Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NEVER TAKE AN MFA PROGRAM

The email questions are piling up, and so far I've been letting them pile, because I've been busy with school work, as my semester ends in a few weeks and I have to produce something the professor will like before that. I will be open and say I had a fight with him yesterday. He rejects just about everything I submit, and sometimes I give him whole, publishable novels, but they aren't about me, so they are apparently worthless. Somehow he then succeeds in making me feel guilty about not rising to his challenge to write from the heart, because producing stories people enjoy isn't enough - I should strive to write something great.

In retrospect, his opinion of "great" may be a little skewed. This was material that someone wrote for my class and was generally considered "good."

[Content removed because it upset a lot of people. See above post]

On the other hand, maybe I should stick to writing historical fiction. Or maybe I just don't have enough daddy issues to write quality material.

108 comments:

~Nancy said...

When the plate arrive blood surrounded the meat. My father delighted in rare meat. I didn't eat meat. After discussing the loss of virginity with my father my eyes darkened then glazed. The red juice on his plate suddenly appeared as my menstrual blood.

Gak. Blood from a steak = menstrual blood. This is considered good?

I'll stick to reading genre novels.

~JerseyGirl

Anonymous said...

I had to endure garbage like this during my MA program. I imagine it's only worse going for an MFA.

**hugs** You know the difference between pretentious stuff and stuff you want to write and the books people want to read. But most professors want to see their legacy as students producing slim volumes of inaccessible material rather than authors turning out consistently enjoyable novels.

Anonymous said...

Well that was crap.

Anonymous said...

This is a joke, right? If it's not you have the right to doubt ANYTHING your instructor says. What school is this, the Triborough Tunnel Vocational Institute?

Eva said...

This post was so well timed for me! I'm doing an MA program and this really hit a nerve. In one of my classes, which is supposed to be a survey class in which we both write and hear authors speak, there's been a disproportionate number of experimental writers. The teacher writes that way, his buddies write that way, they all write about each other, they all publish themselves or each other. It all culminated emotionally for many of us in class when we had a panel of them the other day talking about experimental work. Some of what we've read has just been crap. As one student said after class, you've got to know the rules before you can break them. I've read experimental work that I thought was fantastic, but so far...not in this class. The constant drum beat of this stuff makes me feel alternately stupid (am I the only one not getting this?) and angry (this is just crap masking as innovation!). I'm grateful that in my novel writing class, where several students are writing genre, that there isn't any attitude about it. Overall, my program seems pretty open minded. But it's only my first semester. If I try to use the mystery novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo for my culminating project, we'll see what happens!

Problem Child said...

Ugh. Shudder.

I have an MA as well. Why on earth is that what we're "supposed" to read and like? Sometimes I feel like the English Major police will come take away my degree if I admit in public to reading romance novels, thrillers, and chick lit.

Maybe I don't have enough emotional baggage or something.

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding. That's disgusting. Warning about MFA programs heeded.

Yogamum said...

Okay, you're kidding, right? Because that is really, really awful writing.

Makes me glad I decided against the MFA.

Laura K said...

OK, that's just disgusting. It's not entertaining, it's not good writing, it's not even thought-provoking. It does, however, seem like the kind of thing that would make some men (you're prof is a man, right?) uncomfortable enough to rate it as "good." I ran into that frequently in writing programs. If I wrote about things that were hard to listen to, it was "good." If I wrote about things that were normal, everyday events, even if they were traumatic to me, they were deemed "not good."

You know, you say he complains that your writing is "not from the heart." Well, if that writing is from that person's "heart," I'd be really, really scared about what else is in there.

Bethany said...

Wow. That's... just hopelessly bad writing. The subject matter isn't nearly as original or edgy as the writer seems to want it to be, either.

I'm glad to say that my (undergraduate) writing teachers would have torn that to shreds. They also taught the MFA program, so I guess there's some hope!

Shannon said...

Aside from all the spelling and grammatical errors (there's nothing "experimental" in such mistakes when they look like what they are: mistakes), it is a load of pretentious, self-indulgent crap.

I did one creative writing course at uni, and while I enjoyed the stuff we did during the year, the final project was a ridiculous exercise in showing the professor that you could use all the "techniques" in one story. I was so confused and annoyed by how silly that was that I wrote a very stupid story in a kind of petulant huff, and brought my mark down from a High Distinction to a measly Credit. But I don't care about the mark, I still learnt some things, and how can you mark creative writing anyway? It's supposed to be based on things like: Does the author achieve what they set out to do? etc. but really it's: Do you like it? It's all completely subective.

Robin L. said...

EWWWW!!!!!! That's horrible!!!

Stick to the historicals. I'm so glad I didn't take an MFA. It took me years to recover sufficiently from my english degree to make peace with writing mystery fiction. ;)

Catja (green_knight) said...

I think the word you were looking for is 'pretentious crap.'

I don't think the gap between what your professor appears to want (experimental, in-your-face, shocking) and what you probably want to read and write (much more subtle prose with much greater depth) can be bridged. The prose in that excerpt sucks rocks through a straw. It has to be so in-your-face because the writer appears to lack the ability to produce a subtext. This could have been a scene that on the surface showed a family dinner, and made allusions to dark red wine, draped curtains, and, yes, bloody steak, which would look harmless on the surface and carry a subtext that punches you in the guts.

To deliver that, you'd need skill. To deliver this, all you need is to do the literary equivalent of streetbrawling. In spelling things out this crudely, the reader is robbed of his ability to interact with the text.

In other words, even with a high literary hat on, it's crappy writing.

And - I say this as someone who has produced their million words of crap and then some - if you try to run before you can walk, you're heading for a fall. First learn your craft. Learn to use words wisely and well, learn to write stories. THEN you can think about making them work on more levels.

For me, some of the best books around are Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Read Hogfather - it's seasonal, and it's a lighthearted tale. Read it again and again, and you'll discover that it adresses some of the fundamental issues of civilisation. And you can still pick it up and laugh yourself silly, because the man just has a way with words. Now *that* is greatness.

Sadly, I can't advise you what you should do in order to leave with a decent degree. I have a sneaking feeling that nobody will hold it against you if you say *why* you did not perform well. An awful lot of people will nod sagely, though.
I've had my own encounters with an unpleasable supervisor. I feel with you.

bunnygirl said...

Wow. Bad writing, overwrought imagery, and pretentiousness to boot! The only emotion it conjurs up in me is the fervent desire to make another reading selection.

Some of the snobbiest people I've ever met were creative writing program "artistes." But I don't understand where the arrogance comes from. I can't name a single literary "great" who earned an MFA or doctorate in their craft.

Creative writing programs have their place, and I've recently considered applying to one, just for the more intensive feedback I would presumably get. But if only the pretentious will get good marks, I'll save my money.

Thanks for the warning, and good luck to you! It sounds like you're sane in the insane asylum!

ORION said...

Hmmm
On the one hand it's a great description of meat and on the other...well...I guess it's a description of meat.

Re: experimental fiction
I read Only Revolutions and I guess I just didn't get it.
People rave about it in groups like lemmings.
Me thinks the emperor has no clothes.

M. G. Tarquini said...

FYI, I linked to this post. It brought back memories. Thanks for the laugh.

whitemouse said...

*gag*

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was a little pretentious. And overwrought. But I have to say that it's still MUCH better than most of the garbage, banal, boring writing that I see on online critique groups and even in bookstores.

Seriously, go read Nicholas Sparks, Mitch Albom, Diane Steele, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, or about any romance novel...and then try again to tell me just how bad that was.

THERE IS MUCH WORSE OUT THERE. At lease this isn't over-simplified and insulting dreck, like so many other aspiring and successful writers produce.

Anonymous said...

DANIELLE Steele, sorry about that.

Ooops.

Zany Mom said...

That is just wrong on so many levels. I may never eat red meat again. ::shudder::

kis said...

Once you read it, you can't unread it.

As far as I'm concerned, the first three sentences are the only remotely decent part about this peice. From there it just becomes crap. Even disregarding the imagery, the writing itself was no better than mediochre. I can see even an agent who loves this kind of self-absobed, quasi-feminist drek turning his nose up at this.

And as far as the imagery goes, good thing my love of rare beef goes deep, or this would put me off my steak forever.

Elizabeth said...

Gosh. After reading this, I have a new appreciation for law school. At least the crap we write is just boring. Yuck.

Yahzi said...

I have to agree with Catja: the text leaves no room for the reader to interact. With everything spelled out so bluntly, it's just a technical description, not art.

Shock is always easier than awe.

McKoala said...

Your professor is scaring me.

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

I agree with your assessment. Generally, I think people write best about what they know but this is an example gone bad. Resist, against comparisons of food and menstrual cycles!

The Rejecter said...

Wow, 24 comments in two hours?

It goes on for another two pages, by the way. I just sat in class wondering what would had happened if her dad had just gotten a salad.

Anonymous said...

Those who can do. Those who can't teach.

Kim Stagliano said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Toddie said...

If her dad had gotten a salad, you would've been bombarded with seed/life imagery juxtaposed with the wilting of the lettuce leaves (SO obviously death).

Dan said...

I lived in a bookroom with thousands of sf paperbacks during my childhood, so I have nothing but respect for entertaining stories.

I'm a computer scientist. Some computer people would rather not have users. Users never do what you expect and make all kinds of mistakes trying to use your program. They are an uncontrollable variable in what was supposed to be as mechanical and perfect (and auto-erotic) as mathematics.

But users are also what separates a correct program from a great program. Ask Google and YouTube about whether they'd rather have users, with all the good, bad, and ugly that comes with them. And it also turns out that these user-oriented companies are doing some really cutting-edge research to keep their users happy.

Tell your professor to read An Experiment in Criticism and stop being a wanker. And here's Stephen King for good measure:

If you happen to be a science fiction fan, it's natural that you should want to write science fiction (and the more sf you've read, the less likely it is that you'll simply revisit the field's well-mined conventions, such as space opera and dystopian satire). If you're a mystery fan, you'll want to write mysteries, and if you enjoy romances, it's natural for you to want to write romances of your own. There's nothing wrong with writing any of these things. What would be very wrong, I think, is to turn away from what you know and like (or love, the way I loved those old ECs and black-and-white horror flicks) in favor of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives, and writing-circle colleagues. What's equally wrong is the deliberate turning toward some genre or type of fiction in order to make money. It's morally wonky, for one thing--the job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story's web of lies, not to commit intellectual dishonesty in the hunt for the buck. Also, brothers and sisters, it doesn't work.

LadyBronco said...

GAH! My eyes are burning!

That totally blew chunks.

A.C. said...

*sigh*

BTDT.

I escaped with my MA. I'm not going back.

Anonymous said...

I had a really great experience with my MFA program. I experimented with some literary fiction and poetry, but I worked on my fantasy novel for my final project at the end.

The University of Baltimore. It's actually an MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts, so we also learnt how to do some graphic design and make handmade books. It turned out to be the perfect program for me.

But I've heard a lot of horror stories, even from a couple of my professors. If researching an MFA program, see if you can talk to professors or other students or even sit in on a class before you commit. It would probably be better to have no MFA experience at all, than a bad one. This is our creative soul we're talking about.

Bernita said...

I will express my thoughts with elegant precision...
~BARF~

Anonymous said...

What drivel! I received an MFA a little over a year ago, and while the program was helpful in many ways, I did have to wade through a lot of crap (often disgusting--but what crap isn't disgusting?) while in workshops or reading for the lit journal. On the other hand, the program did have some great writers attached to it--both as teachers and as students; plus it gave me two years to focus on writing.

BuffySquirrel said...

Me too, Orion, me too.

Now I have to go clean my mind.

Steve said...

I ran into this same bollocks working on my art degree. I'd work hard to do a beautiful drawing (say, of a chair), but that wasn't as important as drawing my 'feelings' about the chair.

Or, and I'm only half kidding, stapling a dead pigeon to the chair itself and 'forcing a pardigm shift'.

Some years later, people part with hard-earned money to keep me drawing. Those kids with their 'challenging' art are all in 'other' fields now.

Stick to your voice and your stuff and don't worry about the grades. You're there for the education, yes? Use it to make your work more *you*.

dirty dingus said...

I started rolling around in laughter at what I thought was a satire of pretentious literary crud - and then I realized it wasn't meant to be satire.

Ooops. I think you have to take lessons to write this badly

Ted W. Gross said...

A Little Something To Cheer You Up

Anonymous said...

Gak.

Ick.

If something like that crossed my desk, I think I'd have to include a tampon coupon in the rejection slip.

KathryneBAlfred said...

I loved my MFA program. I'm incredibly proud of my MFA. I have not a second's regret about it, and I'm not even published yet. (The confidence behind that "yet" is a lot of why I loved my MFA program.)

Just 'cause you got one awful professor, don't give up on the entire degree. I'm pretty sure anyone who ever went to school had at least one awful teacher.

Termagant 2 said...

If it's as "personal" and good as your instructor seems to think, let him/her send it in to ANY publisher above vanity-press level and see how fast the rejection comes back.

There seems to be a mind-set out there that it has to be ugly to be "true." This piece is just unadulterated ugliness.

Going for the mental floss now.

T2

Anonymous said...

Agree totally with everything you say, Rejecter, and feel for you. I stuck with my MFA simply because I wanted that piece of paper, but in the end I didn't care about the marks. I knew that anything I wrote was never going to be marked high.

I also stayed with genre.

cm allison said...

As as aspiring writer and VORACIOUS reader since age 4, all I can say is "YUCK!" I'm going to have to work very hard to get that image out of my mind, and believe me, it is nothing I want in there! I guess I'm lucky, I took some creative writing courses while getting my degree in the work I'd done for years, but my degree was dependent on "does it balance", "do the figures add up"? Very simple compared to pleasing some self-inflated, egotistical, couldn't get published if his name was Steinbeck, bombastic professor. Hang in there Rejecter!

retterson said...

Okay -- I don't care what that professor said, that sample you posted was awful. It was trite and affected and tried too hard to be literary.

When you write stories someone wants to read -- that's what makes a "great" story. Name the giants of literature and you will find men and women who, first and foremost, wrote stories others wanted to read -- Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway.

Ugh!

Anonymous said...

As someone who worked in the medical field for many years...this is disgusting. And that's just talking about the subject matter. Don't get me started on how poor the writing is.

Meiran said...

And that, your honor, is exactly why I dropped my creative writing minor despite all the glorious accolades the program I was in still gets. Oh, they're nationally renowned. But they know jack about actually writing creatively. It's all that modern prose stuff like you just posted here.

It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. I even wrote a poem all about how I couldn't write poetry because I wasn't abused as a child and had no real problems in my life. I used a thesaurus to make every word as pompous as possible.

According to my teacher, it was the best thing I'd written all year.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks it is incredibly poor taste to post a student's classroom assignment without permission (uness you had permission?) to a public blog site.

Rejecter, you may feel good now from all the ego stroking, but your post left a worse taste in my mouth that the excerpt did.

So to speak.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous, I'm guessing this student is busy interpretive dancing with a clove cig hanging out of her mouth while tending to the small blister that is about to pop on her left heel. A result of Birkenstocks that are a size too small.

Why do people think its OK to treat Rejecter like kaka when they'd never do the same on Snark?

Kim said...

Oh. My. God.

Can we say ICK factor?

I'd love to know if the author was male or female. Either way, I'm thinking serious issues here...

Somehow, I'm thinking that "heart" is NOT where this bit o'ick has come from, pardon the poor grammar.

Anonymous said...

Having lived through most of it, here's my bad attitude historical analysis:

Way way back in the 60's and 70's, everyone discovered Relevance. Freudian and Marxist interpretations of everything were totally in the vogue. If a guy stayed in college, he didn't have to go to Vietnam. Minorities were somewhere between discouraged from attending college and blatantly discriminated against. Women in general had it harder than men because birth control options were unreliable and abortions were illegal until about 1973. Women were not taken seriously. They were supposed to go to college to shop for husbands, then get married and/or get pregnant, then stay home with babies, not working. Plus it was common for professors to expect special students to have affairs with them. Some departments being more incestuous than others...

Which all served to make it very difficult or impossible for a lot of talented people to continue their educations, or to compete with the "teacher's pet" students. While simultaneously encouraging numerous nitwits to continue. The result was that lots of people who were really very very very mediocre writers finished their PhD's in English in the 70's and early 80's and then got jobs as professors, and got to say what was good/bad writing and who was a good/bad writer.

This is why so many of the literary magazines published by academic departments today are full of unreadably dismal self-absorbed blithering, much of it "relevant" in a sort of vaugely Marxist/Freudian way.

This is the unfortunate legacy you have inherited. The only way to change it is to be a double agent. Finish your degree, get a good job in an academic department, get tenure, and then start calling the crap what it is. Those old draft dodgers and kiss-ass types will all retire or die in the next 10 years or so and then you can take over. Good luck.

Linda Adams said...

Yuck.

Anonymous said...

Why do people think its OK to treat Rejecter like kaka when they'd never do the same on Snark?


Because Snark deletes them and they never see the light of the blog.

The Rejecter said...

I don't post people's query letters here, even though I keep the worst ones in a folder in my room. I didn't post the entirety of it, or give a name, or even my name, and if so-and-so does stumble on this, she may stop writing this crap.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:40: it left a bad taste in my mouth too. But what also did was Rejecter's complaint's about her professor trying to get the best possible out of her. Isn't that what they're teaching for? And the daddy comment was no more than saying she has daddy issues she doesn't want her professor to read. Everyone in the world has daddy (read family/emotional) issues. Everyone.

It's fine to put posts like this on a blog. Just don't hold yourself out as a publishing professional.

Anonymous said...

if so-and-so does stumble on this, she may stop writing this crap.


You're W on a personal level.

Anonymous said...

"Creative writing programs have their place"

Yes, and their purpose is to train future creative writing professors to train future creative writing professors to train future creative writing professors...

Thank you for reminding me why I dropped out of graduate school.

It didn't stop me from publishing many novels with a major NY publisher.

Anonymous said...

"It goes on for another two pages, by the way. I just sat in class wondering what would had happened if her dad had just gotten a salad."

BWA HA HA!!!!

Rejecter, that was the best line I've heard in a long time. It had more wit and imagery than the entire example of MFA dreck you quote. You ought to write up this classroom scene as a short story.

ChapterKat said...

Reading this made me SO glad I had a hysterectomy.

Now I know there is more to be happy about than the lack of periods--I don't have to worry about having those disgusting metaphorical thoughts about my parents serving my reproductive organs for dinner.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the subject or theme has anything to do with the quality of the writing. I am sure someone with the right touch could talk abut steak and menstrual blood in a way that worked. It's all about how you execute the idea.

On the popular phrase, "Those who can do. Those who can't teach." Think before you automatically perpetuate that notion. It's true for some people, but I have had many a teacher who could "do," and where would any of us be without some teacher somewhere in our lives who gave us a little extra creative inspiration? I don't mean The Rejecter's particular teacher or MFA program, but in the arts [the same catch prhases roll through art school ...], it's common to debase teachers in this way. That's just a knee-jerk comment that, I think, is detrimental to the creative community.

Save the criticism for individuals, not a whole group of people whom we need and want in society.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I think you should be quite pleased with the prof rejecting all you submit if that's the kind of stuff that's considered good.

roach said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Writerious said...

It's got gore.

It's got sex.

It's got violence (well, implied violence, anyway)

It's got excessive, absurdly self-centered introspection that centers obsessively around sex, death, and depression.

Kiddies, it's ART!

It may be crap to you and me, but by golly, it's ART.

It's also an example of someone who is either entirely enamored with the whole idea of ART, or it's an example of someone who has figured out the game of school: figure out what the professor wants, and hand it to him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be the dissenting voice here, but... there's nothing literary about this excerpt. The writing reveals nothing about the human heart but the author's desire to shock the reader. That's not literary. That's not even a story.

There are no bad MFA programs -- just bad teachers.

writtenwyrdd said...

the whole quote was crap. I've heard about your problem from others. I went to a writer's workshop a couple of months ago, and it was interesting to hear how some programs were troublesome for some of the writers there--to the point they went to others.

I recall my feeling of disbelief when they kept mentioning how 'literary' to many profs was writing total drivel about oneself.

I guess they weren't kidding!

I hope to take a low-residency MFA in the next few years, when I feel I can waste 20K on a piece of paper. At least the program I'm interested in has a science fiction and genre oriented program!

Gerri said...

WTF?!

Ok. Who in the hell sits down and things this at the dinner table?! I mean, really. *gags*

This professor has problems of the highest order, and the major problem is that he's beyond snob--he's unable to separate his own preferences from the student's preferences. He can't step back and see story elements. He's unable to divorce himself from the tiny field that makes up academic fiction and think about what people would actually like to read.

The other problem with "experimental" is that it's hard to make something experimental that people would actually read.

And has the guy ever heard of the term "purple prose"?!

*gags, and not just because of the horrendous, blatent symbology going on in the description*

*and since when does any chef serve something rare that has blood surrounding it on the plate?!*

Word Verification: imvcek
See? Even Blogger can't stand the description.

tim said...

Actually, I found this piece to be very beneficial. See, I'm trying to lose weight, and after reading this at 5 AM, I'm pretty sure I've lost my appetite for the day.

I rise before the sun every morning to try and string together some intelligent-sounding words that tell a compelling story, and THIS is what some professor considers to be "good"? There's something wrong in the universe.

Anonymous said...

The writing was dreadful but I agree with the Anonymous who said it's in very poor taste to post it on your blog.

I think you'd be pretty pissed off, Rejector, if someone in that class posted your writing on their blog, so people could publicly trash it. Aren't there rules or policies in workshop classes?

AND, you've got a captive audience here! It's not as if this is some personal "my life as a writer" or "my MFA experience" blog. This blog is for your fellow writers, showing them "behind the scenes" at an agency, no? You're presenting yourself as a professional in the business, albeit a lowly assistant on the front lines. This post was so far from professional, it may have lost you this reader. Bad form.

Anonymous said...

Your professor must have a thing for Jack the Ripper if he thought this was good.

Anonymous said...

The excerpt was godawful, not just in content, but in execution. It sounded like Hemingway on crack, trying to describe a beheading.

But I had to laugh out loud at these words:

"He rejects just about everything I submit, and sometimes I give him whole, publishable novels, but they aren't about me, so they are apparently worthless. ...producing stories people enjoy isn't enough - I should strive to write something great."

This sounds like the complaint of every unpublished writer I've ever known -- including myself.

Anonymous said...

I believe that you have no right to post the work of a fellow student on a public blog. People take classes to learn; they aren't submitting their work to professionals, nor are they giving anyone else in the class the right to show their work to others. If I were in a class and someone did this to me, I'd be furious. Even if this person cannot write well, what gives you the right to point it out to everyone with an Internet connection?

Courtney said...

My MFA program was often the bane of my existence, especially since both my parents were alive and I therefor couldn't write about losing one of them.

Seriously, this is hideous. Screw your prof, follow your instincts.

Anonymous said...

There's no dispute as to its quality. But to use another student's work as an easy target for gang insult, WITHOUT THAT STUDENT'S PERMISSION, is simply wrong.

Kim said...

Just to play devil's advocate - how do all of the anonymouses (anonymy??) know Ms Rejector DOESN'T have permission to post this? Remember, the author was told this was "great". Maybe it's obvious, and I don't see it. Or maybe just the obvious escapes me. Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time.

And does that mean that only "good" (meaning readers of this blog like it and it doesn't make anyone queasy) writing can be posted? Or is this a no no because no one really likes it?

Don't throw anything at me - I'm just asking...

Maprilynne said...

Boy, I don't know what you all are talking about, that's a story I want to read to my kids tonight for bedtime.
*rolls eyes*
That's really gross.
And I love steak . . . but I don't think I could eat one today. Blech!

S. W. Vaughn said...

Have to echo the general sentiment here -- this is so unbelievable that it has to be true, much as we'd like to believe it a joke.

Gah! My heart goes out to you, Rejecter. Thanks for the warning. I actually had been considering further education, but if I have to write like this to impress professors, forget it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Freud, I keep having this recurring dream that I am standing over this expired equine with a large club. I keep raising and lowering the club like Sisyphus for eternity. What does it mean?
What is the point of imagery if you then go on to explain the whole thing in the next line? THe whole gift of using imagery to make your point is that a reader can assume a lot more depth than the shallow point the writer is making.

The Rejecter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Rejecter said...

Actually, you can post almost ANYTHING on the internet that isn't copyrighted and it falls under "fair use." Especially because I only included a small excerpt and not the entire text.

Sharra said...

Uggh.

Let me guess - does your prof. rant and rave about commercially successfull authors as sell-outs?

Bernita said...

Excuse me,"fair use" is one thing, but is this excerpt not copyrighted?

Anonymous said...

To the Rejecter: I don't know about the legality of it, but I'm surprised you'd defend its morality. It seems completely clear to me that to post someone else's work WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT, with the sole purpose of riciculing it, is not "fair use" in any non-legal parlance. I feel pretty certain you wouldn't want it done to you.

To Kim: I believe the Rejecter would have stated so by now if she'd had the author's permission. As to whether I'm saying only good writing ought to be posted, of course not. If you'd like to read crappy writing that authors post of their own volition, and trash that, fine. Have at it! Those authors have permitted their work to be read, critiqued, ridiculed, etc.

I stand by my previous statement that it's simply wrong.

roach said...

The very first deleted comment was mine, in which I pointed out the fair use aspect. But after I posted it didn't sound right to me. IANAIPL (I am not an intellectual properties lawyer) but I'm not so sure that fair use applies to work that hasn't been published. Reading the U.S. Copyright Office's fact sheet on fair use doesn't shed any light on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you can post almost ANYTHING on the internet that isn't copyrighted and it falls under "fair use." Especially because I only included a small excerpt and not the entire text.

Er, no. It was copyrighted the moment she wrote it. I'm surprised you don't know this since you work for an agent. You don't need to register it or publish it to have a copyright.

As for fair use, because you're posting this excerpt without attribution, it appears to violate the author's copyright.

More information here: http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/admin/blfaq_admin_copyrights.htm

Anonymous said...

It's an egregious breach of workshop trust to publicly post someone's work-in-progress without permission.

It's exactly this kind of backstabbing that gives MFA programs a bad name--not some perceived arrogance about what is literary and what isn't, since that's subjective and always has been, long before MFA programs were prevalent.

And while we're at it, it's unethical to keep query letters. They belong to the agency you work for, not you, and aren't meant for your amusement, no matter how horrible they've been written.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of strict legality, on which I'm not qualified to comment, I hardly think that students in a writing workshop would believe that work they submitted within the confines of a class was fair game in this way.

I'm sure many of those who've commented here have participated in writing workshops/classes/groups, and I'm equally sure NONE OF THEM would feel anything other than violated at use of this kind.

It's simply wrong.

Anonymous said...

Er, the link appears to be too long to fit into the post. Anyway, if you Google "copyright, fair use, Internet" you'll find dozens of sites that cover this topic.

Kim said...

I didn't say I wanted to read crappy material - it just seems to me that if we'd all raved about this, no one would have voiced any complaints about morality. There's no need to be defensive about it - it was only a question.

Anonymous said...

I was anonymous 6:40.
I don't care whether posting this extract was legal; as a college-level teacher (*not* of creative writing!) I find it profoundly unethical. I wouldn't even let students read papers by other students without the permission of the author. And as for keeping query letters, the physical letter belongs to its recipent (the person to whom it is addressed, not the flunky who opens the envelope) while its content belongs to the author, I believe. You are neither of those people.

Rejecter, I don't really care what your name is, but I wish you'd tell us which agent you work for because I'd like to make sure I never query that agency.

LadyBronco said...

I am thinking that the all of the anonymous postings that are slamming Ms. Rejecter are done by the same person. I have a suggestion to our anonymous friend. Why don't you grow some balls and tell us all who you are so we can go slam your ass on your blog?

Just a suggestion.

Bernita said...

" ...ifwe'd all raved about this, no one would have voiced any complaints about morality."
Um...because question of the morality involves potential damage to the writer of this snippit, perhaps?

Kim said...

Bernita - Didn't you offer up the critique of "Barf" earlier? If it was so immoral to post this snippit, why did you offer up a criticism? Apparently you weren't all that concerned about damaging the writer then.

My point was - would anyone be slapping Rejector if we were all saying how wonderful the piece was? Would it be immoral to have posted it then? If not, isn't that a bit - um - hypocritical?

I've never said whether or not I think it's right or wrong to post. My original question was asked as playing devil's advocate? I never said how I felt, so don't shake your finger at me because you have no idea what I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Coming back to this post after a long day, I see many people agree with me. Legal or not, it's unethical to post that excerpt here. I have an MA in writing, have been through many "workshop" type classes, and the sharing of someone else's work outside that classroom setting (let alone on the internet) is WRONG.

I also agree with the person who said they thought it was wrong for Rejecter to keep old query letters for her own amusement.

Lucky for me, it looks as though Rejecter's agent doesn't rep my genre, so there is little chance she'll be holding on to my letters. I just hope for her sake she grows as a person and a writer before the Prof and the Boss find this blog.

You'll note Rejecter still hasn't said how she'd feel if some other student in that class posted HER attempt at writing on *their* blog.

BTW, If the writing had been great and she'd posted it as a "Wow, look what this person in my writing class wrote!" message, I STILL would get on her case about getting that person's permission to post their writing on the net!

Another Anonymous--JUST LIKE REJECTER

Anonymous said...

I've been working in the medical and legal fields for years but my career would be over in a minute if I took a stash of correspondence or any other work related papers home to keep for my amusement, never mind posting materials of an obviously personal nature on the internet without the author's permission.

Like the Miranda warning says -- whatever you say can and will be used against you. This post could end up haunting you for years. If I was you, I'd delete the whole thing immediately, start reading everything I could find about legal issues for writers, and get ready to grovel.

Bernita said...

Are you so sure you know what my "Barf" applied to, Kim?
Damage to the writer happens to be a factor considered under the "fair use" defense.
Any comments disparaging the quality of this piece as the result of its unauthorized publication in fact provide evidence of damage.

Kim said...

Forgive me - I thought "I will express my thoughts with elegant precision. Barf," meant I will express my thoughts with elegant precision. Barf.

Perhaps you might want to learn to express a bit more clearly? And I didn't know not liking something was damaging. I thought it was - ya know - personal preference. Just because someone thinks your choice of words is unappealing doesn't necessarily mean you've been damaged. Sometimes a person just doesn't like something. I don't like it. That isn't a crime. Go shake your finger at someone else.

Bernita said...

"shake your finger"
??
Um...no, after those pissy remarks, I 'm not shaking it.

Anonymous said...

Another Anon- How do you know what genres her agent handles?

kis said...

Anyone find it interesting that possibly the worst bit of writing ever is generating so many comments? Every time I swing by here, there's more.

This is now an immortalized piece of prose, people. Someone needs to send the lucky author here. Her words will now live forever. Bwahahaha!

Anonymous said...

To the annoymous person who seemed to take to task the Rejector in her comment, for being annoymous, as well. -It's stupid to get mad at someone for being annoymous online. It's what everybody does. maybe they don't want to share their identiy with thousands of strangers, even thought they have thoughts to share.

Becky

Kim said...

Pissy? Nah. Sounds to me as if maybe I struck a nerve instead...

wonder why?

M. G. Tarquini said...

You save godawful queries?

hmm...

Any of them mine?

You don't have to answer since everybody appears to be sharpening their legal nibs. Just blink once for 'yes' or twice for 'no'.

Meiran said...

I really shouldn't throw in my two cents here, and I know I should let it lie:

But if you've been in a workshop class, I could bet you even money that you came home from at least one and complained to a friend or loved one at least in person about what you were reading that you hated.

Moral or not, I know a piece of work that got passed around my entire group of friends in college because it was so terrible the people in the class wanted to share their pain.

It happens, and I bet you've done it. Just not on the internet.

*shrug* If I was this writer, I would be very upset about this, I agree with that. But I think we're holding The Rejecter to a standard we couldn't even attain ourselves if we start calling her evil names over it.

ian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Kuzminski said...

I side with The Rejecter's posting as fair use.

This blog is about writing and rejecting. You can't have a valid discussion without material to evaluate, particularly when it's truly necessary to show the material in order to illustrate just what's good or bad about the writing or the program teaching the writing. Otherwise, you're trying to comment on the weave of the emperor's new clothes.

MadeInAmerica said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meiran said...

Dave, I'm not saying that you specifically called her nasty names. In fact, a few people did voice their objections and opinions in a very well-worded way.

But there were some who went too far as well, my comment was directed at those.

Anonymous said...

Menstrual blood is not "yucky", you literary geniuses. Nothing is off limits in art. What's more, I arrived too late to read the whole excerpt, but from the bits I could glean, the passage in question does not read as "experimental" to me, but merely controversial in subject matter. Experimental writing takes risks with language as it tries to discover new forms. Maybe the professor in question is rewarding this kind of writing simply for breaking with the mold of what everyone else is writing.

And all you lawyers and medics who "could have been" better writers than all the writers working out there, and who dredge out the names of Homer and Shakespeare and Hemingway to extoll some idealized popular version of The Writer, even as you fill your prose with "yicks" and "ughs" because of the language you find offensive in this person's writing, do yourselves a favor and go back and re-read Homer for his frankly gut-spilling battle scenes, Shakespeare for his cannibalism and tribal/racial strife, and Ernie Hemingway for his treatment of abortion.

Yeah, thanks.