Tag Archives: writing and money

Funding the MFA: A New Approach

25 year-old Denis wants to attend the MFA program at Hollins in the fall, but can’t afford to go. Sound familiar? Denis’s solution, though, is new. He decided to do some internet fundraising. He writes on his blog:

Instead of asking people to loan me money for school, I’m now asking them to simply give me money. To that extent, I’ve created a fundraising page on fundable, and if you can spare $10, please pledge towards my goal. Since I can’t get a loan and there is no way my parents can pay my tuition, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

You can check out his fundraising site directly here. At time of writing, Denis only had $10 in contributions. Is this because his campaign is brand new (launched 7/13/09) or because there’s a recession on, or because this idea simply isn’t going to work?

There’s also this article, over at Publisher’s Weekly, about writer and blogger Dianna Zandt, who, after signing a deal for her first book that provided no advance, decided to “crowdfund” the money she needed to write over the summer. It helps that her topic is “…writing about the power of social media to shift perceptions and cultural values.” She’s been pretty successful so far, it seems – you can read her thoughts and feedback on the process (plus tips for others who are considering going the the same route) here.

What do you think? Are Denis and Deanna smart to try this approach? Is their initiative laudable? Do their requests for funds seem justified to you? And is this a sign of things to come?

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Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

There’s an interesting article over at the Guardian book pages from their literary critic, Robert McCrum, about the different types of writers that tend to get considered for literary awards. He draws from Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay, The Fox and The Hedgehog, as a way of classifying the types. (You can download the essay by clicking here), and read more about Berlin in this article in The Independent.

In fiction, Berlin’s famous distinction between hedgehogs and foxes, drawn from the pithy fragment attributed to the classical poet Archilochus (“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”) remains influential. Hedgehogs, in Berlin’s celebrated essay, see the world through the lens of one big, defining idea. They include Plato, Dante, Proust and Nietzsche. Foxes, who scour the landscape, drawing on a wide variety of experience and are indefatigably averse to a single explanatory idea, include Aristotle, Shakespeare, Goethe, James Joyce and, dare I say, Salman Rushdie.

McCrum doesn’t stop there, though. He also contrasts “history course novels” (such as those produced by Pat Barker and Ian McEwen) and the kind of “English course novels” that Martin Amis and Lorrie Moore write. Then, in nonfiction, there are the “mores” and the “differents.”

Mores are writers who, as the label implies, are immensely gifted and vastly superior to their fellows, but are conventional in their vision. Classic mores include Thomas The World Is Flat Friedman and Niall The Pity of War Ferguson. Your different, who might be a hedgehog or a fox, is a mould-smashing one-off, usually an original, and probably quite undisciplined, writer. Differents include Dostoevsky, Oliver Sacks, Naomi Klein, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell and Atul Gawande. As readers, we may be better satisfied, in the short term, by the mores, but it’s the differents we remember, and who will probably have the lasting influence.

McCrum’s argument is that “foxes” and “mores” win more prizes than “hedgehogs” and “differents.” It would take more of an in depth survey than I am prepared to carry out to prove him right, but I can certainly get on board with the idea that we live in a fox’n’more orientated society, and it’s these writers who seem to earn the most money. We demand versatility from our writers, and breadth of knowledge. It ain’t easy being different!

How to Survive as a Writer Part II

Or: We Don’t Do It For The Money.

From The Guardian (scroll down for this juicy snippet):

Forbes magazine has revealed that JK Rowling is not only the world’s richest author, but the world’s highest-earning celebrity; her income last year was £150m. But before aspiring scribes boot up their computers en masse, inspired by dreams of wealth and fame, it is worth remembering that becoming rich through writing is only slightly more likely than achieving an Olympic medal in Quidditch. According to the Society of Authors, the average salary for a writer in the UK is £10,000 – which should give anyone thinking of entering the field pause for thought.

Thank god there are other rewards. Like the creative satisfaction. The intellectual work-out. The joy of sharing your art with others. Right? Right. Right!

I think I just moved through the three stages of writerly grief there: Disbelief, resignation, defiance. Finally, acceptance. Write.

How to Survive as a Writer

A post is brewing in my mind that would develop my last post about intuition and craft (or should that be intuition v. craft?) I need another few days to gestate it, so for now I’ll just direct you to this essay about writing and money by Keith Gessen from n+1 magazine, the literary publication where he is an editor and co-founder. These are uncertain economic times, and Gesson has some clear-eyed and sobering observations on the compromises that writers have to make to get by. He says:

There are four ways to survive as a writer in the US in 2006: the university; journalism; odd jobs; and independent wealth. I have tried the first three. Each has its costs.

I think this is as true in 2008 (year of posting) as it was in 2006. Hell, I think it was true in 1906 too, and is likely to hold in the future, indefinitely.

A lot of the people I work with, either as a coach, editor or teacher, state that it is their aim to make a living as a writer. Continue reading