Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Fantasy Author in a College Creative Writing Course

As some of you know, I am nearing the end of what has been a very, very long journey to a college degree. In that time I have majored in three different subjects and accumulated enough credits to earn a pair of degrees (albeit if those degrees had requirements as eclectic as my own tastes).

However, despite my copious and varied experience in college and despite the fact that I have been writing fairly steadily since I was ten, I have never once taken a creative writing course - until now.

Why? Because fantasy writers do not fit in with academic creative writings courses. Because Science Fiction writers do not fit in with academic creative writing courses. And, to a certain extent academic creative courses are not designed to create professional authors. They are designed to create professional "critics and academics," as the excellent Kathleen Rush puts it. I will let her blog posts (which I just linked) do the heavy lifting on those assertions. Suffice to say that I agree with her on most points in which I have any basis for comparison.

This semester, however, I decided to take a chance on a creative writing course. On the one hand, thus far it seems pretty nice. I get to write whatever I want, as much or as little, and the prof will attempt to grade me based on the portfolio of work I have submitted by the end of the class.

On the other hand, it does not seem that the class is going to overturn any of the preconceptions I had about a college-level creative writing course. After sharing some of my first submission to the class, the professor was upfront about not 'getting' why people read Fantasy. It struck me as an odd question from a college literary professor.

People read their preferred genre for a lot of reasons, but I've always believed that the basis for every genre is the same. Characters that feel real to us, and a story that entertains us.

I should say that he was in no way condescending. I actually rather like the professor; to a large extent because of how honest he was about his lack of understanding. But there has never been a genre that I simply did not get the appeal of. It may not hold that same appeal for me, but I can at least begin grasp why others read it.

I digress. My point is not to say that I think the class is bad - in fact, I think I will enjoy it. Partially because of my little ongoing experiment to see how an author like myself is received in a class like this. (I may even try to stray outside of my own genres, to give them a rest and maybe even to grow a little as an author). However, as I suspected, I'm the black sheep of the class - at least at first glance. And I don't really expect there to be much concern with how to get work published despite the fact that we have several talented writers and at least one whom I know is concerned with publication.

It ought to be an interesting semester. I might even try submitting some things I intend to publish.

1 comment:

  1. Some professors and instructors are very narrow in their view of what is considered proper literature to read and write, others not so much. Glad you found, if not a great and supportive professor, at least one that is open to recognizing that there are other genres out there--beyond his scope of interest/experience.