I’ve recently had the following interchange with a writer about the Overland Master Class for Progressive Writers. I sent the writer an invitation to apply, and she responded:
Hmm..not sure that I’m ready for something like this…
Also not sure that I (should) write for a purpose…I have been thinking that it undermines the story and the characters to use them as mouthpieces for ‘change’ or ‘morality’ or whatever other goal may seem ‘worthwhile’. At the moment I write stories to write stories. I think I would write essays otherwise. Not fully sure about this but it does resonate at the moment.
To which I responded:
I think you misunderstand the idea. The idea is to write stories – not to write polemics (otherwise, as you say, just write essays). The idea isn’t to be didactic. It’s really just for writers to come together who have a social conscience, learn more about story writing, and investigate in what ways those stories might be socially conscious – or not as the case may be. For some it may just be subject matter: picking different sorts of characters, for some it may be reversals of traditional stories that are sexist, for some it may be something else entirely. And really it’s also just a networking opportunity in the sense that writing is a solitary profession and wouldn’t it be great to have a group of left-wing writers who support each other etc … Up to you of course.
My correspondent replied with:
Questions that come to mind:
* is there a difference b/w a ‘left-wing writer’ and a person with left-wing ideas (whatever they are!) who also happens to be a writer?
* “to investigate ways to make stories socially conscious (or not)”- doesn’t this already have the seed of didacticism in it?
* yes, writing is solitary and networking is great but would the group of ‘left wing’ writers end up (at least some of the time) judging each others’ work as to their respective ‘left-wingedness’?
* who is being excluded from this (I don’t mean literally but if you are wanting a ‘left wing writers networking and support group’, then who is in and who is out)?
I am not saying this is not a worthwhile thing for you and others to do. I am just voicing my reservations.
Hope it’s great.
It might be worthwhile to add a few comments now.
In general, Overland is committed to developing progressive culture, whether that be poetry, essays, or fiction. In each of these areas, we think that, like the progressive movement as a whole, we’re in a bit of a difficult time. Still, we would like to develop and strengthen all of these, and there seems to be few places where progressive fiction writers can discuss their work with people of the same outlook. (I’ve been in writers’ groups where writers participating simply haven’t understood why their work might be considered sexist, racist, etc).
The three writers (Kate, Tony and Lucy) taking the afternoon sessions will have free play with the students. So the content of the afternoon sessions will be entirely up to them.
Most likely, we’ll be very open in terms of who we accept. We certainly won’t be looking for “didactic” stories. But will assess the applications on the stories and the bios of the people applying.
Is it a worthwhile experiment?