A few weeks ago, I finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this beautifully composed documentary about Jiro Ono, who I can only describe as a sushi grand master, who’s spend many decades perfecting the art of crafting, creating sushi, these works of art that are so clean and simple, so elegant. He dreams sushi; it is his life’s work. The work ethic, the discipline he demands from his sons and apprentices is rigorous and uncompromising. The work is quantifiable. The expected outcomes are concrete. There is no such thing as good enough.
I’ve been engaged in recent conversations with another woman of color who also teaches in an MFA program, and it’s got me thinking again on how to work with a diverse student body. I’ve always been really positive, thinking that our presence as WOC faculty would ease any kind of anxiety that WOC, that POC may have upon entering their MFA programs. I still believe this — yes, our presence, our visibility as faculty does indeed mean something.
What exactly though, is it to mean?
I just found out that my Art of Hustle interview from last year is going to be aired on APEX Express this evening. It’s a pleasant surprise, but I have a question. Is “To MFA or not to MFA,” still a contentious issue, and if so, among whom is it an issue? And what is the issue? In the recent past, folks used to argue passionately in e-space about it, entering the “machine” and the “academy,” as bad, counterintuitive for art. I know I used to think this too, before I ever started grad school, and in my first year of my program.
I let up, because the whole process, I saw, was different for everyone I knew in a writing program. Some folks I saw and knew were so widely opened, with voracious appetites for learning, for workshop, for experimentation. Others seemed really fragile, damaged, so easily bruised, so closed. As for so much naysaying from folks of color, many of whom had never set foot in an MFA program, the “whiting” program turned out not to be a “whiting” program after all. This is an old blog post on the matter, “MFA Industrial Complex, from the Point of View of the Colored Girl in the Room.”
I’ve been thinking about Camille Dungy’s wonderful posts at the Poetry Foundation blog. Yes, my credo of practicing generosity, having dialogue, being open and answering questions that young writers, emerging writers have about the process of writing, the process of finding publication, figuring out where to find publication. Who do we envision as our readers, audience, and community? What is important for us as writers, in terms of connecting with some kind of community? There are no stupid questions, just the constant work of writing, reading, growing, and sharing.
Blake Butler has got an amazing post, “22 Things I Learned from Submitting Writing,” over at HTML Giant. I highly recommend everyone read it! Again, the reminder to put this submissions thing into perspective. I’ve been repeating here, broken record stylee, that I recommend focusing on more important things than allowing ourselves to get swallowed up in the seamy po-biz stuff. What are the more important things? Well, writing, for one. Writing, and growing stronger as a writer, through much practice, through much success and failure, which isn’t even really failure, and as a continually growing artist, always writing, always reading, always learning, being prolific, always in movement, and rather than creating work which merely satisfies the industry’s current trends and demands, aspiring to create great work that will grow beyond us.
Here’s something of note:
If you really want to publish a book one day you will publish a book. The time that you spend getting there is kind of wonderful. Don’t cut it short. The emotional range is valuable.
PAWA WORKSHOP with Barbara Jane Reyes: How to Submit Your Work for Publication
Bayanihan Center, Mission Street @ 6th, San Francisco.
Saturday, July 30th, starting promptly @ 10 am
Registration: Sliding Scale ($25-35 for students with valid student ID; $35-50 general).
Please make checks payable to:
Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.
P.O. Box 31928
San Francisco, CA 94131-0928
Include “07/30/2011 workshop” on the memo line.
Paypal option is here: http://www.pawainc.com/julyworkshop.html.
What to Bring: yourselves, your questions, your current submissions packets, your current submissions calls resources.
Who Should Attend: Aspiring and emerging writers with limited or no experience with the submissions process, or writers with some submissions experience, who would like to refine or clarify their own current processes.
Continuing on with what is now looking like a series of blog posts on submissions and publishing, I want to reiterate that I’m writing all of this to think out loud about my presentation for the PAWA 07/30/2011 workshop. I am anticipating a relatively specific community of writers, most likely emerging local writers of color who participate in local and grassroots arts orgs, and who have limited publishing experience.
As well, and again, back to author and friend Sunny Vergara’s blog post on self-promotion, as well as thinking back on so much of the writing I do here, as well as thinking about my recent conversations with Anthem Salgado including the Art of Hustle podcast interview, I believe there are cultural and even political reasons for the reticence I see in this community.
A friend of mine, a fellow writer, recently held a women writers submissions party somewhere in the Bay Area. I did not attend, but it was interesting to see the comments thread on Facebook. There really was a lot of articulated and admitted fear. I don’t know anymore what this fear is about; it’s no longer my experience. Maybe it once was. But the very reason why I am offering this workshop is because of those kinds of articulated and admitted fears.
Thank you to the folks who’ve been leaving comments here! I am sorely behind in responding to these excellent comments, so I will try to address some of your points here.
My notes and presentation for the How to Submit Your Work for Publication workshop, start with this: Why publish? Why do you want to publish? Who is your audience? Who do you envision as your audience? Who do you want to reach with your work? In other words: Why do you want your work to be read, and by whom?
Really, is this what the goal is, and/or is this what the goal should be? And if so, how to attain Google-ability?
This comes up as I have been preparing for the PAWA Submitting Your Work for Publication workshop. I have been asking other writers questions about what some issues and hang-up’s around publication are. Google-ability has come up.
I believe that’s beyond publishing, not necessarily a separate issue, but one that detracts from the core work and efforts of publishing.
That said, I do believe in maintaining a steady and professional web presence. This is why I have this website (and all these ancillary sites: FB, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. Really, look at all these places, though I can only realistically be active in one or two, and just have RSS feeds lead back here), which I should be updating more regularly than I do. I used to post here nearly daily, but that’s becoming impossible.