The interview in the September issue is with Francine Prose who is still going around the country promoting her Reading Like a Writer, the success of which has surprised everyone (although when I heard her read from the manuscript a couple of years ago in her Sewanee craft lecture, I knew it was going to be book I wanted). The interview isn’t available online (at least not yet), but here’s a taste: The interviewer (Andrea Dupree) asks what Prose thinks of the writers’ workshop.
Prose: If it were up to me, the class situation would just involve the close reading of literature, and then the critique of each student’s work would occur only in conference. So it’s private, and that would cut out the element of public spectacle. Also, it often happens in teaching workshops that other students will come up with solutions that I think are just so wrong. So it puts you, the teacher, in a terrible position. Everybody thinks a certain way, and I think another way – maybe they’re right, but on the other hand, I’m the teacher, so what am I going to say? You’re all wrong? Maybe they’re not all wrong. But it’s still a problem. Whereas, if I’m talking to student, it’s a much less threatening situation, and I can be more helpful.As I read that a couple of things came to mind. First, I’ve found that, at least at my stage, critiquing other people’s work is more helpful to me than it is to them. I see things that don’t work and I think it helps me to avoid those mistakes in my own work. (And sure enough, Dupree mentions that Chris Offutt had said something like that, but Prose disagreed.) And the other thing that came to my mind is that I’ve seen her operate and I’m not sure a one-on-one with Francine Prose would necessarily be less threatening. There is, after all, strength in numbers.
Anyway, it’s a good interview and if you can find it I recommend it highly.