The last couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve done since I graduated from EWU’s MFA program. First there was Jaime’s post, which made me think about how lucky I was to spend two years completely immersed in writing. Part of me misses that environment, but another part of me is happy to be a writer out in the “real world.” I like working on my pieces without my internal editor second guessing what my fellow students will say in workshop. Not that I didn’t like workshop, but when I knew exactly who my audience/critics were, I often had a hard time staying true to what I wanted to put on the page instead of trying to please them.
Then there was the Willow Springs release party last Friday. A year ago, I would have been one of the people triple-celebrating the new issue with being done with the thesis and either about to or just finished defending. This year, instead of having read the issue several times through proofing galleys, I enjoyed the fantastic stories, poems, and essays in their finished form.
So overall, I’ve been thinking I’m okay with where I’m at in my writing career/journey right now. Then, I got a Facebook message from my former thesis advisor.
She’s updating her files and wants to keep track of her students’ publications. I looked mine up, and guess what, there were a few during my year in the program, but none over the last year.
And then, the announcement of Téa Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife winning the Orange Prize for Fiction popped up in my inbox. This twenty-five-year old Serbian/American graduated from the Cornell MFA program in 2009. Last June she was featured in The New Yorker’s Top 20 Writers under 40 Fiction Issue–the youngest one on the list.
Talk about spending your post-MFA years productively!
Right now, I’m experiencing conflicting feelings. I feel crappy about my own accomplishments over the last year, slightly envious of this talented writer, but also proud that a young woman has won such a prestigious prize.
According to Bettany Hughes, Chair of Judges:
The Tiger’s Wife is an exceptional book and Téa Obreht is a truly exciting new talent. Obreht’s powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable. By skilfully spinning a series of magical tales she has managed to bring the tragedy of chronic Balkan conflict thumping into our front rooms with a bittersweet vivacity.
The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. It is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman.
I’m still thinking about how little I’ve been writing over the last year compared to my years in the program, but I’m also (back to) pondering women writers’ roles/reputations/expectations in the literary world. These topics pop up in debates routinely, the most current one started by VS Naipul’s weird remarks to The Guardian.
In light of what’s been said lately about women’s writing, what are your thoughts on celebrating female authors separately from male authors? Do we still need prizes specifically for women? What about specifically for African-American writers? Or, special recognition to contributions in the Gay-Lesbian literary field?
What roles do minority-specific recognitions play and when are they needed?