In this first installment of three articles, draft editor Mark Polanzak sounds off about high school English curricula, literary culture, and reading events. Today, we hear him bitch about Beowulf.
A Note From The Author
I see my job as a college writing and literature teacher as largely a mission to get college students to enjoy reading and see some value in writing smartly, despite their declared major. Each semester, a handful of students tell me, “No offense, but I hate reading…” I tell them, “None taken, I didn’t invent books.”
But it’s sort of shitty to hear that young people truly hate the act of reading, because I write, and also because it hurts to hear that others laugh at your pleasures. No offense, but your interests blow. Oh, none taken. It also hurts to be so uncool. To belong, in part, to the artistic/entertainment group that the majority of the population doesn’t give a rat’s ass about.
I blame my students’ distaste for reading on several things:
1) The crazy joke of our high school English curriculum
2) A smelliness in the bourgeois literary culture
3) The sadness of reading events
All of these need serious revamping and soon, or else we’ll lose even more generations of readers and plunge the publishing world into a darker pit than it’s already falling through at terminal velocity. Continue reading →
To some writers–including me–plot can seem like the dirtiest, most despicable of four letter words. Writers of this ilk have been known to run screaming from a room when we hear the word. “Make something happen?” we call, quaking in our hiding spots. “Why would we do that? Stories come from character, not plot. Stories should be about someone, not something.”
This, I’ve learned, is a huge, smelly load of horse shit.
Plot is important. Stories need plots. Every story. Every. Single. One. Continue reading →
As the speaker at the front of the room drones through her PowerPoint presentation, you furiously take notes. Those seated near you are impressed. At the break, over coffee and stale pastries, they point you out to their friends: he must have written down every word she said. Not far from the truth, but instead of taking notes you were discovering free verse. Here’s how. Continue reading →
We’re pleased to announce that draft will be hosting a panel on November 6 from 5:00-6:15 exploring the creative process at a new event in Iowa City. The Witching Hour Fest, curated by Iowa City’s arts leaders, seeks to explore and engage the unknown through performances and discussion.
What inspires creative work? How does it first materialize and then grow and change? What does a first draft look like compared to the final one? And how does the artist get from point A to point B?
Rachel Yoder, founding editor of draft: the journal of process, leads a discussion with The TEAM’s artistic director Rachel Chavkin and other fantastic creators about the murky process of conceptualizing, crafting, revising, and editing new work. Our panelists will provide passages from first and final drafts of their work to discuss and share with audience members.
If you’re in Iowa City this November, we hope to see you there!
A student of mine had taken a class from Kate Braverman who, according to her recollection and my flawed memory, brought in a bouquet of autumn leaves, handed them out to students, and had them write about what the color evoked. Continue reading →
In the Misconceived History story in “A Public Denial” by Allan Gurganus (published in the anthology Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories) the narrator attempts to restore his deceased grandfather’s dignity by challenging rumors that his grandfather’s death was the result of his own foolhardiness.
The story opens with this line:
Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, my grandfather did not die driving a Toyota across his pond.
The story resembles a persuasive essay; the narrator uses transition words such as “despite,” “while,” “admittedly,” and “evidently” to compose his argument. What I love about the story is how Gurganus uses no emotion to tell it, just the facts, yet it still carries an emotional impact. For a story that spans only two pages, I find this remarkable. Continue reading →
I worked on my novel for six years, on and off. I completed and revised several drafts. Something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what. My whole body went into it. My fingers, shoulders, knees, eyes. It grew, seed to forest. I gave it a name. I forgot about it. I cared, I didn’t. Nothing was so serious. I avoided it. These are all the places I traveled to throughout the years I said I was writing a novel: Puerto Rico, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Jamaica, Maryland, California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Virginia, France, New York, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Zealand, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine. I wrote the most in Massachusetts. Other things I did that come to mind first, without thinking: painted walls, moved apartments, tried on wedding dresses, ate sushi, jumped rope, had dreams of lovers dying. Continue reading →