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MFA Theater: Ryan Boudinot vs. Chuck Wendig

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MFA Programs:  On February 27 Ryan Boudinot wrote, at The Stranger, “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.” His unforgiving viewpoint set off fireworks. Writing teacher and student Bhanu Kapil requested, in her blog, that he “apologize” for displaying “venom toward students,” and asked why he “would tear down a writer.” Chuck Wendig added “An Open Letter to That Ex-MFA Writing Teacher Dude” offering counters to Boudinot’s  points. Who won?

Boudinot Point #1:  “Writers are born with talent.”

Ryan Boudinot:  Either you have a propensity for creative expression or you don’t.

Chuck Wendig:  This is one of the worst, most toxic memes that exists when it comes to writers.

Talent helps. Chuck matched hyperbole with hyperbole. Draw.

#2:  “If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.”

Ryan Boudinot:  You have to be crazy about books as a kid to establish the neural architecture required to write one.

Chuck Wendig:  Your pubescent years are not prophecy.

Starting early only improves likelihood. Point – Chuck.

#3:  “If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.

Ryan Boudinot:  Students who ask a lot of questions about time management, blow deadlines, and whine about how complicated their lives are should just give up and do something else.

Chuck Wendig:  This is one of those points he makes that almost sounds right-on…except, he’s talking to students. Students, who routinely do not have enough time.

None of us have enough time. But we make time, we don’t complain. Point – Ryan.

#4:  “If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.”

Ryan Boudinot:  Without exception, my best students were the ones who read the hardest books I could assign and asked for more.

Chuck Wendig:  Oh, goddamnit. He doesn’t mean ‘serious’ as in, ‘committed to the act,’ he means ‘serious’ as in, “I read the hoitiest-toitest of books.”

Challenging books vs. eclectic tastes. Draw.

#5:  “No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.”

Ryan Boudinot:  Just because you were abused as a child does not make your inability to stick with the same verb tense for more than two sentences any more bearable.

Chuck Wendig:  That’s colder than a snowman’s asshole, dude.

It’s a writing class, not therapy. On the other hand, a student pays and the teacher receives a salary. If a student has poor craft, do your job and instruct. Point – Chuck.

#6:  “You don’t need my help to get published.”

Ryan Boudinot:  Nobody knows what the hell is happening.

Chuck Wendig:  You could self-publish and you could do well.

You don’t tell someone to play the lottery and point to the fact that a few people beat the odds. Point – Ryan.

#7:  “It’s not important that people think you’re smart.

Ryan Boudinot:  Focus on giving someone a wonderful reading experience.

Chuck Wendig:  Finally! Something I agree with.

The wise (or smart) writer knows this. Draw.

#8:  “It’s important to woodshed.

Ryan Boudinot:  I spent seven years writing work that no one has ever read

Chuck Wendig:  Once more, a moment of almost truth. Writing is a solitary act.


The StrangerAn Interview with Ryan Boudinot on His Piece That Blew Up the Internet
Electric Literature – Vocational Gratitude and the MFA:  A Rebuttal of Sorts to Ryan Boudinot
Laura Valeri – Those Who Teach, Can:  A Formal Reply to Ryan Boudinot
The MFA Years – An Open Letter to the Writers who Read Boudinot’s Article
Before It’s News – Ryan Boudinot and the Perils of the MFAsThe Stranger – I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry (J. C. Sevcik)
Salon – Laura Miller
Flavorwire – What the Internet’s MFA Wars Are Really About
Seattle Times – War of words sidelines Seattle’s ‘City of Literature’ bid


Written by Caleb Powell

March 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

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