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zero


Aug 1, 2009, 7:49 PM

Post #1 of 19 (6926 views)
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Hello Can't Post

Hello, my name is Sean. I heard of this site from the book "MFA Handbook..." and it seems quite interesting, I am glad to join. I am in my final year of university study and enjoy reading and writing very much.


jitall
jenniey


Aug 1, 2009, 8:46 PM

Post #2 of 19 (6922 views)
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Re: [zero] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

hello sean, and welcome.


jenniey tallman


belgium


Aug 2, 2009, 12:05 AM

Post #3 of 19 (6910 views)
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Re: [zero] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Sean, and welcome! What university are you attending? And are you looking into MFA programs. I remember going through Tom Kealey's MFA Handbook & his blog a few years ago, finding it at the time extremely helpful.



Ridiculous Words


sunny red


Aug 3, 2009, 6:04 PM

Post #4 of 19 (6841 views)
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Re: [zero] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Sean. Welcome aboard.


zero


Aug 23, 2009, 11:27 PM

Post #5 of 19 (6592 views)
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Re: [sunny red] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the welcomes everyone. My laptop was attacked by a virus so I have not had much internet access as of late. I study at Colorado, yes I know, and was thinking of MFA programs. Unfortunately, although I found the book informative, it seemed geared towards the older(than me), more experienced and accomplished. I think just writing on my own is probably best instead.


srohrbach
Shawn Rohrbach
e-mail user

Aug 24, 2009, 5:56 PM

Post #6 of 19 (6569 views)
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Re: [zero] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

My experience at Naropa in the MFA program was I was the old guy (really old guy) at 40 and most of my classmates were in their mid twenties. I liked the mix and got on fine with everyone. I am now collaborating with a some former classmates on projects, the biggest of which is migrating my first novel to a script. Yes, writers can succeed without the MFA just fine, but if you want one, I don't think age is of any importance.


Shawn Rohrbach
www.shawnrohrbach.com



Mary McFarland
Mary H. McFarland
e-mail user

Aug 31, 2009, 11:25 AM

Post #7 of 19 (6403 views)
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Re: [srohrbach] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, Shawn. Just wanted to add a little to your comment about being the older guy in the MFA program.

I admire you for your guts, and you remind me of my friend, Donald Pollock, who wrote Knockemstiff, after returning to Ohio State's MFA program in his forties. Don worked in the Chillicothe papermill (a factory) quite some time.

I don't know if you're familiar with his work, but his first novel, Knockemstiff, came out of that MFA program, and Don was kinda gettin' up there, too. Although he hasn't really mentioned how he felt about being a little older than the other MFA'ers, I think it must have taken guts to do that. I personally believe that you can absolutely do any thing you want, regardless of your age, if you know what you want and go after it with enough gusto and persistence.

So kudos to you, Shawn, for sharing your experience. Thanks for being so straightforward. It's inspiring.


Windiciti



Aug 31, 2009, 8:24 PM

Post #8 of 19 (6383 views)
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Re: [Mary McFarland] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello Shawn and Mary,
Some of us are older than that. Sometimes it is socially arkward to be so much older. And although I wouldn't
give up one day of the experience I've acquired through living longer, I do wish I had more time because it would
mean I might become a better writer, and perhaps famous. So being in your forties is pretty great. You have lived
and have more interesting material and POV to write about it.
Enjoy it!


Mary McFarland
Mary H. McFarland
e-mail user

Sep 1, 2009, 12:18 PM

Post #9 of 19 (6364 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, Windiciti. I think I can easily relate to what you are saying about it being socially awkward to be so much older. I was pretty nonplussed in my English class when students started complaining about an elderly math teacher. They were saying she was too old to teach and she wore a big, thick red patent-leather belt up under the ridgeline of her breast (can you imagine such scrutiny?), and it was simply time for her to retire. One very wonderful student spoke up and said, "When you get her age, I hope you can still stand in front of a classroom and teach and, by the way, I really like her big red belt." I could have kissed him!

I know that I do feel the press of my age in the socially awkward ways that you describe. Sometimes, I get to feeling desperate about my weight and appearance since, when I meet agents, I know they're gonna want a "package" that includes a svelte babe with a fresh young face and the right story, and . . . I feel like I have the right story but I keep wondering whether I should consider botox and a health retreat first. Like you, I would also wish for more time because it takes all of it just to write the novels we know we can write, now that we've got the life experience. To compensate, I burn my candle at both ends and in the middle; that is, I write constantly and hard and well.

I'm hoping that you are taking your own advice and enjoying every minute of what you are doing. I'm new to the speakeasy, obviously, so I'm not familiar with your work, so will ask if there's a thread of yours where I can get up to speed on what you are doing?


Windiciti



Sep 1, 2009, 1:36 PM

Post #10 of 19 (6356 views)
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Re: [Mary McFarland] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello Mary,
Thank for reminding me how to spell "Awkward." I'm in MI which is on Eastern time, so it was quite late when I saw your post. I won't bore you and I have quite a few posts since I joined in 2006, but mostly in Fiction and some of the other "practical" areas.

I am a retired high school English/ESL/Spanish teacher. I retired a little earlier than usual because I hoped to get a degree in Fiction from Northwestern and transfer my teaching skills to a community college, or a university as an adjunct with time to write. (I got a little tired of being a disciplinarian, and running an ESL program.)
Most of this is happening, although sometimes I wonder if I am just a competent short story writer like many others, and not that special.

Will be graduating in June, and I am aware how important a youthful appeareance will be in seeking a publisher and a job. Thanks to Botox, Restylane (a filler) and good genetics I look about fifty, and since I'm energetic I also look like a good hire. I have 2 potential job offers in the area, as soon as my thesis (a bk. of short stories) is "approved."

But sometimes I feel every day of my age and wonder like you might, if there is any hope.

I know there is. I have heard remarkable stories, and one of my teachers, older than I am, had been writing for years, and yes getting published, but w/o the recognition. Things changed and now he is revered for his poetry and short fiction by the outside world. IMO he had to wait a long time, for a 'big award' recognition, considering his talent.

So let's keep writing. And tell me about yourself now.



silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Sep 1, 2009, 1:43 PM

Post #11 of 19 (6356 views)
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Re: [Mary McFarland] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I was pretty nonplussed in my English class when students started complaining about an elderly math teacher. They were saying she was too old to teach . . . and it was simply time for her to retire. One very wonderful student spoke up and said, "When you get her age, I hope you can still stand in front of a classroom and teach . . . "I

Any information on just how old this "elderly" math teacher was? I'm 62.5. I was the oldest person in my workshop at Bread Loaf last month, including the faculty member (Thomas Mallon, b. 1951). I am almost always the oldest person in any workshop/class/writers' group. Two manuscripts from the recent BL experience had specific references to age. One character, a friend of the main character's grandmother, was described as "ancient." She was probably (given clues in the narrative) about 62. The writer was a woman in her 20s. The other one was by a slightly older man (but not much past 30), describing the main character's father as a man who "did not look his age, which was now 62." The writer was unable to explain what "looking 62" might mean. I'm going to start collecting references to the appearance of age in fiction the way I have been collecting references to obesity (Ernest Gaines, in A Lesson Before Dying, says that the main character's grandmother was "a large woman" and then gives her weight as 150 pounds.)


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


Windiciti



Sep 1, 2009, 1:52 PM

Post #12 of 19 (6353 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello Margaret,
Oh goodness! I guess I'm way too old to get into BL for the first time. I don't look my age but I'm up there.
See my post to Mary McFarland on the same issue in "Hello" on the same issue if you have time.
Windiciti


Windiciti



Sep 1, 2009, 1:59 PM

Post #13 of 19 (6351 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

I was also the oldest in Prague this summer in the Short Fiction class, except for Stu Dybek who was teaching it.
I may have been one of the 2 oldest students in the whole event!


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Sep 1, 2009, 2:00 PM

Post #14 of 19 (6350 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hello Margaret,
Oh goodness! I guess I'm way too old to get into BL for the first time. I don't look my age but I'm up there.
See my post to Mary McFarland on the same issue in "Hello" on the same issue if you have time.
Windiciti



I was not the oldest contributor at BL, just the oldest one in my workshop. I was 56 when I was admitted the first time. I have had one faculty member as a leader who is older than I am (by maybe three years).


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


Mary McFarland
Mary H. McFarland
e-mail user

Sep 1, 2009, 3:01 PM

Post #15 of 19 (6343 views)
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Re: [Windiciti] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, Wendy (windiciti "Wendy" right?). Don't worry about spelling: I sure don't, and I'm not so anal as to remind anyone. Like our dear "older" lady who used to ask, Where's the beef, I'm only interested in the meat! And I think we've begun a rather "beefy" discussion re. the marketability of our oeuvre as we age. As an aside, I think almost immediately of Annie Proulx, who is sort of hanging up her pen last I heard. She sounds and seems and looks tired, but I wouldn't dare suggest a botox treatment to her. However, my personal opinion is that we each age a little differently, some of us falling apart around fifty and others just getting started. I'm a late bloomer and, although I'm no newcomer to writing (I've made my living as a technical writer), I'm finally ready to focus on my fiction.

But I think silkentent raises the meaty issue: we live in an image-conscious, or possibly, an image-obsessed society. Does this impinge on the marketability of older authors' work? I tend to think it does, although I can't prove that. I am a true die-hard, though: I've waited and sacrificed long and hard to arrive at a point in my life where I can unleash my creative, artistic self. If the publishing world won't have me because I'm no longer an in-my-twenties size 2 (damn it) nymph, I'll go to Vantage Press, the Internet, wherever necessary, and I'll get my work out there.


I'm teaching English as an adjunct at a community college right now, but I assure you, I am still doing what you were doing, i.e., being the disciplinarian as well as teacher. There is more time now than I had as a technical writer, a job at which I never saw daylight and sixty to seventy-hour work-weeks were commonplace. However, I still have to really marshall all of my organizational skills because, even being an adjunct, I get sucked into the bureaucracy, administrative work, meetings, campus events, etc. Honestly, though, it works out well for me, except that now many community colleges are implementing Friday and Saturday programs for their adult and working students.

That is so awesome that you're getting your degree in fiction from Northwestern. What an achievement, and you're graduating with a book of short stories and job offers, too. You're at the top of your game, and it sounds like you are ready to move on with a serious fiction-writing career? I am, Wendy.

I had to come up with a strategy, since I write in several genres (romance, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction, and non-fiction), and I have several books I want to finish before I, like the math teacher we were discussing, get to wear the big red fat belt up around my boobs. So I decided to write a trilogy in the romance genre, since getting published in it could provide me with money and also a springboard for other work. I've posted somewhere on this site (I think in my introduction), but you can view what I'm doing at www.mostwantedzip.ning.com, which is my social network. I've finished my first romance in the trilogy, Mostwanted.zip, and I'm going to finish the second and third work this coming year. I'm presently developing the story structure for my first mainstream fiction, called Mule Boy, so I'm on a fairly disciplined (there's our word, only now we're applying it to ourselves) writing schedule. I'm pretty happy about what I'm doing: actually, I'm ecstatic, Wendy. I love writing fiction.

Hope I've answered a few of your questions, and I look forward to hearing that your thesis is approved soon, and that I and others on this site will be able to support you in your efforts. It's so good to receive feedback from others who dream of publishing their fiction. I'm so grateful for the time you take to talk.


Mary McFarland
Mary H. McFarland
e-mail user

Sep 2, 2009, 8:44 AM

Post #16 of 19 (6307 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Margaret, I'm not sure of the age of the math teacher, so you bring up an interesting point. That is, how old is "ancient" when you're in your twenties, as my students mostly are? And how is that reflected in fiction as well as in our interaction with more youthful authors than ourselves?

I have a feeling the math teacher was a bit older than thirty, and I presently lack a compass for determining what is ancient. I tend to think anyone over ninety is probably starting to qualify!

But what did you write in your twenties and how did you interact with others in the writing community? When I was in my twenties and a graduate teaching assistant, anyone much older than thirty was "ancient" to me. Older folks simply didn't exist: I looked through them, so I had a tendency to disregard their importance in my life. For example, one professor in the English dept. was writing and publishing scholarly works on Jacques Derrida and deconstruction, but I only saw him as an old man (he was in his late thirties) who was basically decrepit. The only time I made for him was when I had to sit in his class.

Also, when I look back at what I wrote then, I note that it was very self-absorbed, judgmental of older persons and the obese, or just about anyone who didn't fit my idea of perfect. I lacked empathy not because I was mean and shallow, although I came across that way in my short stories, but because I had not lived long enough to know how to be compassionate or to love others without regard for age, weight, physical abnormalities, etc. In short, Margaret, I had not suffered deep loss, so I had no comprehension of the corresponding emotions of compassion or empathy.

I can see the irony now: I do feel deeply compassionate for all others, and this shows up in my writing which, thank gawd, has changed significantly. Ironically, I'm now the old fart, and who knows what my students say about me? One thing in my favor, though, is that I've developed a keen eye for the kind of superficial, self-absorbed writing that I did in my twenties, and I eschew it.

But I fear, as you might be implying, that some of the literature that tactlessly maligns the aged and the obese is not written by those in their twenties. I've read tons of work in which the intrusive narrator, NOT the characters themselves, shows a sophomoric preoccupation with those who are fat, bald, old, ugly, etc., and I do find it offensive on many levels, one of them being that its purpose is to disempower. To me, this type of writing is the distinct mark of an amateur. Conversely, I admire authors like Wally Lamb, who unobtrusively integrate the disabilities of their characters, whatever they might be, into the context of the story, and they do so in a way that elicits compassion rather than disgust.

I really like your idea of tracking references to obesity and aging: I can actually imagine a book coming out of a project like that. I'd buy it. I wonder where this seeming preoccupation by some authors will take the direction of fiction. The "large woman" of 150 pounds in A Lesson Before Dying is troubling, as are the BL references to "ancient" grandmothers. These are most likely inadvertent, but although done subconsciously, they are nevertheless, disempowering to the groups they define.

I find it problematic personally, trying to portray characters accurately while avoiding writing that would offend sensibilities, especially as I'm all for describing characters realistically when story calls for it, including those who are obese, aged, or in any other way handicapped or infirm. However, I think the more sophisticated writers avoid the blatant use of these references when they add nothing to the story and when they simply serve the purpose of conveying the author's discriminatory point of view.

I'm so glad you've raised this question, Margaret, because as I write my response I'm thinking of my characters in both of my current works of fiction. I'm asking myself, How will readers view my development of this or that character? You've posed a truly provocative question, and I am thinking through my own writing process, my choice of diction, and much, much more. This is invaluable to me and, I hope, to anyone sorting out a response to your question.


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Sep 2, 2009, 9:03 AM

Post #17 of 19 (6303 views)
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Re: [Mary McFarland] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post


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I'm so glad you've raised this question, Margaret, because as I write my response I'm thinking of my characters in both of my current works of fiction. I'm asking myself, How will readers view my development of this or that character? You've posed a truly provocative question, and I am thinking through my own writing process, my choice of diction, and much, much more. This is invaluable to me and, I hope, to anyone sorting out a response to your question.


This is an interesting discussion that I would like to pursue. I think it needs to be moved from this section, since it's no longer about a hello to a new member. I have a full day out and about, and will like address the ideas this evening or tomorrow, under something like "characterizing age and physical appearance" in the Fiction section.


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


zero


Sep 16, 2009, 2:54 AM

Post #18 of 19 (6118 views)
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Re: [srohrbach] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post


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My experience at Naropa in the MFA program was I was the old guy (really old guy) at 40 and most of my classmates were in their mid twenties. I liked the mix and got on fine with everyone. I am now collaborating with a some former classmates on projects, the biggest of which is migrating my first novel to a script. Yes, writers can succeed without the MFA just fine, but if you want one, I don't think age is of any importance.


I never knew that, thanks for sharing.Also, sorry if I came off as biased against people older than myself. I was just curious if writing programs preferred students to be of an older age. How was your tenure at Naropa, I have seen poetry readings at their campus which was quite inspiring!


Mary McFarland
Mary H. McFarland
e-mail user

Oct 21, 2009, 2:31 PM

Post #19 of 19 (5066 views)
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Re: [silkentent] Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

Margaret, just wanted to follow up with you on taking this discussion to "characterizing age and physical appearance." I hate to see it get lost or abandoned in the speakeasy. Is it worth pursuing? Any thoughts?

I received a review of a partial recently, and was told that my thirty-four year old character was acting - with regard to her romantic interaction - "too young for her age, she was not responsible enough for her position of authority, and she was acting like someone much younger." Okay, when I was thirty-four, I was one incredibly responsible chick, holding down executive positions of authority, kicking butt and taking names . . . but I was still young and spirited when it came to romance, probably behaved like someone in her twenties, or her teens. Actually, I still do, but should I not write about older characters with youthful inclinations? I'm really wondering how we're supposed to present older or aging characters in this youth-obsessed society. Are they out of fashion? Passe?

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