Friday, June 22, 2012

Great Writers

Sylvia Beach Hotel
After a three year adventure in an MFA program, I finally finished and graduated with a degree that says I'm qualified to write.  Probably, more accurately, qualified to teach.  I think the majority of MFA graduates end up teaching or maybe working at a publishing house in all sorts of positions, I don't know.  I'm not sure how many actually go to write.

I'm sitting now, at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Oregon.  I came here 23 years ago with my then boyfriend who proposed to me in the library of this "writers" bed and breakfast.  Each room is themed - the Hemingway room, the Agatha Christie, the Amy Tan, and so on.  I was so enchanted with the hotel back then - I wasn't yet a published author, I was barely a writer.  Now, here I am again, with my husband (yes, the guy that proposed to me in the library) celebrating our 22nd anniversary and my MFA, and I'm wondering what does it take to be a great writer.

It doesn't take an MFA - though it gives writers opportunities to experiment and learn what to do and not do.  It doesn't take vacations to writer's hotels, though it's definitely inspiring and relaxing and provides lots of time to think.  I sometimes wonder if being dead is the magic that transform an okay writer to a great writer.  Or just stupid luck.  Really, I don't know.

The university world doesn't believe any commercial writer is great or even good.  All the authors on the best seller lists are lousy and their millions of readers are a bunch of people with poor taste according to them.  And all those lovers of commercial fiction and their editors and publishing houses don't seem to think much of the great literary writers coming from the university MFA programs, because those books are rarely published and when they are, they barely sell.

Hemingway Room
So, after all this time, I really don't know much, I guess or I've realized that greatness is really someone's opinion.  I think I'm less concerned with being a great writer and more interested in simply telling stories that matter to me.  That's what I've been doing and probably what I'll continue to do.  Maybe my greatest novel will begin tonight on this rainy evening on the Oregon coast as I sit surrounded by Hemingway's books.


  1. So jealous! I LOVE the Sylvia Beach Hotel. We've stopped by three times but each time they were full. Must learn to reserve first before getting our hopes up. Congrats on the degree!

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  2. Wow, they were full each time? Since I'm coming for CA, I have to make reservations. It's an inspiring place for writers though so worth calling ahead and staying a few days.