Cathy Day’s Principles of Literary Citizenship

March 10, 2011 § 5 Comments

Author Cathy Day has a thoughtful post on what it means to be a literary citizen and how creative writing classes can promote citizenship in multiple ways over at The Bird Sisters.  We offer a few excerpts below, but the entire post, especially her “Working Principles of Literary Citizenship,” is well worth the time to visit:

My students attend MFA programs, yes, and they publish, yes, but they aren’t my only “success stories.” Some are literary agents …They subscribe to lots of literary magazines. They have founded and edit magazines, too. They’re editors. They write for newspapers and work in arts administration. They maintain blogs. They review books. They volunteer at literary festivals. They participate in community theatre. They become teachers who teach creative writing. Most importantly, they are lifelong readers.

… Lately, I’ve started thinking that maybe the reason I teach creative writing isn’t just to create writers, but also to create a populace that cares about reading. There are many ways to lead a literary life, and I try to show my students simple ways that they can practice what I call “literary citizenship.” I wish more aspiring writers would contribute to, not just expect things from, that world they want so much to be a part of.

She ends with this wonderful question and answer:

Question: What is the secret to getting published?

Answer: Learn your craft, yes. But also, work to create a world in which literature can thrive and is valued.

Read Cathy’s entire article here: The Bird Sisters: Literary Citizenship By Cathy Day.

Moving from Story to Book: Cathy Day’s Take

January 18, 2011 § 5 Comments

Writer/teacher Cathy Day has a pretty fun and funny essay on teaching and pedagogy up at The Millions this morning, including a hilarious mock syllabus, and some humorous pokes at creative writing teacher and student alike, but she also has a serious underlying point, true for those of us who teach short fiction as much as it is for those of us who teach the essay and essay-length memoir.

Here’s an excerpt, outlining her excellent reminder to those of us who teach the short form:

… I think a lot of what comes out of creative writing programs are stories that could be or want to be novels, but the academic fiction workshop is not fertile ground for those story seeds. The seeds don’t grow. They are (sometimes) actively and (more likely) passively discouraged from growing. The rhythm of school, the quarter or semester, is conducive to the writing of small things, not big things, and I don’t think we (“we” meaning the thousands of writers currently employed to teach fiction writing in this country) try hard enough to think beyond that rhythm because, for many of us, it’s the only rhythm we know. We need to teach students how to move from “story” to “book,” because the book is (for now, at least) the primary unit of intellectual production.

Day’s full essay CAN BE FOUND RIGHT HERE.

Meanwhile, how many of you who teach stick to the short, easily-workshopped form, and how many of you tackle the Herculean task of teaching the writing of a full book?

Sound off.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Cathy Day at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

%d bloggers like this: