This post by Kevin Brockmeier is part of The 75th Project, a series of essays by graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. We are printing it on Saturday, the day on which we often publish letters to the editors, in part because it seems to speak to a piece we ran a while back by Mark McGurl, “The MFA Octopus: Four Questions About Creative Writing.”
Too Much Magic © Rawaan Alkhatib
A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me
at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1995-1997
~ For me it’s the opposite. You feel like a little kid, I feel like an old woman.
~ I really like your last paragraph. Why don’t you take that idea and use it to write a story?
~ “Half of Rumpelstiltskin”’s kind of a mouthful, isn’t it? Maybe after you introduce him, you can just call him “Rumpelstiltskin.”
~ To me you look like a person who can’t get enough Heidegger.
~ I’ll say this much — you know how to eff the ineffable.
~ The question is whether or not we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator here, and [turning to look me in the eyes] that is important.
~ So you’ve got one middle letter or two middle letters, and they can both be palindromes: “Bob” on the one hand, “boob” on the other, is what you’re saying. Oh, that’s perfect. That’s what you should name your characters: “Bob and Boob.”
~ Yes, yes, yes. It’s called Zeno’s Paradox. I was bored by it in Philosophy 101, and I’m bored by it now.
~ [Note on the last page of a story, underlined, with a sorcerer’s hat drawn on top]: Too much magic!
~ You’re a talented guy, but you’re not going to land something like this with Bill Buford. What you need to do is write a story that’s still you, but not so much you.