Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
Send GK Your Question »
May 3, 2007 |
Post to the Host:
My daughter graduates from high school in a few weeks. She has good writing skills, a creative imagination, an ability to perceive correctly feelings and situations, and a keen curiosity. She will attend a small liberal arts college in September. She wants to study English with the hope of becoming a writer, especially an author of fiction, but most of those who hear her plans tell her that an English major has no value unless you want to teach and that all writers, except for the lucky few, starve. Can you give her some thoughts regarding an English education and a
life dedicated to writing?
A fiction writer needs an anguished childhood, of course, and you may have failed her there, Ed. Maybe it's not too late. You could at least do your part and try to bully her into investment banking or corporate law so she can fight you and test her own resolve. But okay, an encouraging dad I guess we can work with that. She should go to college without hard and fast plans and take an English course or two that requires some serious writing and find out how that does. A great many college English departments are still under the control of people who don't care for literature and who like to torture it, and that's not an education that's worth much. It's like studying economics with old Marxists: interesting, but a great deal is left out. I am an old English major and should be true to my school, but I honestly can't recommend it for writers. In my experience, which is limited, teachers have far too much sway, the students sit and soak up what they can. Whereas in the study of history, the student is more likely to get her feet on the ground and be able to argue her own point of view, which is good for a writer to do.
The qualities you attribute to your daughter are precious and I just don't want her to get bullied by jerks. But someone who perceives situations well can probably stand up for herself. Writers of fiction have come from the sciences, from the law, from history not many from the social sciences, but a few and of course there are the English majors. I wish her well and hope to read something by her, so send that along when the time is right. I need somebody to step in and write Guy Noir. I wish she would hurry up.