A short piece by Lee Child got me thinking about writing programs. I went to a school with a great creative writing program (I was an art history major), and I, a non-English major but a wanna be writer, benefited from it in many ways. Wonderful nurturing profs. Supportive environment. I learned word play and how to write to a deadline. All positives.
One of the best memories is that of meeting W.H. Auden. He'd been invited to campus, and a reception had been scheduled for one evening. English majors were invited, and I, although not an English major, somehow wangled an invite, so, off I went. Dressed in my expensive Italian tan knit dress, brown Aigner heels, real pearls.
Mr. Auden was sitting alone on a sofa, with people milling all around him, chatting to each other and not Mr. Auden. He was quite elderly then and reminded me of my own grandfather. What does a good Southern girl do when she sees a party guest all alone? She marches over, introduces herself, and asks permission to join Mr.Auden on the couch. He was politeness itself, and very kind to a starstruck young woman, and gave me a memory I'll never forget.
Back to Lee Child. He says we're storytellers, not storyshowers. That old adage about "show" and "don't tell" was hoisted on Mr. Child's most able petard. That lead to all those other writing adages, the ones you're committed to never skewering, because you've been taught they're sacred. I've talked with recent grads of the creative writing program, and I have to admit, they're horribly naive about the publishing world. All that lovely nurturing and encouraging just won't get them published. Sticking to the "rules" will get them nothing but rejection slips.
How I'd love to have a creative writing program that brought in wildly successful writers, the Lee Childs, the Sandra Browns, Nora Roberts, Daniel da Silva, Michael Connally - there are hundreds. I've heard quite a few of them speak (Lee Child is really good!), and they could teach young writers more in an hour than they'd learn from three months of seminars with equally naive classmates, all reading their stuff to each other.
But I am so glad I got to meet W.H. Auden.