Michael Totten

Workshop Drama

Fantasy writer Gene Wolfe taught a writer’s workshop and some of his students complained that he was mean. (This means he didn’t pat them on the head and treat them like grade-schoolers, but actually tried to teach them something about writing.)
So Gene up and left the workshop, and Harlan Ellison is furious.

[T]his brouhaha with Gene is unconscionable. Jeanne should not have let him leave, should not have let the little gargoyles take command of the asylum. That Gene opted to do so, to spare Jeanne any embarrassment or hard choices, is further testament to his chivalry and decency. I would have dragged the little fuckers out of their mosquito-infested nests at midnight and browbeaten them into a gelatinous gestalt that understood a GOOD workshop is not one that lets you indulge your delicate amateur umbrages, but one that slaps you around, treats you like an adult, honors what potential you have, gives you your money’s worth, does not play to your country-hick paranoias and uneducated ruminations/mythology about what it takes to be a professional, gives you a sense of what true (and truly talented) professionals think of your self-aggrandizing amateur efforts.
This is infamous. I’m calling Gene posthaste. Spread the word; get the straight stuff out there, on website, on Odyssey site, to the newszines.

Consider it done, Harlan.
I’ve been to lots of workshops, in and out of college. Most university workshops are worse than useless, and I learned just about everything I know about writing from teachers who crucified me when I deserved it, which, when I was first starting out, was every time I wrote anything.
The walls needed to be hosed off when they were through with me. And I love them for it.
Now that I have a Comments section on my blog it will probably start happening again…