Response #8: Genre Fiction in Creative Writing ClassesPosted: April 2, 2012
I’m sorry that this posted a few days early. This blog post is for NEXT WEEK, APRIL 9-12.
The response for TODAY (APRIL 2 OR 3) is on the partial. THIS ONE.
First, read this blog post by a former student of mine, Sal Pane, who is also a teacher of creative writing.
Then, consider the following questions and statements:
- The books we find and read as young people are generally commercial fiction, genre fiction. The only place to buy books in my hometown was at the grocery store, for example. I wasn’t exposed to literary fiction much. I wrote about this here. I find it interesting that what probably brought you to the creative writing classroom is your love of genre fiction. And the first thing you learn is that the kind of book that brought you to us isn’t acceptable in the classroom. Or most classrooms.
- You need to know this: if you want to get an MFA, you will have a very difficult time getting in if your writing sample is genre fiction. This is because most of the faculty (not all) who teach in writing programs don’t write genre fiction. And remember, decisions about who gets in are made by a committee comprised of writing faculty, and the number one criteria is the writing sample. You don’t just apply to an MFA program like you do to college. For example, the most competitive programs might receive 500-1000 applications for 8 spots. This isn’t a bias being expressed by individual writing faculty. The governing body of this discipline, AWP, clearly says that the standard in creative writing programs is “work of publishable LITERARY quality.” So: what I’m saying is that if your novel for this class is pretty much straight genre, and you want to pursue an MFA, you will have trouble getting in to most programs if you use this book as your writing sample. You can piss and moan about this, but it won’t do much good. You have to decide: if you want to pursue a graduate education AND you want to be a genre writer, start thinking hard about this issue. Do you need an MFA in order to write the kind of book you want to write? Are you willing to write a different kind of book in order to get in and to graduate?
- What, other than marketing, is the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction? What genre fiction do you consider to be “LITERARY” and what genre fiction do you find not literary?
Your 500-750-word response must refer to the Sal Pane post to demonstrate that you read it.