anyone?)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Miranda Rights for Writers: the Importance of Thick Skin

I am a writer. I am also an English Major. I've got a shiny new degree and I can analyze literature until you're blue in the face (I'm pretty much immune by now). Although I love both roles, my loyalties lie with you brave, possibly misguided souls who (like me) find the courage and the tenacity to be writers.

So, as a classically liminal character, I am offering you this warning. I'll offer it only once, and will refuse to take mercy on you if you fail to heed it. Because, after all, English Literature is my day job. I gotta do what I gotta do.

You have the right to stop writing. Anything you type on that page can and will--in the event of your publication--be used against you in an English classroom.

Go ahead. Laugh. You should find this funny while you can. But if you're ever published, you may one day face a situation like this one:

*Insert nostalgic, bell-ringy music* Your book has been published. It's also a best seller and an award-winning literary wonder. English professors across the globe are assigning it as required reading for their students.

Awesome, right? But wait--there's more...

Your novel is about a brown mouse who meets a rare green mouse. The mice get married. They live happily ever after... until the green mouse decides to poison the brown mouse. Then a white mouse comes and puts the green mouse in prison. Of course, the brown mouse is dead.

It's simple. Interesting. Possibly a classic noir text. That's all there is to it, right?


Get ready to grow some thick skin, because what I'm about to say is not for the squeamish.

Remember that part where I said English professors were assigning your book across the globe? Well guess what, that means thousands of students must find something to say about it. The involved ones will even try to same something new and not-entirely-obvious. Somebody somewhere is going to interpret your work in ways you never imagined or desired. It's mathematically inevitable (trust me, I have an English degree and therefore know EVERYTHING about math. How hard can that be? Numbers! Hah! I can count).

Be prepared, writers, be prepared. It's not such a bad thing--remember, this scenario requires you to be published and excellent.

(For more tongue-in-cheek fun, view Writer's Digest's "Miranda Rights for Writers" [which may have been more appropriately named "Miranda Rights for Writers' Families and Friends"]).