Saturday, July 4, 2009

Anonymous Has a Bad Day

A few days ago I got the following anonymous comment on one of my writing group posts:

“Dyou people realize what a joke Grub Street and other groups such as this are among the literary and publishing industry. Having read some of the "work" of this group, I can see why. What all of you need to do is go out inot the public and listen: listen to the flow of words and how people talk.listen to the stories.
Finally, I have been published and haven't taken or attended a "workshop since colege. Writing is about life so live it”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what anonymous is unhappy about, and why. Let’s parse this cryptic note and see what we find.

Dyou people realize what a joke Grub Street and other groups such as this are among the literary and publishing industry.
I can’t speak to ‘other groups,’ but as far as I know Grub Street is highly respected in the industry, and gaining momentum by the week. Proof comes every spring, when Grub holds its annual writer’s conference. There, dozens of established literary agents and editors donate their time to participate in panel debates, luncheon discussions, and the manuscript mart where they meet with writers to discuss their work. More than a few writers have secured agents through connections made at the conference. Many respected, best-selling authors run workshops and seminars at Grub Street. It’s unlikely either the conference or the workshops would attract such participation from representatives of the literary and publishing industry if Grub Street was a joke. Right now I have a partial out to an agent I saw at this year’s conference. I’m almost certain that my affiliation with Grub Street was a tremendous boon to sustaining this agent’s attention.

Having read some of the "work" of this group, I can see why.
Low blow, that. Certainly you haven’t read work from the veritable thousands of writers that have attended Grub workshops, classes, conferences, and special events since the mid-90s. Grub Street’s vibe has always been inclusive, embracing all levels of experience; where writers who are just starting out can mingle with, and learn invaluable lessons from, seasoned vets. Where non-pubs meet the pubs. You imply that Grubbies aren’t talented enough to gain industry attention and respect, yet every week I read success stories of Grub writers getting stories, essays, memoirs, and novels published. This is more than a show of respect from the literary and publishing industry, this proves what a sustainable resource Grub Street writers, and writers from such organizations around the world, are to publishing.

What all of you need to do is go out inot the public and listen: listen to the flow of words and how people talk.listen to the stories.
Good advice. As long as it doesn't preclude taking an occasional writing class.

Finally, I have been published and haven't taken or attended a “workshop since colege.
Congratulations on finally getting published. I’m guessing that you were not impressed with your college workshops. I don’t know what college workshops are like; I didn’t study writing until I was well out of college. Sounds like you are implying you got published in spite of these college workshops, and you’re grumpy about Grub Street workshops. Perhaps you had one or two poor experiences with Grub Street. Are you saying, ultimately, that writing cannot be taught? That taking a writing workshop is a waste of time? That a like-minded, supportive writing community is not a good thing? A few thousand Grub Street writers would probably argue the point. I suggest taking another Grub class, see what you think this time around.

Writing is about life so live it
I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Anonymous said...

As a blog, I don't pay much attention to typos. I challenge you to name 10 writers from the merry band of Grubbies that have had books published by established publishers.
The short stories that I have read from the Grubbies have lacked originality, have contrived dialogue and lack of coherence.
I majored in Creative writing and it took me years to un-learn the Bs shoveled in those classes. You charge people when these very people would be better off walking through downtown Boston with a small notepad and listen to people and not the dumb classes.
I have had two works of poetry published and another along with a different art form book to be published in the Spring of 2010. Your Preview given to a rep will never see the light of day and are you going to deny that the writers that come to your "conferences" don't get compensated?
Writing clubs and creative writing classes can actually hamper one's ability to hear the rhythm in life. When you look at the great writers in history, they didn't waste their time in workshops or taking classes. The writers from the grub street that I have read over the years all have one thing in common- they sound artificial and they don't engage the reader. In poetry, a line should haunt a person for days as they savor each word.
Go to all the classes you want but writers that are able to break through the thick ice of publishing are more often than not the ones in these classes but the ones out living lives and listening.
Finally, Can creative writing be taught? No. Why? Because the teacher brings their inherent bias to the class and this stifles saving that one character sketch or line for a poem that might turn into something that survives longer than instant oatmeal.

Robin said...

Well said, Dell! (Note: your anonymous friend might have mentioned he/she went to college)!

Anonymous said...

"...I majored in Creative writing.."
What part of that don't you understand? I also did grad work. Let me know if there is any word you don't understand in that sentence.
Just further proof of what I am saying.

Anonymous said...

One final comment and then I will let you return to your normal way of talking a lot but not showing much. I blast other groups as well so be to offended. Reminds of the 70's when American writers flocked to the Ivory Towers of academia and their work showed it. thank god that the Latin American writers were alive and well to keep both poetry, short stories and novels alive, well and passionate just like life and not like the drivel of those American writers from their Ivory Towers. Yes, I am guilty of doing this once as a writer -in - residence and by the end of the semester,, after vomiting, I swore I would never do it again.

Elizabeth said...

Re: Anonymous: I have not taken classes at Grub, and I am no apologist. But in reading Grub Street literature, class descriptions, etc, I find no false claims of “Get published now!” or the like. If someone wants to try taking a writing class, to add it to their other “real world experiences”, to network with like-minded people, to gain an impetus to create, to meet published authors and find out how the publishing system works, I don’t see the harm.

It’s not a get-published-quick-scheme out to defraud naïve aspiring writers, it’s a school. Each open-minded, intelligent individual who takes a writing course is free to use or discard the information garnered therein at will. I think it’s a false dichotomy to pit real world experience against taking writing courses; can’t people try both and integrate both into their work?

There are plenty of lousy and plenty of good writers, I don't think schools make them so. Just because you feel you got suckered doesn't mean other people with wider world views don't find these classes edifying.

Anonymous said...

Not certain where all the anger is coming from.
If one doesn't want to take writing classes (at Grub Street or elsewhere)-- don't. If others find enjoyment and inspiration gathering with other writers -- more power to them.

The Review Review said...

Oh, I think Anonymous may actually have a point. I mean, why not lambast an entire organization of hard-working people? I think it would be terrible if this anonymous person should actually look at his/her own typos, awkward phrasing, need to advertise one's own publishing credits. Terrible! Much better for him/her to make sweeping generalizations about "the grub street." Much better to make claims that don't make any sense, to insult people who are probably more like him/her than s/he cares to admit. Yes, and while you're at it, let's bring George Bush back into office.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Review- you fought back. I was wondering if any would catch on to the game being played on them. I mean I thought I made it easy for them by doing the things you pointed out. You earn an a+.:)
In the end, I do believe that the best experience for writing is to listen to life and live life and not get bog down in classes.
As far as my own writing, Well.. Spring/Summer 2010 will prove my point.

I still would be curious for the Grub Street to name 10 students that have had books published. by all the talk here that seems to be the desire.
All of you have a good day

Anonymous said...

one final comment- I'll even accept 10 writers that have had something published in the Paris Review or Tri-quarterly.

Anonymous said...

Ill even sweeten the offer. If Grub street can provide the following, I will donate 1000.00 in the 10 names given:
1) Anyone who has had a poem, short story, or non-fiction published in the Paris Review or Tri-Quarterly
2) Anyone that has had a book published (self-publishing doesn't count).
Furthermore, assuming that I am telling the truth, I will offer to teach a course at GruB street when my 2 books are published. the course will be free and, hopefully, enlightening.

Either way, Grub Street can't lose because either I am a liar and they get a good laugh or I am telling the truth and they get 1000.00.
Finally, Review Review, having a staff member who is writing a Novella based on a very bad Allen movie (Interiors) that was a rip-off of Bergman suggest you are in need of better writers and not just ones with BFA or MFA after their name.

Anonymous said...

On a comment that I missed- your George Bush comment. You do realize that this reflects more the level of immaturity and the childish minds of your staff than it reflects on me. FYI: 2008 Obama,04-Kerry,2000-Gore, 88-96- didn't vote, 84-Mondale, 80- worked on Senator Kennedy's run and then didn't vote. So as you can see you and your staff play the role of children not ready to sit at the grown-ups table in the drama called life. Of course, the moderator won't print any comments from me so as to skew the view of what is real and what isn't real.

The Review Review said...

Oh, Anonymous, if only you would post your name so we could all know you a little better! Mainly because I want to know if your offer is true. Will you really donate $1000.00 to Grub Street if we name ten authors that have been published by reputable publishers? Or who have been published in Triquarterly or Paris Review? Really? That's awesome! If you confirm that you will do this, I will top your statement and name twenty published Grub authors. In fact, I can think of three right now who have been on the New York Times bestseller list. Please, yes, let's play this game and let's have it end with you signing a check! And by the way, when you fill it out, the organization is called Grub Street, not "The Grub Street."

Anonymous said...

Go for it and the money will be sent to Grub Street: however, until spring 2010, I will hold off on my name so as to rub your nose in your arrogance. At that point, you and the others will feel like a fool. So list the names and works and the next day a $1000.00 in cash will be sent out.
If I am lying then you can have a good "ha ha " on me. If not, then the joke is on you. So post the names or crawl back under the rock from which you slithered and leave true writers devoted to their craft in peace.
Actually, I hope you prove me wrong and will happily send the donation.
If you do provide names and works, there is one catch- the donation is to be used to pay for writers that can't afford Grub Street pricing and not for "How to publish" workshops.

Anonymous said...

I will provide you with even further a incentive- If you post on a yearly basis the names of your writers that have books published, I will, on a yearly basis continue my donation of 1000.00 with the one string attached above.

Prove me a liar or prove that I am honest. I hope you choose the 2nd because if Grub Street does have a significant list then I will happily underwrite some of your workshops both now and the future.
the reason is simple and that is- As one gets older and sees more years behind you than ahead of you, you begin to assess your life and when I look to future generations of writers ,I am concerned about our kids and YAs who seem more content to be wired in than the beauty of the written word.

Stephen_Dorneman said...

The Review Review beat me to it.

Anonymous, methinks you're just trolling this blog, in which case nudge, nudge, wink, wink you got me too. But on the very off chance that you're not, Grub could certainly use your $1,000, so please step forward and be counted. I'm sure we can easily arrange a mutually agreeable third party (say, PEN New England) if insist on keeping incognito.

Anonymous said...

Since I don't know the relationship between you and Review Review, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I will be in Chicago next week for final meetings on books and will mail out the money.

I will clarify one thing and that is that when I say the money is to be used for scholarships and not for "how to publish", I also include in that exclusion Literary agents and agencies.
Finally, I live in Vermont. Since I will demonstrate my honesty, I hope that you don't betray my trust.
Since I can't find your address on your website,please post it here.
"Arrogance is a flaw that all of us succumb too in the end when facing the swirling chaos of that black hole"

Dell Smith said...

This post has a life of its own.

One thing anonymous: I am not affiliated with Grub Street. Just a supporter. I don't teach there, just think the people are extremely nice, talented, and selfless in helping other writers to write and publish.

FYI: I’m not posting your last comment; I've let your negativity infest my humble little blog enough without you insulting my fellow writers and our instructors.

Anonymous said...

your blog and your choice. Just as I am free to express my opinion , you are free to handle your blog any way you want. We disagree and that's fine so I'll respect your opinion and not post anymore.
Spring 2010- I.U. press and,for the record, in 30 years, because of good finances, I have donated all money to non-profits. I write because of the passion and need- not the money or to teach classes for money. But the world would be boring if everyone felt the way I do or you do. Goodbye and the next time I'm in Boston I'll avoid Grub Street and anyone associated with it.

The Review Review said...

Hi Anonymous. Are you still there? I've taken you up on your wonderful offer and compiled a list of authors who are affiliated with Grub Street and have published books. Half of them are students and the other half are instructors. Enjoy!

1) Darci Klein, To Full Term
2) Ellen Litman, The Last Chicken in America (and was published in TriQuarterly)
3) Amy MacKinnon, Tethered
4) Leslie Talbot, Singular Existence
5) Randy Susan Meyers, The Murderer’s Daughters
6) Rishi Reddi, Karma and Other Stories
7) Iris Gomez, Cartagena Paper Girl
8) Erika Dreifus, "Matrilineal Descent," in TriQuarterly
9) Jeanette E. Alsheimer and Patricia J. Friedle, Path to Punishment
10) Lisa Genova, Still Alice
11) Jenna Blum, Those Who Save Us
12) Ethan Gilsdorf, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
13) Michelle Seaton, The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in an Age of Unfair Expectations, Diagnoses and Pills
14) Steve Almond, My Life in Heavy Metal, The Evil B.B. Chow, Which Brings Me to You, Candyfreak, (Not That You Asked)
15) Lynne Griffin, Life Without Summer
16) Michelle Hoover, The Quickening
17) Elaine McArdle, The Migraine Brain
18) Kathleen Willis Morton, The Blue Poppy and the Mustard Seed
19) Sophie Powell, The Mushroom Man
20) Jeff Talarigo, The Pearl Diver, The Ginseng Hunter

Thanks for this opportunity, Anonymous. I look forward to hearing from you again!

Dell Smith said...

Thanks anonymous! Message received and forwarded to Grub Street.