Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

What's Creative Writing got to do the Public Good? Give me your thoughts!

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Hi OB-ers,

After I gave the Storm of History presentation this summer, an Aussie professor invited me to contribute a chapter to an international anthology that would track the state of creative writing in a neo-liberal world.

In the chapter, I want to connect the dots between Creative Writing (the act, the study, the field and the consumption) and the Public Good.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject?

Here are some questions to get you thinking. Feel free to answer one question, two or all of them.
-What's the connection between creative writing and the public good?

-How do post-secondary/university/college creative writing programs contribute to the economy?

-What is the role of creative writing in a market-based culture?

-In spite of what people may think, does the emergence of various technologies (Kindle, Nook, etc.) offer more or less access to literature?

-Is literature, given these technologies, doomed to return to an activity pursued by the few who own (i.e. can afford) e-readers?

-What role has studying creative writing in a post-secondary setting played in your writing life?

You can put your thoughts here or post a comment on American Refugee (my blog). Let me know if it’s okay to include a first name and last initial in the final copy of the chapter’s citations.

Looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say…thanks!

2 comments

Hi Basil! I'm so grateful for your thoughts. The article is going to press as a chapter in a book called, "Creativity Market" (Taylor/Francis Group/UK, 2011). It came out as a critical polemic (on my take) in that I attempted to articulate how exactly the literary structures we create (as writers) allow readers to enter and practice traits (empathy, trust and so on) that contribute to the public good. The neo-liberal onslaught over the last 3.5 decades has had a corresponding, trackable impact upon those traits.

Nice to hear from you

Interesting questions...
Creative writing and public good... In my opinion, creative writing, and all arts, lead the way in advanced societies. Any society that does not - at least indirectly - listen to and respond to its writers and artists is doomed. Creativity is the most enduring form of "capital", both personal and public.

How do post-secondary/university/college creative writing programs contribute to the economy?

Since I've never been enrolled in any of these programs, it's difficult to say but in the most obvious sense, students are paying tuition for a course that requires virtual no materials, labs or equipment. So I supposed in that respect, they help support educational institutions.

What is the role of creative writing in a market-based culture?

Well, there seems to be a lot of money being made promising prospective creative writers all kinds of short-cuts, self-publishing deals, agenting deals, pitch conferences and the like, so in that respect, I guess it has its role in market-based culture. As for the actual writing, I'm sure we'd all be surprised if we knew how much economic activity the publication of creative writing and the arts as a whole generate.

In spite of what people may think, does the emergence of various technologies (Kindle, Nook, etc.) offer more or less access to literature?

I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I was given a Kobo reader as a gift and it was novel for a little while but I lost interest and gave it away. I have a visceral attachment to print and paper books, the smell of them, the hands they've been through, the strange annotations you find, the underlining, the inscriptions, the ability to open a book at a random page and read from there, all things I doubt will ever be possible via digital technologies. I guess I worship at the feet of good King Ludd when it comes to books...

Is literature, given these technologies, doomed to return to an activity pursued by the few who own (i.e. can afford) e-readers?

These devices are becoming very inexpensive and will soon be much cheaper than buying say half a dozen traditional books.

What role has studying creative writing in a post-secondary setting played in your writing life?

None since I've never taken any CW courses. To me, writing is like music, it's one of those things you're either compelled to do or not. If it isn't a compulsion then it might be a vocation or a profession, which sounds like real drudgery. No amount of CW courses or programs can change that. As for teaching the mechanics, none of my favorite musicians or dancers or photographers spent much, if any time taking courses. They just did it. But for someone who is compelled to write but lacks confidence or direction, perhaps CW courses would be useful.

Thanks for the thought-provoking questions,
Basil Papademos
And yes, you can use my name in whatever form is required.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Thom Vernon

Thom Vernon has worked in film, television and theatre since 1989. He has been the Actors’ Gang Youth Education Program director and has worked as an arts educator at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. The Drifts (Coach House Books) is his first novel.

Go to Thom Vernon’s Author Page