Ask Yourself one Question: Is This Worth the Student-debt?

I’m writing this post, hoping I don’t sound like a complete bitch.

Not too long ago, I read a self-published book written by a Creative Writing Professor from a State University.(For the sake of politeness, I WILL NOT be giving up the book title, or the author’s name.)

It was bad. Like…real bad.

It was littered with typos, bad grammar, and consistency issues. The text constantly talked down to the reader, under valuing their literacy, and intelligence, by spelling EVERYTHING out. There was even needless repetition of backstory given throughout the piece–you know, just in case you forgot. Poor dialogue, wooden characters, low motivation and reactions…etc.

But, I guess the worse sin, it completely lacked conflict. What happenings that were there that, sort of looked like something resembling conflict, it did include were all easily solved. There were no try/fail cycles…I mean, the protagonist NEVER failed. Every point of contention was entirely too easy to solve for them. Whether they always had the resources to solve their problems on hand, a friend nearby with the skills or opportunity, or acts of God appearing at just the right time, everything was just so…neat!

In general, my favorite stories are the ones that really paint the protag in a corner–high stakes with a clear try and fail cycle. I mean, the old adage is conflict is story.  This fundamental truth of storytelling isn’t something I think should be ignored, ever.

But, whatever. I’m getting side tracked. I didn’t start this post with the aim to rail on the book.

My point is that it doesn’t sit right with me that the author is some one who teaches creative writing. (The Amazon review page for the book is covered with happy, 5-star reviews by enthusiastic students.) Now, I don’t begrudge the writer any success. I’m totally cool with them doing their thing. My issue is that they teach others how to be successful in this profession. That isn’t doing your thing…that is perpetuating your thing.

I sort of liken this to an architect who’s skyscrapers all fall down under the force of a light breeze, who then goes out and teaches university students his method of building skyscrapers.

There is not a reality where it would be okay for engineering students to leave college without being fully prepared to navigate, professionally, within their industry.

But, are Creative Writing courses preparing writers to navigate publishing on a professional level? Are the students leaving university with a Creative Writing degree and understand the ins and outs of their industry?–not just how to write effectively (which the writer I’ve been discussing hasn’t proven to me they understand) but how to publish, or how to query, or the different expectations within individual genre markets–and a boat load of other junk that most of us learn as we go, but is vital to having a successful career?

wood-houses-school-oldHere’s my problem: most university level Creative Writing departments, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, put little to no emphasis on student success after graduation. It is a joke. Writing is just a subjective art, not taken seriously beyond a hobby. Why the hell would anyone get a degree in something they intend to treat as a hobby? What engineering student spends upwards of $75k on a degree to learn signal processing to just do recreation projects on the weekend in the garage? But, it is understood, it would seem by many, that one should drop into major student debt over a Creative Writing degree and then leave college with no hope of ever treating the craft as anything beyond a hobby…not even a career?

That’s the thing, it is a career. If treated like one, it is as rewarding as just about any field you might choose. Objections to this fact are based on ignorance of what real job options exist. (There are more jobs in Creative Writing than being Stephen King.)

Reading books, like the one I just did, just shine a huge light on how unprepared Creative Writing courses (some, not all) are to raise up writing professionals. It is a rip off, in my opinion. After reading that book, Creative Writing students in that (specific) program need their money back. Choose a different major. Change universities. That university isn’t equipped to prepare you for writing. You will graduate and find out there is a bunch of crap you need to self-educated in, that the people who were charged with teaching you were suppose to, but didn’t.

Angry rant over.

Okay, I was suppose to give the book in question a review. I don’t think I will, because I can’t give it a good review. I’m a bitch…I’m just not a big enough bitch to give some one a bad review, or do something purposely to show a lack of support for another writer. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never give less than a 3-star for any writer. I’m here to help others….not knock them down. (Which is the exact reason why I’ve not disclosed the writer’s name or the book title.)

I’ll marinate on whether or not to do a review. But, until then I’ll continuing raging on how broken an apparent Creative Writing program is, at a particular state university.





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