My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

June 2024

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

« dreams and fantasies | Main | the barakas i have known »


Alex Yates

Some thoughts from a student, probably on his way to the slaughter:

I see a big difference between encouragement and being a soft critic. You are one of the most encouraging teachers, writers, and people I’ve ever known. But you’re not a soft critic. In my experience you always give work on the page the respect of your most honest judgments, the sharpest power of your critical and creative faculties. If the work is unrealized, you say so, and in the end it is always about the work. The most encouraged bulldog writer won’t get anywhere if their work does not grow.

You’re leading no one to the slaughter. I don’t think anyone stays in this game for the long haul just because someone else said it would be a good idea, and those who fall off for wont of encouragement were never destined to get there anyway. We may be walking to the slaughter, but we are going there under our own power. You’re taking a stretch of trail with us, saying: I’m with you. I believe.

It’s not false hope you’re offering. For people already committed to their destination, no hope is false hope.


Mr Yates is right on so, so many levels.

We need the rah rah teachers, those teacher who encourage but aren't soft critics either. Those instructors who give a student’s work on the page their respect and honest judgment. We need more teachers in writing programs who as you so wonderfully put it, trust their literary nature as a teacher enough to remember that a floundering student can suddenly blossom.

Lord knows I suddenly blossomed late in life. Wish I had met a teacher like you earlier when I was a younger writer.

I was one of those students teachers dismissed as not being able to make the cut and for a long, long time I believed them, wasted years of my literary life believing that I couldn't make it because they said so. But the writing dream wouldn’t die part of that persistence and determination thing, part of that psychotic unwillingness to take a no.

Writing was something I had to do, seemed like I always had novels in my head, in my soul. So I finally wrote my first novel and along the way the universe sent me mentors who have nurtured me and sternly critiqued me, those rah rah folks who knew how to nurture a gift. I have an agent now and though she hasn’t sold the book and may never sell it given the market for literary fiction written by black folks, I’ve never been happier. I love the struggle that writing is despite the pain and the frustration.

Chelsea Lemon Fetzer

My first fiction writing teacher wrote "Rejection" on the board of our first workshop until he had filled it.... at the end of the class he told us he doubted any of us would have the balls to continue writing beyond our diaries. Can tough love and a light hand exist at once? Yes, I'm sure. In any case, we have to cultivate our psychotic unwillingness to stop at a no as we cultivate our craft. I think the best professors find a way to guide us in both senses. Arthur your honesty, though I may have challenged you at times, has always grown me.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)