Friday, October 23, 2009

A Chronicle of Writer's Chronicle Anxiety

Writer’s Chronicles are piling up on my office desk. I mean to read, but before I get a chance another one appears in my box.

I know I should study the articles and learn, because writing is my scene, but I don’t know how to absorb all this writing about writing. Writing about writing is like teaching writing or learning writing — too many ings. I need to write. Write. Such a clean, simple verb, devoid of passive voice. I feel guilty if I don’t read Writer’s Chronicle but then I feel worse if I’m reading the Writer’s Chronicle and not writing.

I did make it through two articles this afternoon. One interview with Lee Gutkind, because he’s a nonficion honcho, and another interview with poet Sheryl St. Germain because a friend of mine graduated from Chatham and she’s the director there. And I saw that she’s from New Orleans so that caught my eye. More specifically the word "gumbo" caught my eye. Gumbo. I like gumbo.

Then I skim the ads, looking for anyone I know. I notice that more I stay in gradschooland, the more I recognize. But I am even more amazed by all the names I don’t know. How is it all these people are professors and visiting writers and I’ve never heard of them? Although clearly these writers are more published and accomplished than me or they wouldn't be featured in an ad.

Which leads to the next anxiety.

Why isn’t my name featured in an ad? Will I ever be one of these names other aspiring readers skim over wondering who I was and why I matter? Will I have a little black and white photo with my chin tilted at a saucy angle? Ack! I need a career. Which means I need pubs.

Which leads to the next anxiety.

All the contests. And calls for lit mag submissions. I try to circle with my pen but at this point I’m hyperventilating a little. Cookie. I need a cookie.

So I read the MFA ads. The MFA ads are safe because I already have an MFA. I wonder if ads work. I wonder if applicants look and think, wow that’s the coolest brick building I’ve ever seen. I am SO going there.

One trend I noticed in these ads was the slogan. I saw an ad for Ohio U and it was thankfully sloganless. Another advertising tactic is the writer’s quote. It seems to have more weight if the famous writer has an association with the program (Hugo for Montana, or O Connor for Georgia College and State). The quote is less of a sin than the slogan.

I don't know who is writing these slogans but I suspect writers aren't writing them.

Top Ten Worst MFA Slogans:

10. Be a Writer in a City of Readers (Portland State U)

9. Finally…an MFA that trains you for a career not just a genre (Western Connecticut State)

8. Immerse Yourself in the Writing Life (Old Dominion)

7. The World’s Focus is on our Faculty. Our Faculty’s Focus is on You (Drew)

6. My words... My time... My MFA. (U of Nebraska at Omaha)

5. Creative. Exploring. Worldly. Aware. Inventive. Challenging. Poetic. Engaging. (Chatham)

4. Write from the Heartland (Ashland)

3. Get Carried Away by the City of Big Shoulders (Roosevelt U)

2. Scribbling on the Ether: The Changing Nature of Writing and Publication (Western Michigan U)

And… the winner:

1. Write from the Heart of Writing (Lesley U)