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Clench Million
Charles

Apr 4, 2006, 3:54 PM

Post #126 of 235 (3509 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

HopperFu:

Perhaps the problem is that the word "craft" is a bit vague. My dictionary just defines it as "skill in doing something, especially in the arts."
I think I understand what you mean by craft though and I get and mostly agree with what you are saying.

But I think the essential point here is that, even if writing isn't all craft, it is the craft aspect that you are asking for help on in a workshop. Workshop critiquing is like telling someone if this or that segment is too long or saying character X is underdeveloped or suggesting two paragraphs should be switched, etc.

I brought up craft to say to sarandipity that workshop critique is more about the craft part and, as such, it seems likely that someone more skilled in writing will have more to say on the craft side. This isn't the be-all end-all of critique and there is nothing wrong with getting advice from non-writers. But in the specific case of workshops, I think being with strong writers can only be helpful.


Clench Million
Charles

Apr 4, 2006, 4:00 PM

Post #127 of 235 (3504 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Troll feeding Can't Post

Who said its all about the other people? I'm well aware many of my posts are caustic and sometimes they provoke people. I don't personally see this as a problem. The problem (again, for me) is when their responses are irrational, fallicious or hypocritical.
If people can't handle a discussion or argument with a good level of thought, then yes, that is their problem.

I don't mind that people argue with me, I just mind when they argue poorly.

But really, this is all very off-topic and boring. If you have a real problem with me, why not take it to PM?
This discussion is fairly interesting barring these side posts.


HopperFu


Apr 4, 2006, 4:06 PM

Post #128 of 235 (3496 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

Ah yes, I agree. One of the major problems with many of these sort of arguments is that all of the definitions are terribly vague.
When I think of craft, I think of it as the equivelent for a painter: craft is learning how to mix paints, choose brushes, stretch canvas, etc.
You still need the "magic" (or whatever you want to call it) to create brilliance. You can also become a brilliant painter without the craft part of it (Basquit (sp?) and othe rexamples), but I think the craft helps.

Given a choice, I'd rather be with stronger writers just because I'd rather read better work. More important, I think you get more out of critiquing in workshops than you do out of being critiqued. Probably 90% or more of what people say about your story is not terribly helpful, but what you find in other people's stories often says a lot about your own work.


Edited for this: this post is in reference to CM's prior post about craft, etc.


(This post was edited by HopperFu on Apr 4, 2006, 4:13 PM)


edwriter



Apr 4, 2006, 4:09 PM

Post #129 of 235 (3489 views)
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Re: [sibyline] and to take things back in another direction... Can't Post

OK--anyone want to get back to the original topic, to the extent possible?

I don't know how many of you know about The Writer magazine's Online Poetry Spotlight. For the next several months, I think, they'll be spotlighting a reader-submitted poem along with professional critiques. You can now see the first set of poem/responses online.

For the link (plus a link to a prior post explaining the project) check my blog here:


http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com/...oetry-spotlight.html

I really have minimal experience with poetry critiques. What do those who know about it think? Anything applicable there to workshopping?

Best,
Erika D.


Quiet Americans: Stories
http://www.erikadreifus.com



Clench Million
Charles

Apr 4, 2006, 4:12 PM

Post #130 of 235 (3482 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

Hopper:

I think we totally agree here. What you are saying about "magic" is what I meant when I said "Writing is talent/genius expressed through a craft."

If you don't have the genius, you are never going to be a great writer. The vaguness is that I'm not sure if we want to call talent/genius "skill."


Quote
More important, I think you get more out of critiquing in workshops than you do out of being critiqued.Probably 90% or more of what people say about your story is not terribly helpful, but what you find in other people's stories often says a lot about your own work.


Thank you.
This was the what sparked off the big argument with jstgerman. This is what I meant before. Workshops primary purpose should be to teach you how to critique. The benefits you get from people actually workshopping your story aren't as important and normally aren't as helpful.



motet
Dana Davis / Moderator

Apr 4, 2006, 4:14 PM

Post #131 of 235 (3479 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Troll feeding Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm well aware many of my posts are caustic and sometimes they provoke people. I don't personally see this as a problem.



But it is a problem for many, many patrons here and that makes it a problem for the board.

Sibyline had a calm, reasonable and helpful suggestion, Clench. You may not want to follow her advice but I suggest that do.


(This post was edited by motet on Apr 4, 2006, 4:16 PM)


edwriter



Apr 4, 2006, 4:17 PM

Post #132 of 235 (3474 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

Just curious what others think about this idea:

I think I've made it clear, at various points, how important I think it is for the workshop instructors to teach critiquing. This is why I started the thread! I wanted to get more insights into this.

And I definitely agree, as I think I've already stated, that our individual abilities to critique are paramount, both for our own creative work and for any future writing students we may welcome into our classrooms.

But isn't it then logical that everyone benefits: to the extent that all the members of the workshop improve their critiquing skills, isn't it more likely that others' comments can, in fact, be more useful than we've come to expect?

Best,
Erika D.


sibyline


Apr 4, 2006, 4:20 PM

Post #133 of 235 (3468 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Troll feeding Can't Post

I'm posting publicly because we're in an online community context, and I think it's important to address these modes of argumentation.

It's one thing to be provocative. It's another thing to be unnecessarily sarcastic (i.e. oh, that's *so* helpful), boastful (oh, i'm surprised you haven't seen anything publishable in undergrad workshops, i've been nominated for a pushcart) and insulting (i.e. i can't think of a specific instance right now but i'm sure others can). Trying to provoke unnecessarily angry responses from people is for me a pretty accurate definition of a troll.

So I'm disengaging as of this post. I've concluded that you offer more bait than meat.


HopperFu


Apr 4, 2006, 4:23 PM

Post #134 of 235 (3462 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Troll feeding Can't Post


In Reply To
I've concluded that you offer more bait than meat.



I actually prefer donuts to meat.


Clench Million
Charles

Apr 4, 2006, 4:24 PM

Post #135 of 235 (3461 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Troll feeding Can't Post

As far as I can tell, the people who have been getting in arguments with me are the exact same people that I see getting in long arguments with other P&W people. In essence, they seem like the people who like being provoked.
But maybe its a coincidence and they get in all these arguments always because of the other people.


sarandipidy


Apr 4, 2006, 4:38 PM

Post #136 of 235 (3448 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Troll feeding Can't Post

?? Are you talking about me? I rarely get in arguments with people here, or people in general.

I'm just going to say that I 'agree and disagree' with all of you, because I agree with some parts of posts and disagree with others, and there is no need for me to pick apart the responses I've received because they all have their 'good points.' It's all semantics right now (i.e. "what is craft?" and "what is critique?"), and those kinds of discussions can go on and on and on...


Clench Million
Charles

Apr 4, 2006, 4:40 PM

Post #137 of 235 (3446 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Troll feeding Can't Post

When someone has nothing to say on a subject but only offers an ad hom about how someone else doesn't have anything to say, that is the definition of trolling. Is a sarcastic response "necessary"? Nothing is necessary online, but if anything calls for sarcasm that kind of hyprocrisy does.

I don't like to boast and I'm sure I have less to boast about than many a poster here. I'm not terribly accomplished. I think your parody of me there is quite inacurate. The only time I ever brought up the pushcart nomination was when someone specifically asked about the publications of people going into MFAs on this board and even specially asked if people were pushcart worthy. It was very on topic and said jokingly (as in, I said I didn't have a chance of winning).

Honestly, I think I've bragged far less than most posters on this board and have only brought up stuff in subject. Yes, I slipped up earlier in this thread and sounded far more bragging than I actually was. I really did find it surprsing that she has never seen publishible work in grad workshops, as I've known several people (taking myself out here) who have been published in impressive journals from work they handed in to undergrad workshops and barely revised at all.

I would expect this to happen fairly often in MFAs.

ETA: What I meant above was that I can see how the comment here sounded like bragging. But if you've been reading my posts, you would know that was an aberration.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Apr 4, 2006, 4:47 PM)


__________



Apr 4, 2006, 8:49 PM

Post #138 of 235 (3379 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post


In Reply To

I'm an advocate of craft, but the reality is that the difference between good writing and great writing is in that area that transcends craft. If every effect could be quantified, and it was all craft, it would simply be a question of working dilligently and we could all put out works of universal genius. Almost anybody can become an excellent housepainter if they really want to learn how. Almost nobody can become an excellent writer.

I find the house painter analogy a bit soggy. Can we try football? Like say, what the Dallas Cowboys do can be learned by anyone, and certainly no one considers them geniuses. At the professional level, even minute advantages confer huge rewards. And I think it's kind of the same with writing. You can look at how Dion is able to score that T.D., even understand the mechanics of his victory dance, but to mimic those actions is another story. It might be beyond your grasp, even after years of effort, but the fact is you understand what's behind it. Mostly genetics and hard work--and your own hard work will bring you closer to those goals. There's no mystery involved. No one ever has to sit around and wonder, Am I really a football player? What will make me a real football player, not just someone who plays football? To me, when we talk about writing, those questions sound equally ridiculous.

I guess I find the romanticism a bit harmful. It functions as an excuse, as an apology, a call to laziness--even as a way to remove the steam from someone's hard work ("Well of course, he's a genius; he's got that one thing."). I don't deny what can't be covered in a writing program, like timeliness, or reader reception, or universality, etc. (Though, come to think of it, universality might warrant a closer look). I just don't think that's where that specialness that we're seeking lies. I tell you, the best writing class I ever had wasn't a workshop, it was a seminar on the linguistic investigation of literature, taught by a world renowned linguist. We were all writers in that class, and the first day we were told to jettison our ideas of hazy transcendence. We looked for corporeal explanations of tone, emotion, it factor, whatever, and we found them. It was very refreshing, and kind of heartening for many people. It gave us the sense that literature is understandable, however obvious that sounds, and through explanation, not superstition, it can be mastered--we had permission to move a little closer to that touchdown dance.


In Reply To


[sibyline] I don't agree with Soviet in thinking of you as a troll, but...I interpret comments like these as clearly inviting an angry response. So I wouldn't call you a troll, though I would probably describe you as trolly in certain circumstances.

Well played! Isn't this Sartre, in a nutshell?


six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 4, 2006, 8:56 PM)


HopperFu


Apr 4, 2006, 9:06 PM

Post #139 of 235 (3369 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

So are you arguing that anybody can become a great writer? That literature is something that can be mastered by anybody as long as they understand the explanation?

I don't think so.

I'll use your analogy. Doesn't matter how much I train, study, even take steroids, I'll never, ever, ever be as fast or as strong as Deon Sanders.

Same thing with writing. Doesn't matter how hard most people study, write, work, try to understand writing. Most writers will never achieve anything close to greatness.


__________



Apr 4, 2006, 9:13 PM

Post #140 of 235 (3365 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

I'm standing by it!

But that's indeed what I said about football, er, writing.

I think many people could become great writers if they were interested and driven enough. I've known people with zero talent, who showed me their crappy stories when they were in college, who are now publishing in good journals several years later. How about just 'published writer', then? I'm not talking about your all-time favorite writer, or anything.


six five four three two one 0 ->


HopperFu


Apr 4, 2006, 9:35 PM

Post #141 of 235 (3351 views)
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Re: [Junior Maas] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

Yeah, I'd buy published writer. I do think work and craft can take you from crap to decent. It's getting from decent to great that is mysterious.


libbyagain


Apr 5, 2006, 5:48 PM

Post #142 of 235 (3306 views)
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Re: [sibyline] Grad school Can't Post

In Reply To
I also wouldn't be surprised if brillant writers are better critiquers.


I agree with Clench here. Or, more than that, I'm more prone to respect a critiquer's perspective if I like their work. The only problem I've encountered with writers I admire in workshop is when their attention is pulled in different directions and they get busy, which means they spend less time on your manuscript. Otherwise, I tend to get what I perceive to be the best-quality feedback from writers whose work I also admire.


I can't resist chiming in to this though usually I just enjoy browsing the MFA thread as I eat dinner and dread the start of my night class.

I've noticed something really interseting in workshops of my work, which is, respondents don't so much respond in some sort of correlation to the quality of the work they write; more, they respond in some sort of correlation to the quality of the work they read. Lots of times the two are related. I think we end up writing like what we read--something that Fred Leebron pointed out in a workshop at Squaw Valley and I've noticed since to be true--and if we're lucky we've read good stuff instead of garbage and it sinks in and we aren't grammatical nincompoops etc.

On a related note, I think that respondents who are WIDELY read are much better respondents, generally. For instance, if I read mainly Larry McMurtree and write like that too, then okay and I'll recognize the "quality" of another McMurtree-type, but Henry James-ian will be Greek to me.

And frankly, that notion above is the way I WISH MFA programs would use the GRE. Screen out folks who just haven't read very much, yet. . .

fwiw. Cantankerous discussion here, at times--but very enjoyable to me, esp. avec tuna salad and minestrone.

Elizabeth


Windiciti



Apr 6, 2006, 1:39 PM

Post #143 of 235 (3246 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique Can't Post

I think you put it very well, Hopperfu when you said:
"....It's getting from decent to great that's mysterious."

I don't know this, but I suspect that most of us who have applied to various writing programs are at least decent or "competent" writers. One school which rejected me said I was a "competent" writer, but not deep or gritty enough.

Another school's Director, which accepted me, for a Low RES MFA, said that they could certainly teach skills, but one of the hardest to teach was "pacing," and I seemed to have done that very well in my fiction portfolio. Because he was the only person, besides the first school I called, who spoke about my writing, and in a positive way,
I was delighted, and wanted to know more. He told me one of the best things I wanted to hear about my writing---that he wanted to know more about the story and what happened to my characters so he kept on reading till the end!

After so many rejections, it was great to hear this!

But the thing is, Hopperfu, I really have doubts about whether I will ever get to "great." And, as you can imagine, this is VERY hard to admit. But it is a nagging little doubt that is with me almost constantly. Being rejected by WWC and Bennington has given me great pause. I'm questioning my own aptitude most of the time now.

I wish I had applied to Vermont and found out if they would have accepted me, but I had to make some choices due to lack of time and I picked out the two that sounded the most prestigious.

Yes, I have two acceptances, one Low Res and one to NU, not an MFA, but I can't go to both. I'm still unsure of what to do but will take Tom Kealy's advice and go where the $$ is. Wherever that is.

On a happier not, I feel that perhaps some of these debilitating doubts WILL vanish when I am in a workshop, in contact with others and producing creditable work.

Again, what you said has such a ring of truth for me that I wonder what gave ME the idea that I cd. write anything someone wants to read?


chapons
Megan

Apr 6, 2006, 2:36 PM

Post #144 of 235 (3214 views)
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Re: [libbyagain] Grad school Can't Post

I ABSOLUTELY agree! In my (albeit limited) experience, I have also found that the better critiquers are the better readers. They have often, but not always, also been the better writers in the workshop.


viviandarkbloom


May 25, 2006, 2:37 AM

Post #145 of 235 (3325 views)
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Websites Can't Post

I had to post this link somewhere.

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2006/5/9wayne.html

good stuff.


(This post was edited by motet on Jun 1, 2006, 9:43 PM)


Aubrie


May 25, 2006, 12:40 PM

Post #146 of 235 (3305 views)
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Re: [viviandarkbloom] Websites Can't Post

While you're there, read this one, too:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2006/5/4wiencek.html


Aubrie


Jun 1, 2006, 3:12 PM

Post #147 of 235 (3070 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Websites Can't Post

McSweeny's is now doing a contest based on these writing prompts.
1,000 words or less from one prompt.
Send story to 13prompts@mcsweeneys.net in the body of the email by 5pm, June 21st.
There are prizes but I don't feel like typing them out here unless someone is interested and then you can pm me. I'm sure it's on the mcsweeny's website as well!


liliya


Jun 20, 2006, 9:43 PM

Post #148 of 235 (2935 views)
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Workshop stories Can't Post

Ok, I've read two stories to workshop for my upcoming program. I'm wondering what quality of writing other people are finding in their programs... Stories written by students, I mean. I really don't want to sound too harsh, or like I expected O Henry prize winning stories, but honest to goodness, I haven't read anything as (I hate to say it, but I'm going to) bad as this in a long time. I'm thinking high school. I don't want to get into details, but I'll say it has problems with even basic things like point of view, grammar, and sentence structure. And there's no plot- none at all- to speak of. Just details. I'm writing to ask because I really did expect a higher quality- I mean, at least a little higher!- from the other students. I normally post under another name and I don't want to name my school. I just want to see if other people have encountered this.


(This post was edited by liliya on Jun 21, 2006, 6:07 PM)


pongo
Buy this book!


Jun 20, 2006, 10:36 PM

Post #149 of 235 (2930 views)
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Re: [liliya] Workshop stories Can't Post

AS a student and as an editor, I've seen a lot of godawful crap in and coming out of MFA programs. Some very nice stuff, too. I suspect that even at the best programs the quality is wildly variable.

Also, remember that a lot of people are putting rough drafts into workshops, while others are bringing in polished work. But there's still going to be a lot of crud.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


wiswriter
Bob S.

Jun 21, 2006, 8:10 AM

Post #150 of 235 (2909 views)
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Re: [liliya] Workshop stories Can't Post

I've posted this comment before I think: Surprise at the low quality of writing in workshops is almost a rite of passage for new MFA students. When I got my workshop packet before my first residency I was thinking there had to be some kind of mistake. That turned out to be an extreme case, but there've been some stories below MFA quality in all my workshops.

I'm at residency right now and I just raised this over lunch with one of my teachers. She said the admissions process isn't perfect; some people apply with stories that have been workshopped so often they've essentially been written by other people. There's not much anyone can do about that, and it's difficult to kick people out on the grounds of performance once they're in the program, though it does happen.

Another issue at Bennington, and this is particularly true in the low-res programs, is that once you're in the program you're expected to write at a much faster rate than most people are used to, especially early on, so that you're not writing on deadline later for your thesis. Lots of teachers want a new story or essay or 5-10 new poems every month from first-year students. That can produce some pretty raw stuff. My first workshop at Bennington, I brought a story I'd been working on for four months. Such stories don't really exist for continuing students. If you spent that long on one story you'd never graduate.

I'm entering my final term and putting together my thesis, which is looking like five stories and the first portion of a novel. It dawned on me, printing it all out at the college library for my new teacher to see, that only a couple of stories in my thesis are going to be truly finished when I graduate. So my best work is going to be completed after I leave, not while I'm here. I think that's probably true for most MFA students.

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