Part of the grad school process is that I have to read a bunch of stuff. To start with, I have to read the works of the folks who are teaching at Antioch, because I have to choose one of them to be my mentor, and it had better be one whose writing I actually admire and would like to emulate. Then, I have to read the works of the other folks going through the program with me, and I have to critique their work and offer them my feedback.
Here’s my dilemma: thus far, of the three books I’ve read from the teachers in this program, I only like one of them. Steve Heller, the head of the MFA program at Antioch, writes in clear, lyrical prose that didn’t get in the way of the touching story he was trying to tell. I’m in the middle of reading Father’s Mechanical Universe, a novel about a boy and his father in the 1950s. The subject matter is not normally my cup of tea, but Heller’s style is wonderful. I wish I could say the same for Jim Krusoe‘s Blood Lake and Other Stories, which relies too much on plot at the cost of character development. Characters in his stories don’t act like actual human beings, so I can’t relate to them or understand their underlying dilemmas at all. Even worse is Dodie Bellamy‘s The Letters of Mina Harker. Thirty pages into it and not only does it not have any discernable plot, but the “letters,” are all the stupidest sort of expository crap (kind of thing that opens with “Dear Sing, You are my best friend confidante a staple of every Hollywood biopic…” I mean, do you start out letters to your mother with “Dear Mom, As you know, you are my mother”?) cobbled together with the occasional use of “cunt” to keep our interest piqued. If I wanted to hear someone fling epithets around, I’d talk to my mother.
I’ve got two other books that I haven’t even cracked yet, and next week I’m due to get the first work for the Borderlands Press Boot Camp, which doesn’t happen until January.
With all the reading I’m doing, I’ve made a huge decision with my writing. After having an email conversation with Annie Finch about my work, I’ve decided that I’m not doing myself any huge favors by trying to work simultaneously in several different genres. Right now, I’m doing a young adult piece. The last thing I had published was psychological horror. My best work is magical realism, but it can also be classified as spiritual. So, with that thought in mind, I have to do some thinking and planning, and figure out what my literary home is.
And I’d better do it quick. National Novel Writing Month starts in a couple of weeks, and I will be starting my next novel then.