School of Hard Knocks
There is a lot of talk about the MFA, pro and con, and a corresponding vilification or romanticization of the autodidact who goes it alone and succeeds. As a writer, I’m glad I’m better because I got one. As a reader, I say: Who cares whether the writer did or didn’t get one? All that matters is whether or not what’s on the page knocks me out.
My buddy Frank Bill went it alone, and he’s doing pretty well these days. Soon FSG will publish his short story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana and his novel Donnybrook. They’re gritty stories that might put you in mind of Larry Brown or Donald Ray Pollock or Bonnie Jo Campbell. Today he posted a brief synopsis of the hard road from there to here. It is full of long hours reading and writing and stuff like this:
I gave up my studies in Chinese martial arts to write. I lost two grandparents. My dog died. My wife lost both of her grandparents within six months. My mother was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. She went through a second divorce. I went from 14 years on night shift to day work. The economy went to shit.
Reading it, I thought: Here is a guy who works harder than any seven human beings. That’s no guarantee that you’ll ever find readers, but that plus some talent plus having something to say plus the ability to be like a small child who will never take no for an answer plus some good luck might do the trick. Now the good luck is the reader’s. I can’t wait for his books to come into print, so I can buy copies for everyone I know. Here’s a link to his blog post.