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Are creative writing programs a ponzi scam?

Show or Tell: A Critic at Large: The New Yorker

Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem. The fruit of the theory is the writing workshop, a combination of ritual scarring and twelve-on-one group therapy where aspiring writers offer their views of the efforts of other aspiring writers. People who take creative-writing workshops get course credit and can, ultimately, receive an academic degree in the subject; but a workshop is not a course in the normal sense—a scene of instruction in which some body of knowledge is transmitted by means of a curricular script. The workshop is a process, an unscripted performance space, a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart. There is one person in the room, the instructor, who has (usually) published a poem. But workshop protocol requires the instructor to shepherd the discussion, not to lead it, and in any case the instructor is either a product of the same process—a person with an academic degree in creative writing—or a successful writer who has had no training as a teacher of anything, and who is probably grimly or jovially skeptical of the premise on which the whole enterprise is based: that creative writing is something that can be taught.

This skepticism is widely shared, and one way for creative-writing programs to handle it is simply to concede the point. The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop is the most renowned creative-writing program in the world. Sixteen Pulitzer Prize winners and three recent Poet Laureates are graduates of the program. But the school’s official position is that the school had nothing to do with it. “The fact that the Workshop can claim as alumni nationally and internationally prominent poets, novelists, and short story writers is, we believe, more the result of what they brought here than of what they gained from us,” the Iowa Web site explains. Iowa merely admits people who are really good at writing; it puts them up for two years; and then, like the Wizard of Oz, it gives them a diploma. “We continue to look for the most promising talent in the country,” the school says, “in our conviction that writing cannot be taught but that writers can be encouraged.” . . .

June 09, 2009

Ann Arbor's Shaman Drum Bookshop to Close

Illiteracy is winning. Via @AAFilmFest Ann Arbor's Shaman Drum Bookshop to Close - mediabistro.com: GalleyCat
After nearly 30 years of selling books in Ann Arbor, Michigan--including a stack of inspiring books to this GalleyCat editor--Shaman Drum Bookshop will close at the end of June. The bookstore posted the unhappy news on Twitter this afternoon. The bookstore had struggled with steep drops in textbook sales and a generally rough bookselling climate. Owner Karl Pohrt wrote frankly about the store's struggles in a February column. Here is the bookstore's Twitter statement: "Shaman Drum Bookshop is the latest casualty of the recession, and will be closing it's doors at the end of June. Read a book in our memory!" (Via Bookavore)

OMFG! Wicked-Awesome $1 Book Sale at Small Beer Press!!!

Buck a Book Time! Yikes! These are some awesome, awesome...

June 04, 2009

Eighteen Challenges to Contemporary Literature

Eighteen Challenges in Contemporary Literature | Beyond The Beyond

From Bruce Sterling:

1. Literature is language-based and national; contemporary society is globalizing and polyglot.

2. Vernacular means of everyday communication — cellphones, social networks, streaming video — are moving into areas where printed text cannot follow.

3. Intellectual property systems failing.

4. Means of book promotion, distribution and retail destabilized.

5. Ink-on-paper manufacturing is an outmoded, toxic industry with steeply rising costs.

. . .

16. Academic education system suffering severe bubble-inflation.

17. Polarizing civil cold war is harmful to intellectual honesty.

18. The Gothic fate of poor slain Poetry is the specter at this dwindling feast.

June 03, 2009

Google launching eBook store

Google grenades the ebook punchbowl | Blog | Futurismic

Google stated that it will allow publishers to set eBook prices. The cost of the eBook will probably be higher than Amazon’s current eBook prices.

This will certainly start a format war. Google does not have a dedicated eBook reader and I do not see them getting into the eBook hardware game. This will push companies to create eBook readers that will connect to Google’s new store. Certainly Amazon is ahead of everyone in regards to ease of use and the ability to download eBooks via a wireless connection. Hopefully this will give all of us multiple choices on purchasing eBooks.

. . .

Credit where it’s due, the Big G knows the value of biding its time for the right moment. This is the game-changing announcement that I’ve been expecting for the last nine months, the potential trigger for an explosive growth phase in ebook hardware and distribution. . . .