Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Open Letters

Dear Ryan Boudinot, author of "Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One":

     I read with interest and have bolded your explanation of why everyone, including you, celebrates your retirement from academia.  Your swan song begins with a startling example of True Bullshit that makes me wonder if your choice of professions was well-advised:

Writers are born with talent.

     Writers are born with imagination and drive.  Their talent, if it exists in quantity,  is a verbal acumen found in polyglots, cruciverbalists, etymologists, and spelling bee champions.  Talent makes learning easier. It does not make learning possible.

     If we insist that all of our students be "The Real Deal" we won't have enough tuition income to pay our beer tab, let alone keep a department or university afloat.  Wanting to teach only self-motivated geniuses who, by definition, don't need much instruction smacks of laziness.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #159
If you didn't decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you're probably not going to make it.

     Utter nonsense.  The majority of teenagers, including those who will make the most interesting writers, are busy "collecting life experience."

If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.


     Also, I can't cite a single writer who hasn't made the same complaint.  Can you?

If you aren't a serious reader, don't expect anyone to read what you write.

     Danielle SteeleCharles BukowskiE.L. James.  Need I go on?

No one cares about your problems if you're a shitty writer.

     Again, see above. 

You don't need my help to get published.

     Then what do they need you for?  Why take your course?  Doesn't everything people learn there help them get published?  Shouldn't you be telling them everything you know about this, the most practical aspect of writing?  Why hold back?

     As for attracting notice so that their work will, at least, be considered, what are filters for?  What are university presses for?  Stop worrying about "The Real Deal" and start thinking about the real world.  You may be the agent your students can't afford.  With so many other professors recommending their prize pupils what will your silence say? 

It's not important that people think you're smart.

     This is not something you need worry about, Ryan.

It's important to woodshed.

     Even more so to watershed.

Dear Laura Valeri, author of "Those Who Teach, Can -- A Formal Reply to Ryan Boudinot’s Post on Teaching":

     I agree with your basic premise that, as teachers, our job is to instruct whomsoever attends our class while encouraging them to continue doing so.  I have a few nits, though:

...are you the best judge of students’ talent?

     Probably.  In this age of esteem-based education, Mr. Boudinot might be the first objective, critical source they've met.  That said, I agree that he confuses the endpoint with the start.  Evaluations measure how much progress they'll make later.  Nothing more.

...we teach our students not to make sweeping statements that are unsupported by serious data. Where is yours?

     It's a blog, not Scholar's Quarterly.  If we see something demonstrably incorrect it is incumbent on us to make our own arguments in situ, on our own blogs or elsewhere.

Dear Chuck Wendig, author of "An Open Letter To That Ex-MFA Creative Writing Teacher Dude":


Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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