Friday, December 1

To James, Love X*: A certain famous author weighs in on MFA programs

Recently, a certain famous author gave a Q and A on his latest book at our program.

While there were rumors beforehand that the author was a bit standoffish during his lecture last year, I found him to be, for the most part, engaging and at the very least informative.

One nice bit of uplifting material I received was that even somebody like Famous Author once put a 125-page first draft away for twenty years before finally having the ability to complete the novel -- a novel that eventually won the Pulitzer Prize. Of course he published like a thousand books in between that time as well, but that's beside the point. Encouraging indeed especially considering that I've spent the last three years on a 125-page first draft I am now, effectively, chucking.

Still, Famous Author was not without his controversial moments. When asked what were his thoughts on MFA programs and their usefulness, Famous Author replied, "Well I would I hate to see [Curious Accent, a professor in the program] here lose his job." Predictably the crowd, made up entirely of MFA students and two faculty members, was aghast. To which Famous Author produced a coy smile and elaborated: "I have a lot of friends who would have to find new jobs."

All of us in the audience could be seen exchanging looks ranging from disbelief to horror to bemusement. But when the time came nearly everyone clamored for autographs, including myself.

Too bad my parents don't read. This would have made a great gift.


Anonymous said...


I like the new digs. But you know I'm partial to a black background...

Were people in your audience really so shocked when the author made that comment? I think that's the amusing part. Thems the ones that live in a bubble, maybe!

I chucked 144 pages last year. It's my badge of courage.

How's teaching? Updates!



James said...

thanks benny! i decided to upgrade to beta blogger and one change led to another...

perhaps i exaggerate about the level of their shock. but surprised, yes -- the whole adage about don't bite the hand...

teaching's OK. 2/3 of my classes are amazing. the other 1/3 i want to kill. the way it goes when you teach public school, apparently. but on a positive note, i have an interview for a TA instructorship at Columbia next week. wish me luck.

btw, how's life at 50,000 feet? (is that even close to cruising altitude?)

Anonymous said...

Hey James, I have a question about getting into the MFA program at Columbia. Did you write a short story or did you give an excerpt of your "paused" 125 page story? How many pages was it?

-A guy that's trying to get into your school

James said...

Dear guy that's trying to get into my school,

I think you're making a huge mistake. Just kidding. It's a small one. Again, kidding. I should stop being coy now. My official and earnest statement: I really enjoy it here, and think you might too. There.

Anyways, about the application, if I remember it correctly, it was a 40-page maximum and I turned in three things: an 7-page short story, a 20-page short story, and a 13-page excerpt from the novel. The page numbers may be a hair off, but you get the picture, I hope.

For other questions, feel free to contact me directly via email.