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We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers' Workshop Paperback – August 16, 2011
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About the Author
Glenn Schaeffer was, for twenty years, president of Mandalay Resort Group in Las Vegas. In 2009, Liberty Media rated him as the gaming industry's most influential executive, after Steve Wynn. Schaeffer is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and he's finally finishing a novel he started there thirty years ago, Holy Shaker.
Bill Manhire is a professor at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he resides.
Top Customer Reviews
You can turn to any page of We Wanted To Be Writers and learn something. But it's much more enjoyable to go slow and allow that cumulative effect to take hold. It's the difference between glancing at the sky or lying on your back and staring at clouds - eventually the patterns that make a difference introduce themselves and ask for spot beside you on your blanket.
Here are 12 interesting things I learned by reading We Wanted To Be Writers:
1. A 3-step Primer For Writing An Authentic Literary Narrative
2. 99 Books Writers Read by Nightlight
3. Whether Or Not Writing Can Be Taught
4. 32 Statements About Writing Poetry
5. A 16 Book Reading List On Creativity
6. The Pennybacker-Schaeffer Realistic Dialog Method
7. The Importance Of Beer, Clear And Cold And True, Like A Trout Stream In Spain
8. Three Writing Assignments Sure To Unblock Writers' Block
9. The True And Untold Story Of The Great Writer Riot Of 1976
10. Eight Writing Quotes No Moleskin Would Be Complete Without
11. Why Accumulation and Consumption Are Crucial To Creative Success
12. The New Yorker's Three Rules and Five Step Formula (see comments for explanation)
There's much more to We Wanted To Be Writers than these 12 things, but that's why you need to find a copy to keep on your shelf!Read more ›
Resonant passages are too numerous to mention, but one I find myself going back to is from a work in progress by Marvin Bell, a series of statements about writing poetry. He said, "The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff." Surely this applies to all writing--and probably all art. We get to witness that process of distillation in We Wanted to Be Writers, where all the good stuff has found its way to the pages.
Participants talk about what possessed them to write in the first place, how their parents felt about that, what their lives were like when they were accepted into the workshop, directions they took afterwards, agents, publishing and rejection. You also find out what books they have beside their beds.
And there's some good advice for those of us still skeptical that writing can be learned:
You need to have a willingness to explore life through experiences (scenes).
Build a dramatic arc. This is not expository writing. Play up opposites.
Realize the resolution won't be the one you envisioned when you began (You will turn the page to find out what happens, just like your readers).
I might have cut the book's length by about a third, though it is the rambling of these responses that gets us thinking of what our answers would be. Here are my two favorite quotes.Read more ›
In this book some thirty graduates and teachers become blabbermouths and offer commentary, advice, gossip, and anecdotal history about the school and those who inhabit it. Opinions differ on the value of writing workshops in general. Most writers deem advice to be akin to handling snakes. But here they are quite adept at handing it out, repulsive as it might be to them. The authors, Olsen and Schaeffer, have scraped it up into a highly entertaining and informative package. There is a tremendous amount of valuable writing information to be found along with the entertaining chaff.
I didn't expect such literary luminaries as John Irving, Jane Smiley, T.C. Boyle, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Conner, and Vance Bourjaily, naming a few, to become such tattletales. From them we find that talking and toking are a big part of IWW communal life. Both vitriol and adoration are expressed when discussing the values to be found there. Conversation seems to be the most popular activity on campus, traditionally pursued after hours with jugs of cheap Chablis, potato chips, and weed.
Gossip is rampant here. The authors, Olsen and Schaeffer, both graduates of IWW, were members of an unofficial boxing fraternity while enrolled. Olsen reports that his journals of his time in Iowa City contain more notes about his boxing exploits than workshop achievements.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is interesting so far. But not written mainly by someone making their living as a writer.Published 22 months ago by Garman H
Written by writers for writers. Have you ever wondered what it really takes to write, to be published, to succeed (or not) as a writer? Read morePublished on May 5, 2014 by Phyllis A. Natanek
Read the book if you need inspiration, but if it is to just read, spend your time writing and less time reading. Read morePublished on February 18, 2014 by Andrea Fletcher
We Wanted to be Writers is a series of fascinating, funny, not so nice conversations among nearly 30 writers-students and their teachers-who were at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in... Read morePublished on December 3, 2012 by Mona AlvaradoFrazier
I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to as a longtime resident of Iowa City (and former grad student in several degree programs in English... Read morePublished on July 17, 2012 by Julia
Overall, this book gives off an odor of opportunism, timed as it was to appear during the Workshop's 75th anniversary year. Read morePublished on December 26, 2011 by Steamchef
We Wanted to Be Writer's (WW2BW's) is a digest of commentary and conversations on imaginative writing by thirty grads of the `famous' Iowa Writer's Workshop, circa mid-late `70's. Read morePublished on October 20, 2011 by Dick Cummins