Novel 6, Windfall


The sixth novel in my selection of 100 novels is Windfall by James Magnuson. I picked this novel up last week after hearing Magnuson, director of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, speak about the pros and cons of creative writing programs.

I enjoyed Magnuson’s talk a great deal, because I’ve been interested in returning to school to get an MFA. He dissolved some of the myths I’d believed about getting into such a program: An MFA doesn’t ensure a teaching job afterward (something I would like to do–teach creative writing); it doesn’t ensure publication or necessarily powerful contacts in the publishing/writing world.

But I believe it could improve writing. My writing at least. Magnuson talked about how good writing teachers can help a writer do things like see holes in his fiction, how to approach it and make a fix of it.

I did feel encouraged by the talk. Last year I applied and was rejected by the writing program at Texas State University-San Marcos (aka Southwest Texas State University). I was hurt by this rejection. Not only was I turned down by my alma mater, but I began to think of myself as an untalented hack. I took the rejection personally.

But Magnuson noted this stat: This year there are five slots open at the Michener Center; there are more than 500 applicants to the program. He said not to take rejection personally. Writing and rejection go hand in hand.

He also told an anecdote about a reading he went to. When the reading was over he went up to the writer to tell her how much he enjoyed the reading and how moving her writing was. She said, "But you rejected me."

So, I’ll keep trying. I may also look into low residency programs and into short workshops as well.

Anyhow, here is an Austin Chronicle piece on Magnuson and Windfall.

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One thought on “Novel 6, Windfall

  1. It’s interesting that Magnuson, who’s the overseerer for one of the best-funded literary plantations in the US, dips into much more mainstream material to bulwark his own novel. It’s all about finding an audience. Books like Atonement are beautiful, but they are often much like the current crop of Oscar nominees and winners — not on the radar of a majority of the public, and under-promoted by the publishers/producers.

    And so it goes: Writers labor to create the stories that might become movies, so the bigger share of the world can become their audience. Magnuson might be hoping that his book is closer to that bigger audience. Or perhaps he just recognizes that everybody is interested in a story which features a discovery of millions in unclaimed cash.

    In Writing Creative Nonfiction Beverly Lowrey has an essay titled, “Not the Killing But the Why.” She explains that news is what happened, but story is the why behind it. I’ve been turned away from the gates of Texas State’s MFA program too. It’s our option to create the same kind of community for writing among ourselves, as an alternative, so we can practice thinking and writing about the why of life’s lessons.

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