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Showing posts from April, 2015

In Defiance of The Iowa Writers Workshop and Samantha Chang, and Why You Should Ignore Them Both

by Michael Neff DISCLAIMER: the aim of this article is not to defame, it is to challenge the Iowa notion that an imaginary genetic pre-disposition is necessary before a writer can ever be defined as a really good writer, and secondly, to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that a writer does not have to attend the Iowa Writers Workshop in order to learn to write really well.

"I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit."                                                                                           - John Steinbeck
"I feel that if I just brought them [her students] into the room and fed them chicken soup they would get better any way."                                                                                           - Samantha Chang
“I felt the years go by without accomplishment.…

Pushy Writers and Thin Skin Test

The test is designed to ferret out lurking narcissists, drama queens, and various immature writers who might best be served by not attending workshops or retreats any time soon. Feel free to use this test on any candidates for your own writer events 

- Michael Neff  WE Chief Editor

Has any writer ever prefaced their critique of your work by first saying to you, "Don't hate me, please?" Do you sense that writers who unfavorably critique your work are "loading the gun" and taking aim? Do you rush to defend your work when a reader gives you criticism rather than absorb and weigh it carefully? Do you feel a need to say unkind things about a writer's work if you perceive she or he was unkind to you first? Have you ever chastised any writer for what you consider to be improper or incorrect critique of your work? Have you ever been in writer workshops and reacted to criticism of your writing or story by demanding the other writer defend their decision in such deta…

"Top Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice" (and more)


If you ever run or attend writer events, you will never cease to hear utterances of bad writing advice, the popular kind that circulates like a ruinous viral meme through the nervous systems of America's aborning fiction and novel writers. And each time you are exposed, you either chuckle or swear, depending on your mood and the circumstance. You might make a daring attempt to kill the meme in its tracks before it can infect someone else, or you might just stare at the writer with a dumbfounded look on your face and ask him, or her, "Where the hell did you hear that?"

Yes, the first question often asked: WHERE THE HELL DID YOU HEAR THAT?

Inevitably, many will point to their writer's group. Ahhhh, of course, you think. Why just recently in an Algonkian event, one of my faculty (a former senior editor at Random House) and I were faced with an individual who adamantly asserted to us both (and at the…