So, aside from going to class and writing your fingers to the bone in the meantime, MFA students are also encouraged (see: required on pain of death) to attend their school’s visiting writers series. Often, these visitors also sit in on classes, give talks, and participate in workshops or tutorials. So the benefit isn’t just seeing someone read, it’s also interacting with writers who are not your day-to-day professors. Making professional connections if possible.
I’ve always liked readings — we had some pretty good ones in undergrad — so attending isn’t much of a chore. Generally it’s someone whose work you’ve only recently encountered, so the reading can be a nice way to engage more with a work you might only know peripherally. They’re mostly younger writers who do the reading circuit often in addition to teaching. Working writers, in other words. The real deal.
So far the readings on campus have been pretty excellent. Sometimes you get a writer up at the podium who is truly awesome on paper, but cannot, for whatever reason, read their own work well. It makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose. Writers are often by nature introverts. Large groups of people are terrifying, even when they’re all there because they like you and your work.
The writers who have come to campus have managed to overcome these things. They speak intelligently about their own work, they read with enthusiasm. I think the performative aspect of readings is often underlooked. They’re not just turning the visual page into an auditory experience (i.e. something a professional actor could do), they’re showing us how they hear their own words. And if you don’t think there’s much of a difference, you should probably go to more readings. I mean, you should anyway. The ones here at least are free and open to the public. And who hates free entertainment?
Of course, readings and class and writing and the nebulous MFA bonding take up a lot of time . . . so I hope you’ll forgive the quietness of the blog this week!