Eleventh Draft: Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writers' Workshop

Overview

"My instructions to them were deliberately vague—they were to write about writing, any aspect or approach that caught their fancy. Leaving it open seemed to me to heighten the chances of getting the strongest and least predictable work. And so it was. They came at it from different angles, using different techniques, and each piece is unique. Perhaps the only common tacit assumption is that writing is difficult."— From the Introduction by Frank Conroy

Since its inception in ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $23.45   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$23.45
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(9)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
1999 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Square and tight-Pages bright without marks or plates-Fast shipping Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. ... 235 p. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Henniker, NH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$27.77
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(37)

Condition: New
New York, NY 1999 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 235 p. Audience: General/trade. Clean, tight copy with no ... writing. APPEARS NEVER TO HAVE BEEN READ! As new dust jacket with some light shelf wear. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Las Vegas, NV

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$50.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(146)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$58.95
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:

(15)

Condition: New
1999 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Inventory mark on the edge. Glued binding. Paper over boards. 235 p. Audience: General/trade.

Ships from: Orlando, FL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$59.95
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(1)

Condition: New
1999 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 235 p. Audience: General/trade. Brand new condition. No marks, no ... wear. Unread bookstore quality. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Ossining, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

"My instructions to them were deliberately vague—they were to write about writing, any aspect or approach that caught their fancy. Leaving it open seemed to me to heighten the chances of getting the strongest and least predictable work. And so it was. They came at it from different angles, using different techniques, and each piece is unique. Perhaps the only common tacit assumption is that writing is difficult."— From the Introduction by Frank Conroy

Since its inception in 1936, the Iowa Writers' Workshop has been perched atop the creative writing landscape, producing some of the greatest writers of the century. Though no one claims that writing can be taught—the Workshop itself professes no method—there is no disputing the success of the program and its celebrated attendees. Of the 20 Pulitzers awarded for fiction and poetry in the ‘90s, nine have gone to University of Iowa graduates.

For The Eleventh Draft, present-day director Frank Conroy invited 23 former professors and students of the Iowa Writers' Workshop to pen essays on their craft. As he hints in his Introduction, he was looking for an eclecticism, and The Eleventh Draft is nothing if not diverse. Some pieces are deeply personal; others might have been scripted for the first day of class. They are sometimes prescriptive, often contradictory, but always eloquent and provocative.

The Eleventh Draftis an invaluable resource for aspiring and established writers, for lovers of literature, and for anyone intrigued by the writing process or the Workshop itself. If you have doubts, open this anthology and, as Conroy advises, "Listen up."

Author Biography: Frank Conroy,the former director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, became the fifth director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1987. He is the author of three books: Stop Time, nominated for the National Book Award; Midair; and Body & Soul. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with his wife, Maggie, and his son, Tim.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pity the poor writer anthologized alongside Barry Hannah. There is much to commend in the 22 other contributions to this collection by writers who've taught at Iowa, including Margot Livesey, Francine Prose, James McPherson and Deborah Eisenberg. But few write such startling sentences as this whiplash-inducing hairpin turn from "Mr. Brain, He Want a Song," a meditation on the writing process: "Mr. Brain, he sick of sickness. He want a song, Jack. May I suggest that writing itself is freedom from consciousness as much as stimulant to it." Other highlights include Doris Grumbach's charming, if curmudgeonly, essays on her own beginnings as a writer and as a teacher, and grumblings about the publishing industry and celebrity authors: "It might help the level of prose if they would stop `appearing' and performing and become the private persons their craft requires them to be." Scott Spencer expresses disappointment with his students' carefulness, their fear of embarrassing themselves. A writer unwilling to express potentially risky and humiliating and hurtful truths, he warns, "is finally no more effective than a firefighter who will not smash in windows." A few of these essays stray into dry, vague disquisitions on the act of writing, highlighting the shortcomings of any such book: the process of writing is nearly always less interesting than what the process produces. Still, a compelling account of a writer's thinking, such as Abraham Verghese's eloquent and heartfelt "Cowpaths," drawing elegant connections between his work as a physician and his work as a writer, is a fine addition to any canon of literature. Never pompous, never dull, he closes his essay with the plainest, most inarguable truth: "That is why I write: because I still find comfort in words, because I find safety in the structures one can build from words, and because it is only by writing that I discover exactly what it is I am thinking." (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty-five Iowa Writers' Workshop professors and graduates eloquently discuss why and how they write fiction. As editor Conroy—the workshop's fifth director, a former director of the NEA literature program, and a celebrated author of books like Body and Soul (1993)—remarks in his introduction, writing comes fairly easily but gets harder. Many writers echo this perspiration after inspiration, including Ethan Canin, who learns to compose with "a narrowed concentration"; Francine Prose, who stresses details in making fiction real; and Chris Offutt, who notes the rewriting inherent in the title, "the eleventh draft." Offutt only stumbled into writing when a librarian he'd asked for a baseball book produced The Catcher in the Rye. If one thinks writing is a hedonistic pursuit for gifted storytellers, Jayne Anne Phillips admits that "writers hate to write." She compares the phases of writing to different kinds of marriages. Is creative writing self-therapy? Elizabeth McCracken observes that "writing fiction is like calling up a radio psychologist and saying, `Doctor, I have this friend, with this problem.' " Less facetious is T. Coraghessan Boyle, who considers writing a "preemptive strike against your own weakness." Deborah Eisenberg writes "because I can't do anything else." Similar self-deprecating humor is employed by William Lashner, who reports he signed up for a creative-writing course from a TV ad and that he has "the dog's and the writer's pathetic need for approval." Fred G. Lebron points out that readers and writers suspend disbelief in "acts of faith along the path to knowledge." Also waxing theological, Susan Power understands the writer as a deity who gives life toher characters yet lets them exercise free will and make their own mistakes. Sadly, these gems about writing will perhaps be less appreciated by nonwriters.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062736390
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Pages: 235
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

All the contributors to this book were once students at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, members of the faculty, or both. All write prose rather than poetry. (Poetry deserves its own book.) My instructions to them were deliberately vague — they were to write about writing, any aspect or approach that caught their fancy. Leaving it open seemed to me to heighten the chances of getting the strongest and least predictable work. And so it was. They came at it from different angles, using different techniques, and each piece is unique. Perhaps the only common tacit assumption is that writing is difficult.

Unlike many activities, say, skiing, for instance, which starts out difficult and becomes easier the more you do it, writing for most artists is fairly easy at first and becomes harder. That is because in the beginning one is carried along by a kind of unconscious mimesis of all that one has read, an exhilarating plunge into techniques, conventions, strategies, and so on, that one has learned more or less by ear, without thinking about them. The discovered ability to create fictive reality on the page, to make characters who seem "real," to feel the mysterious forward thrust of narrative drive — these are intoxicating experiences of great power. The writer simply wants to be in that zone and doesn't spend much time worrying about what the zone actually is.

But rather quickly, as he or she begins to try to "make it new" (in the words of Ezra Pound), the writer is pulled into a deeper consideration of the functioning of written language. As the artist attacks more and more complex andambitious material while at the same time fine-tuning the language to higher and more precise levels of expressiveness, the entire enterprise slows down, gets harder, and requires greater concentration. Eventually it is no longer enough to simply write within the given traditions of literature (which I call mimesis), but to try to extend or extrapolate that reality by creating something that is new — that is more new, you might say, than it is old. Once a writer has done that, there is no turning back, no matter what the pain and what the pleasure.

It's a hard life because one is dependent on forces that are not fully understood and usually impossible to control. It's scary, because most writers in the midst of making a novel or a short story don't really know if their work is bad or good. Most of them operate on faith. Many of them, having completed a strong piece of work, are not confident they can ever do it again. These fears, and others, are in fact commonplace, and one of the immediate benefits of joining a community of writers is precisely that discovery. Everybody is scared, everyone approaches the empty page with a mixture of dread and hope, and knowing this helps. Simple discoveries lead to more complex discoveries. One learns to be less afraid of the mystical or Zen aspects of the creative process. One learns that a certain amount of uncomfortableness simply comes with the territory.

I've been at the Iowa Writers' Workshop for twelve years and any number of things have become clear. You cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear. Some will fail. The students — who are an elite bunch to say the least, since we can only admit four percent of those who apply — learn more from each other than they do from the faculty. Two years of reading, of reading each other, and of talking seriously about writing can lead to very fast progress for some and slow progress for others, and there is no way to tell who'll be fast and who'll be slow. Writing is a test of character as well as a test of talent, and talent is more common than character. Oh, I've learned a lot of things, and it has been a privilege to be here, a very, very lucky turning in my life.

These essays are written by people who struggle with both the visible and invisible realities of language every day of their lives, and to whom nothing is more important. Their thoughts and observations are invaluable. Listen up.

— Frank Conroy
July 1999

The Eleventh Draft. Copyright © by Frank Conroy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction
This Monkey, My Back 1
A View of Writing Fiction From the Rear Window 13
Smallness and Invention; or, What I Learned at the Iowa Writers' Workshop 21
Ralston 29
The Widow Speaks 41
Not Knowing 49
If I Could Be Like Mike 57
Mr. Brain, He Want a Song 67
The Wise Fool 77
The Hidden Machinery 85
Communal Solitude 101
Resistance 113
The Writing Life 125
On Details 133
Lottery Ticket 145
Diminished Creatures 155
Why I Bother 163
The Difference Between Being Good and Being a Good Writer 175
Workshopping Lucius Mummius 181
The Dead Man 199
Cowpaths 209
The Eleventh Draft 215
Seattle, 1974: Writing and Place 223
Notes on Contributors 231
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)