Tag Archives: Susan Shapiro

Writing Wednesday: The Shrinks Are Away

10 Aug

If you ever get a chance to take a writing class with Susan Shapiro, do it.  I took a Saturday personal-essay workshop with her last semester, and even though it only met twice I got so much out of it.  Unlike most of my classes, which have focused on the Art and Craft of writing, Shapiro understands that as much as we enjoy writing for writing’s sake, we also want to get published.  She gives helpful tips on how to do so, and even provides editorial contacts for newspapers, magazines, and print publications.  Talk about generous!

The Lighting Up author also puts together a reading series every August called The Shrinks Are Away.  When Susan Shapiro mentioned it to me in an email, I knew it would be too good to miss.

The lineup was impressive: Molly Jong-Fast (The Social Climber’s Handbook), David Goodwillie (American Subversive), Lindsay Harrison (Missing), and poet Harvey Shapiro (The Sights Along the Harbor). This is what serious literature looks like.  It reinvigorated my hope for the current state of literature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the writers had given a speedy reading, there were a few minutes left for Q&A.  I always love hearing writers talk about their process because their honesty is so encouraging.  I feel like in other industries there’s this unspoken rule of putting on a façade of perfectionism, but writers openly talk about their failed manuscripts, their false starts, their grappling with the industry.  The writers in The Shrinks Are Away reading opened up on how their books came to be.  Harrison revealed that she wrote about her mother’s passing not long after it happened, and that writing was part of the cathartic process.  Goodwillie talked about being part of a generation that doesn’t find its career callings until late 20s or early 30s, and that it was only after trying on a number of jobs—and getting fired from them—that he took writing seriously, renting a maid’s room at the Chelsea Hotel to spend a year working on his manuscript.  Harvey Shapiro, who worked for years and years at the New York Times, confessed that he’s seen that it’s not always the most talented writers who succeed—rather, it’s the ones with the most persistence.

The Shrinks Are Away event took place at McNally Jackson Books, a wonderful bookstore in Soho (52 Prince Street), where the literature section is broken up by country.  For upcoming events at McNally Jackson, click here.  To sign up for a class with Susan Shapiro, click here.

Advertisements

30 Rock, Franzenfreude, and VIDA: Women Writers

1 Mar

Last week’s 30 Rock was an episode titled “TGS Hates Women,” a commentary on late summer’s “Franzenfreude” and the recent findings by VIDA that women writers don’t get as much attention as male writers.

When I look around the publishing house I work in and the classroom at the MFA program I attend, I see women.  Lots of them.  That’s not to say there aren’t any guys.  There are.  I see them in their windowed offices, I attend the lectures they organize, and I read the newsletters they write.  That isn’t to say there aren’t women in high-level, high-visibility roles.  There are.  But the percentage of men versus women in these upper-management roles is significantly skewed.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I read VIDA’s “The Count 2010.”

The short take is that men far outnumber women in getting published in lit mags and having their books reviewed.  I definitely agree with the commenters that the statistics are inconclusive without the facts of how many women versus men submit manuscripts. My editor friend Elizabeth sent me this follow up to the article, in which the editors responded to the criticism that their publications don’t publish an equal ratio of women to men.

Part of the problem is that women do not submit to well-known, “gender-neutral” publications at the same rate as men.  A few months ago, I went with my writer friend Jane to hear Lorrie Moore (Birds of America) talk with fiction editor Deborah Treisman at the wonderfully designed (hello, tilting fish-tank!) (le) Poisson Rouge for The New Yorker Festival. One of the comments that stuck out the most for me (Elissa Bassist, with whom I took class taught by Susan Shapiro, offers further notes on The Rumpus) was that men more often than women submit stories to The New Yorker, which is why men, more often than women, get published in The New Yorker.

I am a feminist, not a whiner.  I don’t believe in railing against the injustices of this or that without actually doing something positive to enact change.  Dialogue itself is useful but dialogue without action is meaningless.  It reminds me of the whole Christian debate of faith versus works, which is solved quite eloquently by the phrase “faith without works is dead.”  In other words, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about how more women should be published but unless more women are submitting quality work and unless more women are studying and working hard to become editors and unless we get over the silly notion that matters of politics are for men and the world at large and matters of domestic life are for women exclusively then all our philosophizing is for naught.  (Yes, I just said “for naught.”)

Women, if you want to be taken seriously as writers and if you want to get published then study writing, write, revise, and submit to publications!  Aim high.  If you get a rejection, try to find out why.  Then find another publication that you believe is a good fit for your writing style (remember there’s a huge difference between Cosmo and The Times) and submit.  Take classes, form writing groups, seek out professional freelance editors, and work on your craft, continually submitting high-quality work.  Make your writing so good they can’t say no!

Let’s not end up like Elaine Mozell in Meg Wolitzer‘s The Wife. Let’s look at the example Tina Fey set by becoming the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live.   And wouldn’t you know it, she’s a Greek!