The Unhappy Writer, Links by Mark Pritchard

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A recent entry on the publishing blog Galleycat told of the writer Molly Jong-Fast and how she was quitting writing to become an agent. Jong-Fast’s somewhat privileged complaints — she is the daughter of Erica Jong and the novelist Jonathan Fast, and signed her three-book contract at age 20 — put me in mind of a couple of other public laments by writers.

Lynn Freed’s July 2005 piece in Harpers, Doing Time: My Years in the Creative Writing Gulag, was so full of disdain for creative writing programs and the students who enroll in them that it provoked a storm of reaction, including a blog entry from students at the Iowa Writers Workshop as well as the satirical Secret Diary of a Prisoner in the Creative Writing Gulag (which Stephen Elliott linked to the other day, and which I wrote).

Another lightning rod was the article in Salon in March 2004, a piece which the author must have known would provoke people, so she published it under a pseudonym. In The Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author, the anonymous novelist bemoaned the downward arc of her career: $150K advance for her first book, $10K advance for her third, and paltry sales thereafter. Salon.com published page after page of letters from readers — some of whom were themselves in editing and publishing, but most of whom wanted nothing more than to publish a book and whose reactions boiled down to: “You have four published novels? STFU!”


Mark Pritchard is the author of the novel How They Scored and the collections of sex stories "Too Beautiful" and "How I Adore You." He lives in San Francisco. More from this author →