Myth-Busting Redux (Graduate Edition)

To follow my colleagues Laura, Desiree, and Jackie, who have lately been exploring myths about English departments, students, and faculty, I thought I would explore three myths about graduate study that I encounter as Graduate Advisor. Myth #1: You Must Get Your Degrees from Different Places. Not that it’s a bad idea to get degrees from different places. If you get your BA, MA, and PhD from three different schools,…

What’s in a Name?

Your career choice, place of residence, and spouse, apparently. I recently ran across the phenomenon known as “egotism” or sometimes “implicit egotism,” which is the statistical probability that the letters that form your name will in some way correspond to or predict what career you go into, where you will live, and who you will choose for a spouse or partner. In a thumbnail: People named Dennis or Denise are…

Texas Writers? Let’s start with Highsmith…

One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” writers to read (“guilty” in that enough of my creative writing professors rolled their eyes when I mentioned her name that I learned soon enough to keep my mouth shut about her) is Patricia Highsmith (writer of all the Ripley Books and Strangers on a Train). I’ve always been able to pick up stacks of her books at Half Price stores and library book…

Further further adventures in myth-busting

Following Laura and Desiree’s discussion of myths associated with creative writers and English majors, it falls to me to discuss fables about that mythical beast, the English professor. I suppose that it is fitting for me to tackle this topic, since one of these myths involves the spurious authority that simply being English gives you as an English professor. Although there are lots of people in England who aren’t remotely…

Birth of a Meme

Let the record show: on the single snowiest day in the history of Dallas/Ft Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington was open for business as usual. UTA usually closes at the hint of a flake in the wind, so faculty and staff were perplexed at finding themselves on campus yesterday. It was tough to drive, tougher to walk in from your car, and once you’d walked in, Thursday provided…

English Majors vs. Park Benches, or Further Adventures in Myth Busting

In continuing the discussion initiated by Laura Kopchick on “myths” surrounding literary studies and writing, I turn my attention to myths about English majors. English majors are, of course, the butt of many jokes in contemporary culture. Q: What’s the difference between an English major and a park bench? A: A park bench can support a family of four. Storyteller Garrison Keillor has made jokes about English majors a staple…

As Soon As I Get Some Free Time, No Revision Necessary, and Other Myths About Creative Writing (and Writers)

It was my final semester in the MFA in Fiction program at the University of Michigan and I was meeting with my thesis advisor, Charles Baxter, in his near-empty office on campus (he wrote at home, in a lovely book-lined office above the garage in his Ann Arbor house). As he red-penned my stories, pausing every few minutes to complain about my obsession with first person narration and my lack…

21 days of Christmas, B and Bs, and Crime Queens

21 days, 147 hours of light, 357 hours of darkness, 5 adults, 1 bathroom, 6 pounds of Quality Street, 1 large box of Cadbury’s éclairs, 1 box of Maltesers, 1 box of Ferrero Roche, 2 orders fish and chips, 3 roast dinners, 1 entire island covered in snow, and 72 hours of traveling later, I survived Christmas in England. Where was I? Torquay, Devon. A place perhaps best known as…