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Archive for February, 2016

A Creative Writing Professor Who Unashamedly Puts a Price on Her Art…

17 Feb

Years ago when I was a creative writing student earning my MFA at CSU, Long Beach, what I wanted above all else was to see my work get published.  I remember the man who would later become my mentor coming to class and showing us a copy of something he’d recently published “as proof he was the real thing.”  He wanted us to see that we were about to be taught by a publishing writer, active in his field.  He wanted us to listen to what he had to offer and, above all, he wanted to ensure us that we could trust his word. 

And I did.  I took note of everything he wrote in the margins of my stories.  More than just his wise advice rubbed off on me.  As a creative writing professor, I’ve taken on his habit of writing in erasable pencil throughout the drafts my students submit to workshop.  A while after graduation when I received the news that my first essay would be published in The Los Angeles Times Magazine he was one of the first people I called.  Later he came up with a well-crafted quote for my first book, a memoir, and shortly after it was published, he invited me out to campus to read.  He and my other former creative writing instructors made sure it was to a packed house.  For all of that I am very grateful.

So it is with this past experience in mind, where I made the successful transition from student writer to professional writer, that I now find myself absolutely baffled by talk among some academics that creative writing students should not strive to publish their work.  Apparently sharing one’s vision with the world somehow demeans it?  Strobe lights, music blaring in the background during a reading, political paraphernalia and other forms of media distractions are okay, just so long as “the art” doesn’t last in the form of a book that God forbid actually reaches more than a handful of readers.

Really?

In the end, a published book becomes a collaborative effort.  A publisher does his or her best to come up with an artful, startling and/or beautiful cover.  An editor and a copy editor make certain that the words and sentences are aligned and make sense on the page.  And, yes, a price tag is placed on the back cover.

But that is what is called a book.  A manuscript is an unpublished book whose only service is to sit in a desk drawer.  A book is something that reaches the masses.  So when you’re walking your dog one sunny afternoon, a man in his sixties suddenly comes out of his front door and says, “Hey, Ms. Priamos, I saw you in the paper and I ordered your book.  I can’t wait to read it!”  Or a young woman whom you’ve never met shows up to your reading at a bookstore with tears in her eyes and says, “Your story is my story.”

If that is commodifying one’s art, I am proud to do it over and over and over again…

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