MFAs and other workshop type situations

I got accepted for the Lambda Literary workshop this summer in LA. I mean, I’ve always known that I was an emerging LGBTQ voice…but now someone else knows it too! What’s funny is that I’ve gotten so used to getting rejected for things that when I clicked on the link, I was like, “Oh yep, here I am getting rejected for more things.” I’m actually looking forward to it. They gave me money too, which is cool. Someone on my Facebook page was encouraging people to apply, and I wish I remembered who it was, so I could thank them. I applied to Lambda’s ‘fiction’ and not to their ‘genre fiction’ workshop by the way, because I’d never associate myself with that filthy genre fiction stuff =]

It was nice to get into something. It encouraged me to get out my applications to the Tin House Conference, Sewanee, Bread Loaf, etc. Tin House, in particular, has rejected me flat-out, twice in a row? What is this? It’s always weird when a place won’t allow you to paythem money to attend their conference.

Right now is also the time of year when people are hearing back from Clarion and from MFAs and other application-type stuff. I’ve already heard back from a few friends and online acquaintances. Some have happy news. Others have not-so-happy news. In both cases, I feel like the answer is largely luck. If your application gets in front of the right reader at the right time, then you’re in. This is especially true (as is usually the case w/ my friends) when you’re a genre writer who’s applying for an MFA. It’s a pretty tough sell. Especially when you’re writing core genre material. If you’re writing stuff with swords or spaceships, it’s hard. Whereas if you’re writing things with zany SF elements like, I don’t know, a robot that follows you around and reminds you that someday you too will die, then it’s a lot easier. Basically, MFA programs are good at sniffing out your pedigree. And if it smells like your SF has a more literary pedigree, then it’s a lot easier. I tell this to some people and they understand it immediately, while I tell it to others and they get very confused and demand to know what the hell I am talking about.

I don’t know. Just go out and read George Saunders and David Foster Wallace and Aimee Bender and Kelly Link and Miranda July and Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem and eventually you’ll just start to get a sense of the difference. SF-tinged literary fiction has a very definite aesthetic to it. And while some genre SF fits into that aesthetic (the work of Maureen McHugh comes to mind), there’s also lots of perfectly awesome genre fiction (Ted Chiang, for instance) that’s a bit too nuts and bolts to really fit within the current literary SF aesthetic. Not saying that Ted Chiang couldn’t get into an MFA program, though. Just that it might be a bit harder.

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