Monday, December 31, 2007

Letters to a Fiction Writer edited by Frederick Busch

Because of my teaching responsibilities, I try to stay up on all the various creative writing texts that are out and about in the world. With actual textbooks this isn't so hard, but in the exploded market of books on writing for the general public, it's quite difficult to get to them all (and lots I just judge by their covers--I know, I know). Anyway, this collection of letters in which established writers advise newer writers came out a few years ago, but I'm just getting to it.

And while none of these letters say much that hasn't been said in other places, the book works just fine for a writer who isn't in an MFA program, doesn't know any writers to get letters of their own from, and who feels generally clueless about the profession. This kind of book can also be useful if you've been out of your MFA program for awhile or away from writing groups etc and are looking for a way to feel more like a writer again. The act of reading about writing certainly does make you think about writing which makes you more likely to actually write. Unless, of course, you replace writing with merely thinking about which case, put the book down. The most interesting element for me was when a couple of letters would work as a sequence, a teacher writes to her student, who years later is a teacher and writes to her student, and so on. That is both a risk and a reward of teaching. There is a wonderful sense of connection to passing on information that was passed on to you. The risk, though, is if you mindlessly parrot what you've been told without considering if it is good or true or suited to the student in front of you.

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