19 September, 2009

A writer's life/The care of academe

Fiona Gruber says, in her interview with John Banville in today's Australian: 'It's a writer's life to spend nine-tenths of the time in closeted seclusion wrestling with placing good words in the best order, and one-tenth cramming in interviews and doing the rounds of writers' festivals.'

As far as I can calculate, it's a writer's life to spend 9.5/10 of the time cramming in the activities that allow one to spend .5/10 of the time cramming in a bit of writing.

Catherine Ford, in the most recent ALR, asks the following astonishing questions:
Tom Cho's Look Who's Morphing was written, as were all the [4] books discussed here, as part of postgraduate study, which prompts questions about why so many people choose to write fiction now in the care of academe. Perhaps it's to validate the embarrassingly non-vocational aspect of writing, bestow some respect on the caper, or maybe it's to enlist a professional interest, a curiosity, in the process when none would be forthcoming?

Or is it that academics have been lumped with giving nascent manuscripts the painstaking attention they need when editors, once responsible for the task, are more commonly out lobbying on behalf of their business interests and the country's literary livelihood, or pumping hands at book fairs?
What a slur on editors, for a start, although that's not my main point. (In my experience (as both editor and author) editors (both inhouse and freelance) consistently work under conditions that make it almost impossible to do a good job and put food on the table.)

The reason so many books are written in the care of academe? Academe will pay you to write your book. I'd be very surprised if any of these postgrad books were written without a scholarship from the institution concerned. A good advance, plus scholarship money, will just about pay you enough to spend a year on your book, if you're careful/lucky.

Why, yes, I am staring down the barrel of several months of dayjob. Does it show?

5 Comments:

Blogger Susanne Nobles said...

I have been reading your blog for a few months now, ever since I was introduced to your stories via other teachers who have enjoyed teaching them here in America. The topic of this blog is particularly timely and interesting to me because my students are reading your story "Singing My Sister Down" this weekend, and they will visit your blog in the next few days to "meet" you through your posts. Your perspective on what it is like to be a writer will be intriguing for them to read -- you are clearly a "real person" like they are. I actually have written about you here: http://snobles.blogspot.com/2009/09/real-life-authors.html in case you want to know more about what my students are doing with your work. Thanks for producing writing that is so engaging and intriguing.

20 September, 2009 03:58  
Anonymous Stephen Dedman said...

I wrote two of my last four novels as part of my postgrad study: one for my MA (no scholarship, but with a HECS waiver), and one for my PhD (on a scholarship, during which time I also wrote two other novels - one of them a tie-in which paid a decent advance).

Unfortunately, neither of the novels I wrote as requirements for my dissertation have sold - and as a creative writing tutor at the university, I'm starting to wonder if there's a worrying gap between academe's and publishers' views of what constitutes good writing.

20 September, 2009 14:08  
Blogger Anna said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog! Especially the one about opal. Its leaves quite thought in your mind! We read your short story Singing my Sister Down in our english class. I really liked it. I loved your use of characterization in it. Well sorry you have to deal with all these new comments now. :) Love your blog!

22 September, 2009 11:33  
Blogger Isabel said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading your short story "Singing my Sister Down" It was an incredibly potent story I thought and I loved reading it. Great job!

23 September, 2009 03:40  
Anonymous Erin said...

Hi Lanagon,
I also read your story "Singing my Sister Down." I absouletly loved it. In my opinion it was sort of like a scavenger hunt. You gave little clues through out the story, and we had to put the clues together and try and figure out the story. I love your stories.

23 September, 2009 11:08  

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