Keywords in Creative Writing

Keywords in Creative Writing

Keywords in Creative Writing

Keywords in Creative Writing

Excerpt

The idea for this book occurred to me years ago. One afternoon I was daydreaming. I imagined a nineteen-year-old undergraduate thinking of majoring in English, with an emphasis in creative writing. Throughout her high school years, she has written poetry and short stories, and her friends and family have encouraged her dream of becoming a writer. Yet she’s also been told, over and over, that very few people ever make it as writers. If only there were a concise, comprehensive guide to creative writing, she could begin to make an informed decision about her future plans.

Should that student decide to continue on in creative writing, she would face another decision in a few years: what to do after she graduates. Should she try to freelance, or should she go straight into the working world and write on the side? What about graduate programs? What’s the difference between an MFA and a PhD with a creative dissertation? (And just what is a “creative dissertation”?) Supposing she completed one or even both of these degrees, what would be her chances of finding a job teaching creative writing? Where does she turn?

Then I envisioned that person thirty years older, looking at creative writing from the perspective of a middle-aged adult. Say she’s been working and attained success in another field, yet she’s always retained her dream of being a writer. Finally, circumstances will allow her to have a few years to herself. As a businessperson, she’s used to investigating an opportunity before she makes a definite commitment to it. What are the potential rewards and drawbacks? Who controls the decision-making process and what are the details of that process? What will it take to make it?

And if a student like the one I was picturing would naturally have more questions than her instructors, that doesn’t mean that faculty members don’t have questions themselves. For the English department chair who specializes in medieval literature in a large midwestern university, creative writing might well be an entirely different discipline for all he knows about it, yet his position as chair would require him to regularly assess the work of the creative writing faculty and, ultimately, to make a recommendation for or against tenure. A handbook of some sort would be indispensable to him, just as it would be useful for the non-English faculty and administrators involved in a tenure decision.

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