Posted by: oneyearbook | August 23, 2009

Aluminating

So, there were a number of illuminating things in the university alumni magazine that arrived at my door the other day. (Yes. I am aware that ‘aluminating’ is the worst portmanteau/pun-type word in the history of the world. Don’t judge me.) You can find out just which university, as well as browse a complete pdf of the magazine in question, at the link above. For those not curious enough to click, it was a very large (by Canadian standards) west coast university.

First, the mag lists the recently-published books by alumni. A quick scan shows that among the authors we have four MFAs (three of them grads of ’04), three BAs, two MAs, and an MSW, which I think, but am not entirely certain, is a Master of Social Work? Demonstrated by this section: yes, the MFA is a path to publication. None of the books were novels (there were two poetry books, a memoir/travelogue, and a memoir/family history-type work), but still. Notably, no BFAs. (That’s the degree I have.)

The mag also included a nice interview with Steven Galloway, whose latest work, The Cellist of Sarajevo, was a critical and commercial success. (Article says: in seventh h ardback printing, published in 22 countries, on just about every major literary award long list.) Now, Galloway not only has his MFA from UBC, he is currently teaching in their creative writing program, so the article was interesting from that point of view, too.

The interviewer asked him about today’s generation of writers, as seen in his position as the Arnold and Nancy Cliff Writer in Residence at UBC (he appears, the article notes, to be on track for a faculty position, which I think would be a really good idea for UBC), and he says: “It makes me sad to hear writers ask how long they think they will write until they are done with a book. If you’re writing to be done, why are you writing?” He notes that some writers are open to his teaching method – no line-editing, rather reading with a critic’s eye and trying to open them up to seeing what’s happening in their writing – and some are not.

Super-interesting: in the eight years in which he’s produced three published novels (Finnie Walsh (hockey, male bonding), Ascension (tightrope walking) and Cellist), he’s also written and then abandoned three novels, one of which inspires this comment: “[it] has been totally destroyed because it was so awful.” Also, he applied for the MFA at UBC, was waitlisted, and ended up writing the first draft of his first novel in the summer while he waited to found out if he was going to get in. His description of writing that draft: “I barfed it out.” Nice.

Anyway, you can check out the whole thing at the link above. I had the opportunity to take a class with Galloway when I was in my BFA and failed to sign up for it. Whoops! I think I would have liked his teaching style.

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