Monday, September 22, 2008

New Old Writers

A few months back I commented on a post on Frank Wilson's Books, Inq.: The Epilogue that I took issue with the phrase "new writers" always being paired with "young" as in "new young writers" are producing edgier work or "young new writers" are submitting more online. These days there are a lot of writers who are technically new, in that they have just begun submitting their work, who aren't so young––me for instance.

I further take issue with the assumption that it is young writers who tend to be more innovative and open to new approaches. At a workshop I attended this summer with attendees ranging from undergrads to MFA students to middle-aged folks like myself, most of the "youngsters" in were yet open to submitting or reading work online. None of their work, while good, broke away from the first person or third person limited POV. In fact, the workshop leader –-the only one in my group older than I––commented how my writing was the most experimental. I was also the one who stretched myself by trying a piece in the third person omniscient, written in the style of Edith Wharton, and since returning home have played around with second person and some other "edgier" styles.

It isn't alway easy to tell the age of submitters when reviewing their work, and, no doubt about it, the edgy stuff is in the minority no matter who is doing the writng. However, as with any other field, those desparate to break in are more likely to strictly follow the rules. They're going to keep up with the prize anthologies, the top-dog journals, and work at duplicating that style in order to get published. I started submitting my writing in my late forties. No matter how much of my work was published, the chances of my becoming a big name like Alice Walker or Joyce Carol Oates was pretty slim. There just wasn't time. That may sound like a bad thing, but it has its advantages. I don't have to prove myself first in order to gain permission to try new things. I just do it.

I've also grown up–-as a writer that is––with the Internet. It's been there ever since I started submitting seriously, and so I never questioned it as a legitimate medium for publishing my work. Now that I've published both online and in print, I can state, uequivocally, that I prefer the former. My online credits have a longer shelf-life––unless you count the shelf in the back of my closet–-and I actually receive reader feedback. More important, I am far more likely to find a markets for innovative and edgy work online allowing me to spread my wings. Many "youngsters" I know, particular MFA students and grads, still shy away from the internet fearing it will soil budding reputations. My reputation doesn't have time to bud. The blush is off the rose, so I write what I want and publish where I can.

The point is not to attribute innovations only to us old folks. Some young uns are taking part too, but to be accurate, when critiques discuss edgy and innovative new writers, they should say just that, "new writers," and not, "new young writers." There are lots of "new old writers" out there too, and sometimes they are far more edgy and innovative than the youngsters.

1 comment:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Age really does have its advantages, doesn't it?


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