In the inaugural episode of Craftwork, a new series from the Otherppl podcast, author Matt Bell teaches a lesson on how to write action in fiction.


Bell is the author most recently of the novel Appleseed (a New York Times Notable Book) and the craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, and revision.

He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Walla non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur’s Gate IIand several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Tin House, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, Orion, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

His novel In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods was a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and an Indies Choice Adult Book of the Year Honor Recipient, and was selected as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, among other honors. Both In the House and Scrapper were selected by the Library of Michigan as Michigan Notable Books.

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seattle-awp-starbucks-logoThis week in Seattle (Feb. 26 to March 1), at the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 writers will congregate in what has become the largest such literary gathering in America. There will be more than 450 panels on every aspect of professional advancement, and a bookfair hosting more than 650 exhibitors, each of whom will pay a hefty fee to be seen among fellow indie presses. A parallel conference of countless off-site events will occur simultaneously, so that anyone with any gumption will have an opportunity to read and promote themselves.

15,000, you say? Does that boggle the mind? Do the colossal numbers to which this professional guild has grown signify the health or sickness of writing?

It happened again.

I was moving along in my happy little life as a writer and teacher of Creative Nonfiction (CNF), keeping a healthy distance from the writers and teachers of Fiction (F), staying on my side while they stayed on theirs, when seepage occurred. A writer of CNF spilled over to the F side without telling anyone. Or was she a writer of F who infiltrated the CNF side surreptitiously? It’s so hard to tell these days. But I knew one thing for sure: the border had been breached.

To be fair, we abused each other. It was not–as one might use the cliche–a one-way street. The first time we had a big a fight I threw a desklamp against a wall where it shattered and the sparks sifted like fireworks falling in a heated sky till they faded and disappeared. We had just moved in together, into this one bedroom Victorian house on Ralston Street in Reno, Nevada, two houses down from the pizza joint/pub where we worked. My friend from school had left a message on our answering machine, inviting me to her birthday party. My girlfriend insisted that I had fucked this friend, that I was still fucking her. Why else would she invite me to the party, and not explicitly also invite my girlfriend? I was running around, I couldn’t keep my dick in my pants, she should have known I was that kind of guy, why does she always do this, getting herself involved with people like me? My girlfriend wouldn’t let me say anything. In frustration the lamp flew.

Soul Work

By Cila Warncke


Describing her mother, Alice Walker writes: “She is radiant, almost to the point of being invisible – except as Creator: hand and eye. She is involved in work her soul must have.” The final phrase chimes in my head. Despite the urgency (“her soul must“) it alludes to a peace concomitant with understanding that creative work is the purest form of pleasure.

I arrived at this understanding roundabout, by a process of elimination. After years of diligently, assiduously failing to profit from the wisdom of others; stubbornly running down alleys and pursuing phantoms, I now recognise the two things my soul needs: running and writing. Running, first, because it is obvious, though the less important of the two. Like good grammar, it is essential to my sense of order and well-being, but I only make a fuss in its absence. A nagging pain in my foot warns me to leave my trainers under the bed, unlaced. My brain knows better than to aggravate an injury but the rest of my body is twitchily uninformed. There is nothing wrong with me apart from a sense of abstraction and discontent. Without the discipline of running and long breaths of cold, cleansing air I am inefficient, fretful, soft in a bruised-fruit kind of way. The sky is linty and the wind whips past the shop-fronts and pebbledash terraces as if they aren’t there, yet my run-hungry body longs to be outside.

It took me a long time to notice my unequivocal parallel reaction to not writing. For a week I have been producing rather than creating. Anyone else might think a few thousand words of research here; an article there; a column; a sales pitch; a dozen cover letters; the hundredth iteration of my CV, count as writing—but my soul knows it doesn’t. Job seeking has temporarily, if necessarily, invaded my life and distracted me from work. Without creative activity my brain fidgets and stews. As with running, the longer I go not writing the more I yearn to and, paradoxically, the more difficult it becomes. After a few days off I feel both dread and pleasure at the prospect of a run. Similarly, when I don’t write the idea of writing fills my head, swells to such vast importance that the process grows alien and terrifying. My fractious mind elides twenty-odd years of devotion and discipline and whispers “you can’t,” or “you can, but it won’t be any good.” Absence opens the door and Doubt saunters in carrying a funhouse mirror where past and future crush unbearably against the present. Anxiety ripples through me like a tiny earthquake, shimmying books off shelves and setting my internal crockery a-rattle. The Fear descends: my book will remain unwritten; questions scribbled in notebook margins will remain unexplored; I will tell no stories; never again will I craft a beautiful essay or forget time as I play a private game with my twenty-six favourite toys.

My younger self mistook this Fear for ordinary dissatisfaction. I blamed jobs, boyfriends, poverty and hangovers for wretchedness and sought them as relief. If anyone told me what I needed was “work my soul must have” I wasn’t listening. Words alone gradually won me back. The thrill of recognition on reading Orwell’s Why I Write: “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.” The way Fitzgerald’s evocation of: “an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder” burns my eyes like the sun. Piecemeal, I discovered that when I write—really create—nothing else matters.

Valerie Solanas wrote that “self-forgetfulness should be one’s goal, not self-absorption.”  This is the delicious secret of creativity: what looks like self-absorption (missed appointments, ignored phone calls, banished partners, skipped meals) is an intensely satisfying act of self-forgetting. If, while writing, I have the slightest impulse to make tea, check Facebook or go to the toilet then I’m not creating, I’m producing.

According to Natalia Ginzburg: “To the extent that the writing is valid and worthy of life, every other feeling will become dormant. You cannot expect to preserve your precious happiness fresh and intact, nor your precious unhappiness; everything recedes, disappears… you possess nothing, you belong to no one.”

There is a word for possessing nothing and belonging to no one: freedom. When Walker eulogises her mother’s creativity she isn’t praising an act of production, however aesthetically pleasing. She is paying homage to the radical wisdom that doing the work our souls must have is a way to claim ourselves and free us from what we are not.


It was 4:30 p.m. by the time we got on the road. Me, Melinda, and Jane.  The sky over the southern San Joaquin Valley was heavy with rain clouds. I drove. The road was slick.  The San Emigdio Mountains were topped with snow.  “You sure are quiet,” I said to Jane. Normally she was ruling the conversation. She called it a “Janeopoly.” I figured she was plotting out her novel, Puro Amor.  Not long ago she told me she could write entire paragraphs in her head and remember them for transcribing later.

An hour or so later we zoomed down the Hollywood Freeway, took the Highland Avenue exit and headed west onto Hollywood Boulevard, on our way to Book Soup. We were nearly late for the reading.

The bookstore was small, cramped, packed floor-to-ceiling with shelves. The reading area was an aisle essentially, a few folding chairs leading to a podium.  Bunched in the crowd were some writers from TNB, several of whom I’d never met. Kimberly M. Wetherell, filmmaker and writer, wore black glasses, her red hair a fire of loveliness. She mentioned that I was no longer two dimensional—no longer just words on a screen. I said something about being a figment of her imagination.

Duke Haney, author of Banned For Life and Subversia, stood in a corner wearing a black newsboy cap and a leather jacket. He was talking to Rachel Pollon, another TNBer.  She stood about half his size and got shy when I asked her to talk on camera.  “Meet Hank,” Duke said, pointing to another tall guy.  Hank stepped forward and handed me a photo of a face with the word “awesome” on it.

Lenore Zion had long, curly hair—different than when I last saw her.  She looked younger.  She asked what I had been up to. I mumbled something about 2010 being a year to write off and later bought her book, My Dead Pets Are Interesting.

Greg Boose came up and offered me a friendly hello.  He was taller than I expected, and handsome. His wife, Claire Bidwell Smith, was taller than expected, too. Both have striking eyes the color of the sea.  Greg asked me how long I was staying in town. I wanted to say a week. I wanted to say I had a suitcase and was looking for a nice padded bus bench.  “Probably headed back tonight,” I told him.  “Though maybe I’ll just stay and find my way back in the morning.”

Joe Daly, TNB’s music editor, came over and introduced himself.  His hair was shaggy, he was unshaven, he looked like rock and roll.  For some reason I had expected his hair to be short.

I met Ben Loory, too.  He has a gentle soul and a contemplative smile. Later, when he read a story of his called “The Well” and said he might cry, I almost started crying myself.

I didn’t get to meet Victoria Patterson. She read an essay about farts in literature, and her hands were shaking as she read.  It was hilarious.  Everyone laughed and held their gas.

Then there was the master of ceremonies, Greg Olear, author of the new novel Fathermucker.  A dark sweater covered his “Brave New World” T-shirt.  He gave me a guy hug and we made small talk.  I met his wife, Stephanie, too—not a writer, but a ferocious singer.  Steph was all hugs. She talked to a college friend from Syracuse, and they laughed about old times.






After the event, many of us headed over to Mirabelle, a nearby bar and restaurant. Brad Listi carried a sack of books and asked what I was up to and where I’d been. I didn’t want to dish out my sob story right then, so I just talked opportunities, my new book of poetry, the interest of an agent in my novel Anhinga, and so on.

Inside the bar, Jane came suddenly to life. She talked and talked and I grew quiet as she and a new friend walked to where Ben, Duke and the others were hanging out. Greg was at the bar drinking a beer. He ordered me some water.  I listened to Stephanie and her friend talking about their college days. I was content.

Melinda was quiet. She used to write (Lenore recognized her from her defunct blog), and she does have a voice. But now, for the most part, she just comes to my Random Writers Workshop, where I prod people like her to write novels and dream big. Jesse from the workshop was there, too. He downed a few drinks and talked shop with Ben Loory.

We were there for about an hour before heading home.  Jane fell asleep in the back of the car and began snoring. Rain poured over Interstate 5, turning into slush as we hit the Tejon Pass, the hump over the San Andreas Fault that marks the downward slide into the Central Valley.

“You okay?” Melinda asked. She could tell I couldn’t see the lines on the road.

“I’m fine,” I told her. “Just gotta see the lanes. I don’t mind driving in storms.”  I was smiling a little, eyes  straight ahead. I felt strangely at ease, like I was passing through a kind of personal storm, releasing it, washing it away on the rain-slicked desert road.

As we rolled back into Bakersfield, Jane woke up. By now it was one o’clock, and still raining.  I pulled into Melinda’s driveway.  We got out.  Jane said a quick goodbye, ran to her car, and drove away.  A pile of leaves in the neighbor’s gutter had caused a flood in front of Melinda’s house. I grabbed a hoe from the garage and started moving the pile. Melinda watched me briefly, then went inside, to bed.  I stayed outside and pushed and pulled and hacked at the pile of leaves and branches until a stream was created.  I stood alone in the rain and watched the water flow down the street.  Rain came down against the lawns and streets of Bakersfield in the night.  It was quiet otherwise, no signs of life, and I stood alone in the rain, content to know that the flood was gone.


It was kind of a poem, TNB’s Rich Ferguson cursing about ten times in a row, rattling off “Fucks!” in spoken-word, submachine-gun fashion while at CSU Bakersfield. He knew he wasn’t going to get to cuss at the family-friendly Russo’s Books. So he had to let go.

None of us get to cuss much at Russo’s. And that’s OK. I get it. Bakersfield is a conservative city 110-miles north of Hollywood. The local Barnes & Noble and the now-dead Borders Books are the same way. Rich still wowed a crowd of CSU Bakersfield poets and guests, mashing together a few of his ditties into a twenty-minute performance as his body swayed beneath shadows cast by his dirty straw hat.

The week before, poet Michael Medrano of Fresno wowed the same class while at Russo’s with selections from his 2009 book “Born in the Cavity of Sunsets” (Arizona State University’s Bilingual Press). Michael rode into town on the Amtrak. It’s a nice ride from Fresno. I’ve taken the route. It swings through Central Valley farmland and cuts through little towns like Hanford and Wasco, places where gangs are out of control and mom-and-pop restaurants are still as tasty as ever.

When he stepped off the train he pulled along a black bag filled with his books, notes, an unpublished manuscript for “When You Left to Burn at Sea,” and some pages from a young adult fiction novel.

I pointed at him and we hugged like brothers.

After a Thai food lunch we grabbed some coffee in the sweltering heat and headed to class at the CSUB OLLI Program poetry course I was teaching. He took the reigns and taught about community. In fact, all weekend we spoke about working together, how poetry scenes in towns and across the nation are dead without writers and poets linking arms and digging in.

I was careful to mostly teach from Medrano’s book as well as Bakersfield poet Gary Hill’s works (including “From a Savage City”) and T.Z. Hernandez book, “Skin Tax.” All three poets, I believe, are part of a poetry brotherhood that needs to further help connect the Central Valley to itself, to Hollywood-L.A. (that would be Rich Ferguson and others I know) and even to Colorado. In fact, T.Z. Hernandez is a Central Valley writer now living in Boulder, Colorado. I’m really looking forward to an Oct. 12 gig at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe with both Medrano and Hernandez. Hernandez mentioned calling it the “Vagos Locos Tour: Poetry, Stories y Mas.” Fitting for a bunch of crazy wandering Latino poets from California’s Central Valley.

After our gig at Russo’s we all ended up at an old mortuary converted into a mansion home with two basements and enough Chinese artifacts to fill all the secret tunnels supposedly beneath Bakersfield. Poets Philip Derouchie and Terry Telford showed up as I was whipping up some salsa and drinking too much Moscato. Derouchie brought beer. So did Medrano.

Poet-literary writer Jane Hawley was there talking up a storm, telling stories about the house. Melinda Carroll, who is the quietest poet on the planet, hung out (actually a tie with Veronica Madrigal, who brought some carne asada and helped me make some rather forgetful Spanish rice. Medrano later said, “Maybe it’s the mortuary that took your rice mojo”). Poet Sofia Reyes had to be talked into showing up.

I cooked the carne asada and talked poetry under the stars with Medrano. “An epic night of Central Valley poets connecting between cities,” I said. It was about then I dropped a tortilla, picked up and flung over the fence into an alley.

“Looks like a spaceship!” a voice from the darkness said.

Soon enough, everyone was eating, even my terrible rice, and talked it up about mortuary ghosts, including one in the house of a cat named Blackbeard. Don’t believe me? There’s even a painting of the cat hanging in a dark room above a bed. Another animal from the mansion dropped dead of a heart attack just days after our shindig. “Cardiac arrest,” Hawley said. “The trainer tried animal CPR.” Apparently you do that for show dogs named Rudy. You rip their little doggy chests open if you have to. But as I mentioned, the little guy didn’t make it. His owner was in Berlin.

(Photo: Dolls found in mortuary mansion closet)

Maybe there was forewarning at our party, because in the middle of dinner, Hawley, whose gramps owns the mortuary mansion, suddenly ran in an odd sort of gait, away from the rest of the poets and launched herself into the pool fully clothed. I can’t think of any other reason than she was possessed by either Blackbeard the cat, who may have wanted her or Rudy dead, or the spirit of poetry infusing her with vibrant energy for a symbolic journey of renewal.

When she emerged there was a june bug in her hair and she screamed.

The next day I got Medrano to the train station barely five minutes before the Amtrak was scheduled to leave. I watched as he ran and boarded one of the big silver passenger cars.

I think I might have worked off an entire cup of coffee in that lone jog,” he later said, grateful he came to Bakersfield and broke bread with a host of tireless poets.

In the documentary film Bad Writing, filmmaker and one-time bad writer Vernon Lott culls the worst of his early poetry from boxes stashed in his mother’s basement and subjects them to the scrutiny of literary greats including Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Nick Flynn, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Lee Gutkind. That’s right.The likes of George Saunders, Steve Almond, Claire Davis, and D. A. Powell all sat knee to knee with Lott and reacted to the likes of this:

In 1997 I began my matriculation as an aspiring fiction writer at the University of California, Riverside, at the time one of the few universities to offer an undergrad degree in Creative Writing rather than as a sub-discipline of the English Lit major. This began a nonstop series of writing workshops that finally concluded when I earned my M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans in 2004. While first love was and is fiction, I was interested in being as multi-disciplinary a writer as possible, and took as many other courses in poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, and nonfiction as my schedule would allow.

Somewhere during those seven years’ worth of workshops myself and several friends began to notice that certain extreme personality types recurred with astonishing frequency among the student writers in attendance, especially in the upper-division courses. Over beers one weekend we devised a pseudo-Linnean system of taxonomy to catalogue them all, which we would tinker with whenever the mood suited us, emailing new updates back and forth after we moved on to our respective graduate programs. Most of that system and the accompanying terminology has since been lost, but using some of my recently rediscovered student notebooks, I’ve managed to reconstruct the more frequently recognized major categories.

Keep in mind that while tongue is firmly planted in cheek here, beneath the rib cage of all satire beats the heart of bitter truth. You may feel a certain uncomfortable twinge upon reading some of these. I know I do.

All he/she gender pronouns are arbitrarily assigned for the sake of expediency.

The Sniper

Snipers are relentless headhunters who enjoy nothing more than taking cheap yet often devastating shots at another writer’s work. They will mercilessly stalk through a submitted manuscript line-by-line, never failing to seek and mark the easiest of targets. When discussion time comes they open fire as frequently as the workshop leader will allow, reveling in the schadenfreude they cause. And just when the subject of their attack begins to think they’re in the clear, the Sniper will move in with the metaphorical coup-de-gras headshot.

From a Darwinian perspective they can be helpful to have around, as no one is better at identifying the weak points in a story, but the recipient must have thick skin, something most often ill-developed in undergrads and new writers. And bear in mind that the Sniper is ultimately just a garden-variety bully, who of course cannot turn those finally-tuned crosshairs on his own work.

If you ever find yourself in a workshop where the professor is the Sniper in question – as happened to me once – transfer out of there immediately. Trust me, the experience isn’t worth subjecting yourself to.

The Mute

These writers would probably make excellent poker players. They take seats in the back corner of the classroom, furthest from the center of the Socratic workshop circle and as far outside the instructor’s line of sight as possible. Throughout the course of the discussion the Mute will sit with a carte blanche expression, eyes downcast, the occasional scratching of a pen across paper or the slightest of nods being the only indication he’s intellectually engaged in the proceedings. A Mute will never, ever speak until directly addressed by the instructor, and will then offer as concise a reply as possible.

Despite this verbal reticence, a good Mute will often return a manuscript coated in useful annotations. A bad Mute is merely lazy and hasn’t bothered to do the work.

The Fangirl

In terms of physical sex the Fangirl does not of course have to be an actual female. This category is so named because writers of its type behave like gushing preteen girls obsessing over members of a pop boy-band (or, in the parlance of my post-grad years, the latest Twilight/Justin Bieber/Glee etc.). When it comes to her favorite writers the Fangirl is a smarmy, insufferable compulsive who constantly tosses out quotes, totes around spare copies of their books, and conspicuously references either their content or style in works of pure pastiche.

Should that beloved writer ever actually hold a reading on or near campus, the Fangirl dissolves into a sappy puddle of unrestrained glee, often seeming on the verge of wetting herself as the object of her adulation takes the podium and begins to read. Should you ever make the mistake of showing even the remotest interest in one of her idols, expect to be vociferously pressured into borrowing one of those spare copies, which will purportedly change your life.

Usefulness in a workshop environment: varies from individual to individual, but expect frequent comparisons or references to their idol(s).

The Poser

In my personal, subjective experience, these are most frequently found in poetry workshops. While this is a category that actually has an enormous amount of subheadings (frequently self-applied), a Poser can be identified by one simple trait: he cares more about Being a Writer than actually writing. This person has a particular idea about the writer’s lifestyle cemented in his head and has set about living it to the fullest, frequently affecting a particular style of dress and flinging about polysyllabic rhetoric about the state of the arts, culture, humanity etc. “Because I am a Writer” is frequently cited as a legitimate reason for the copious consumption of drugs & alcohol, promiscuity, excessive moping, or anything else commonly associated with the “tortured artist” stereotype.

Ask a Poser about the actual meaning of anything he says or writes and you’ll likely receive a look of disdainful contempt, roughly translated as This ain’t about meaning it’s about feeling, so just go with it, pleb. They’re next to useless in workshop, as their inherently superficial nature negates any capacity for legitimate insight, yet they often refuse to shut up and cede the floor to someone else.

The Zealot

An appellation that sounds harsher than it means to. These are the religious writers, who are frequently but not exclusively Christian. It’s not the choice of religion or the severity of it that matters, it’s that the Zealot simply filters everything through the polarized lens of her faith. When she’s writing happy fluffy bunny stories about noble righteous people living an idyllic sin-free lifestyle, the rest of the workshop can simply critique her submission and move on. When she’s giving the work of her classmates the hellfire-and-brimstone routine (and I’ve seen it go both ways, sometimes in the same person) workshop can become a hostile, uncomfortable place.

The Bootlick

Within the first week of workshop this person will affix themselves to the instructor as firmly as a remora on a shark. From then on everything the instructor says is revered as gospel truth. The Bootlick will purchase and consume books by any writer the instructor reveres, quote the instructor outside of workshop, make copious use of the instructor’s office hours, and engage in numerous other acts of nauseating sycophancy.

Every piece the Bootlick writes is tailor-made to fit the instructor’s aesthetic, and his critiques of your pieces will be in much the same vein.

The Oppressed Genius

Somewhere down the line, this writer developed an acute self-determined awareness of the limitless nature of his skills. The Oppressed Genius actually considers workshop highly detrimental to his creativity, and is only deigning to attend because the university requires it before handing him his degree. After all, how can his work flourish when moronic regulations force him to waste his time in the company of incompetent hacks shepherded by a teacher that encourages and rewards their mediocrity?

The Oppressed Genius is a delicate creature, possessing a massive yet fragile ego, craving adulation while simultaneously scorning those who give it. Arrogant and demeaning when critiquing someone else’s work, any criticism of his own provokes a level of silent fury equivalent to a dormant but active volcano.

The Drama Queen

The Drama Queen is a steadfast practitioner of the notion of art-as-catharsis and treats workshop like a twelve-step program. Each and every piece this person turns in is an attempt to “connect and understand” with some snippet of past trauma, death of the family dog, daddy didn’t love them enough, et cetera et cetera ad nauseam. Worse still, the Drama Queen is perpetually guilty of reading imaginary subjects (frequently her own) into another writer’s work regardless of their actual content, and defends them with a level of passion that would do the most ardent Zealot proud.

For the Drama Queen the workshop submission is that venerable eye into the writer’s soul, and she will continually extol each and every other member to embrace their inner pain and let it free; written critiques feature the phrase “Thank you for sharing this.” Expect tears and assorted other histrionics should the majority of peer feedback on her work be negative.

Deep down, each Drama Queen wants workshop to conclude with a teary group hug.

The Momma Bear

Helpful and friendly to the point of manic cheerfulness, this person wants everyone in workshop to get along. The Momma Bear is brimming with platitudes, and never has a harsh word to say about anyone’s work. She will reach as far as she must for a compliment on even the most turgid manuscripts, up to and including doling out niceties on things like syntax or punctuation.

While this agreeable nature makes the Momma Bear relatively useless in workshop (she’s simply too nice to be truly objective) her presence can be crucial. The ego-stroking she hands out can be a necessary boost to fledgling writers, but more importantly, when one or more Sniper is bearing down on an undeserving victim, the Momma Bear will throw herself in the line of fire, intercepting and countering shots aimed at the writer in question.

The Tourist

If there’s one workshop member that immediately draws out my inner Sniper, this is it. I have a special level of wrath reserved just for these people. The Tourist is everything the name implies: a noncommittal visitor, poking around to get the taste of things but not particularly interested in settling down. They’re not Creative Writing majors, or even writers of any stripe. If you’re very lucky, the Tourist in your workshop might be a refugee from English Lit, but even that’s rare. In most cases he comes from a field completely unrelated to the language arts, and through some act of chicanery managed to smuggle himself onto the class register. He will without exception write the biggest pieces of crap you’ve ever seen, riddled with grammar, punctuation, and tense errors. His feedback on your manuscripts is by turns shallow, superficial, and ignorant, and when he’s not causing outright harm by being in the workshop in the first place is at the very least wasting the time and energy of people better off dedicating it elsewhere.

While I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who wants to try their hand at writing, there’s a time and place for dilettantism, and a dedicated workshop, especially an upper division one, just isn’t it. The rough equivalent would be my crashing an advanced Law colloquium without having completed the prerequisites, an act that both leaves me grotesquely unprepared and forces the others to carry my dead weight.


Other categories exist, but those are the principle ones. This list is not intended to be all-inclusive, by any means, and readers are encouraged to add any contributions they like.

And if it seems I’ve been at all unfair or unjustly mean-spirited, allow me to forestall any recriminations by confessing to the following: I am not exempt from any of this behavior. During my time in the trenches of higher learning I was at various times a Sniper, a Mute, a Momma Bear, and on one occasion I won’t delve into further, a serious Fangirl. College is that time when your identity as a young adult begins to take shape, and for me that process was determined by the act of writing, the crafting of each sentence on the paper an act of discovery.

In all the best ways, it still is.