Earlier this afternoon I met with Michael Griffith, a writer and professor of creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. (Side note: The UC campus is beautiful!! So much interesting architecture and beautiful lawns/lounge space. Definitely made me miss campus life.) Anyway, I wanted to ask Michael about writing in general, writing in Cincinnati, going for an additional degree (MFA or Ph.D.), and being a professor. I figured he might know a thing or two about all that.
His novel SPIKES and collection BIBLIOPHILIA both seem to have been well-received, and I liked the excerpt I read of the latter. But more important than his credentials, he was extremely friendly and willing to help me. We only got to speak for about forty minutes since he was meeting with Ph.D. students about their dissertations all afternoon, but he offered a lot of great advice and even his assistance in the future. I left with a mixture of happiness, warmth, and motivation surging through me.
I mean, sitting at Starbucks and talking with someone who’s doing what I want to do — writing, reaching out and mentoring fellow writers, (maybe) teaching, and somehow still staying involved with family — gave me this feeling that I can do this. I WILL do this. Even a complete stranger thinks so!
A few times during our discussion I felt a little silly/stalker-like because I had looked Michael up online. (“I actually only took one workshop in my undergraduate career–” “From Joyce Carol Oates!” “Yes… How did you know that?”) But I didn’t want to go in knowing nothing and seem rude! Thankfully he was cool about it.
(Because I’m NOT a stalker.)
What are the advantages of being a woman writer?
JOYCE CAROL OATES
Advantages! Too many to enumerate, probably. Since, being a woman, I can’t be taken altogether seriously by the sort of male critics who rank writers 1, 2, 3 in the public press, I am free, I suppose, to do as I like. I haven’t much sense of, or interest in, competition; I can’t even grasp what Hemmingway and the epigonic Mailer meant by battling it out with the other talent in the ring. A work of art has never, to my knowledge, displaced another work of art. The living are no more in competition with the dead than they are with the living . . . Being a woman allows me a certain invisibility. Like Ellison’s The Invisible Man. (My long journal, which much be several hundred pages by now, is titled Invisible Woman. Because a woman, being so mechanically judged by her appearance, has the advantage of hiding within it — of being absolutely whatever she knows herself to be, in contrast with what others imagine her to be. I feel no connection at all with my physical appearance and have often wondered whether this was a freedom any man — writer or not — might enjoy.)
The Paris Review also had a (more recent?) interview with Vladimir Nabokov, but now I am wishing I hadn’t read it (well, skimmed it) until after I finished reading LOLITA, because his arrogance and condescension was so off-putting that now I feel like not reading it just to spite him. But that would be silly.
I just won’t link to the interview instead. :P
Anyway, my meeting with Michael and my foray onto UC’s beautiful campus, combined with this magical weather (sunny, 80s, with a cool breeze), has made this a wonderful day. Tonight we have Riley’s last Advanced Training class, which means he will get the Canine Good Citizen test. Cross your fingers and hope he’s really, really tired, because otherwise he’ll be too darn hyper to pass!