Recently, I attended the Centrum Writing Workshop in Port Townsend, Washington. Two of my good friends and former graduate school colleagues were also there for the weekend. The three of us shared a cabin, stories, tons of wine, and we laughed so much my stomach hurt Monday morning.
Kami and I were in the same M.A. program at Western Washington University in Bellingham. She writes fiction and poetry, and we are soul sisters. Jordan, who writes poetry, and I were in the same M.F.A. program at University of Idaho, and we know the show Friends line for line and confounded everyone by speaking in quotes from Chandler and Phoebe instead of our own voices.
After spending time reminiscing with my friends, I kept thinking about all the writers we’ve interacted with in our programs and over the years. I threw together this list. It’s all in fun, and I encourage you to add to the list.
The Starstruck Stalker– this writer has met 100 famous writers and can’t wait to tell you when and where. He or she has copious signed books and experiences galore from conferences, dinners, readings and workshops that they will be happy to share regardless of your disinterest. This writer may or may not have one iota of talent.
The Cliche– this writer fulfills the stereotype of a writer as a hot mess. He or she drinks or drugs to excess, is melodramatic, destroys their personal and professional relationships, all the while publishing brilliant works. Everyone puts up with their bullshit because of their genius.
The Trickster– this writer creates obtuse, abstract pieces of work that only he or she understands. And then, when other writers (often in the workshop setting) offer useful feedback, the Trickster says, “Oh. You weren’t supposed to get that. I wanted to trick you.” That’s when this writer says, “Good for you, Trickster. Now go find another workshop.” You suck.
The Enigma– this writer creates interesting and odd pieces that you would never think to write yourself. He or she is flippant, couldn’t care less if their work gets published and so it gets published all the time! You sit at home tearing your hair out wondering why you have a stack of rejection letters lining your bird cage and the Enigma calls and says, “The New Yorker accepted my short story!” You say, “Oh my gosh, congratulations.” And then you turn on the gas stove and stick your head inside.
The Humble Pie Writer– this writer does not call himself or herself a writer. If they teach, they call themselves a teacher. If they work as a postal clerk, they call themselves a clerk. He or she may have a handful or a boatload of publications, even a book or 10, but they don’t buy into the bullshit that comes with being a “Writer.” They love writing, they love words, they love the creative process. They dislike going to high-profile writing events where they might be ignored by self-important writers who look behind them to find someone “more famous” to speak with. These writers are usually talented but down to earth, and love to talk to budding writers.
I know which writer I am. But I will never tell.