The Monsters We Are: On Writers & Needless Competition

Wayward Writers


Once, I went to this writer’s workshop that should have been a lot of fun. It was in a foreign country, it was full of curious, intelligent people all passionate enough about their writing to travel halfway across the world in its name.

But within hours it became clear that we’d arrived to a literary Hunger Games. Our district advantages, quickly sized up (“What MFA program did you go to?” “Do you have an agent?” “Published where?”), formed natural alliances; we wielded favorite writers as weapons, but some weapons were better than others (Rebecca Brown got a pass, Jonathan Lethem did not); we flung arrows that struck their target through pure craziness (“I think you should turn this story into a play because everyone is just walking around stage introducing themselves”) and sometimes naked indifference (“I honestly didn’t read it. Sorry”); we went starved for days from meaningful critique; we…

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