MFA in a Box - A Why to Write Book

Overview

MFA in a Box will help you take language from translucency to transparency, and make your readers feel like you've written for them alone. As author John Rember notes in the introduction, "MFA in a Box is not a how to write book. It's a why to write book.” By exploring the relationships between the writer and love, grief, place, family, race, violence. and more, Rember helps writers dive deep into their own writing. He also tells you what you'll find there and how to get back. Along the way, you'll learn how to ...
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MFA in a Box - A Why to Write Book

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Overview

MFA in a Box will help you take language from translucency to transparency, and make your readers feel like you've written for them alone. As author John Rember notes in the introduction, "MFA in a Box is not a how to write book. It's a why to write book.” By exploring the relationships between the writer and love, grief, place, family, race, violence. and more, Rember helps writers dive deep into their own writing. He also tells you what you'll find there and how to get back. Along the way, you'll learn how to see the world as a writer sees it.

"A big part of writing involves grappling with the terrors and discouragements that come when you have writing skills but can't project yourself or your work into the future,” says Rember. “My hope is that MFA in a Box will help writers balance the despair of writing with the joy of writing. It's a book designed to help you to find the courage to put truth into words and to understand that writing is a life-and-death endeavor—but that nothing about a life-and-death endeavor keeps it from being laugh-out-loud funny.

Nautilus Book Awards, Silver Winner - Writing/Creative Process Category
—Nautilus Book Awards, May 14, 2011

Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List, and 1st Runner Up - Reference Category
—Eric Hoffer Award, May 12, 2011

Midwest Book Awards, Finalist - Reference Category
—Midwest Independent Publishers Association, May 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on Gilgamesh, the Book of Job, the myth of Orpheus, his own life, and the lives of Ezra Pound and Jack Henry Abbott, with a little James Hillman thrown in, Rember (Traplines) argues that the only reason to write is to tell the truth about the soul-less, life-denying, nature-destroying culture we inhabit. This news simultaneously taps into a writer's deepest fantasy—I'm the one, the truth teller—and nightmare—writing really does require a descent into hell, and makes the writer superhuman, able to bear truths the rest of society can't. There must be a lot of kryptonite about, then, because Rember's effort often reads like a cross between self-help manual (face the darkness!) and a teacher's cri de coeur (go deeper; don't make me read another puerile story!). It's hard to argue with some of his points—yes, language lies, especially when writers mistake prettifying for deepening. But when the insights have to be plucked from a mash-up of overstatements, self-indulgent personal narratives, and gnomic and risible rules like "Dream as a God, write as a mortal," most writers and would-be-writers will opt to find another box. (Jan.)
Portland Oregonian - Jeff Baker
Rember's "MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book is more than an advice book with a catchy title. What makes it different than the many, many books about writing on the market today is the way Rember engages his readers in some of the issues every writer faces--writing about place, about family, about grief--not as problems to be overcome but as issues to be understood. Jeff Baker, The (Portland) Oregonian, Jan. 3, 2011
Amazon - Robin Metz
Witty, audacious, and wise, MFA in a Box is a unique and valuable book that addresses the subject--and the life experience--of Creative Writing from both a practical perspective and in a manner so highly personable you'll read it like a memoir--and want to meet the author. Rember has the storyteller's magic. You'll be enthralled. And walk away a more astute and vibrant writer. Robin Metz, author-Unbidden Angel, winner-Rainer Maria Rilke Int'l Poetry Award, Dir.-Creative Writing at Knox College.
Hoffer Awards - The Judges
Rember cleverly makes the reader dig into her own unconscious wisdom to recognize the true jewel at the center of a story. This book is not filled with rules and dogma to guide the writing process. Instead, an understanding of our relationship to our place on earth, acknowledging that our civilization is built on violence, and 'how the big moments in life require a witness,' impel us to infuse our stories with truth.
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly PWxyc
Drawing on Gilgamesh, the Book of Job, the myth of Orpheus, his own life, and the lives of Ezra Pound and Jack Henry Abbott, with a little James Hillman thrown in, Rember (Traplines) argues that the only reason to write is to tell the truth about the soul-less, life-denying, nature-destroying culture we inhabit. This news simultaneously taps into a writer's deepest fantasy-I'm the one, the truth teller-and nightmare-writing really does require a descent into hell, and makes the writer superhuman
University of Alaska Low-Residency MFA Program - Jo-Ann Mapson
Beyond Burroway. This is the book for the serious student of writing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780982579428
  • Publisher: Dream of Things
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 923,097
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

John Rember is a fourth-generation Idahoan. Recurring themes in his writing include the meaning of place, the impact of tourism on the West, and the weirdness of everyday life.

His books include Sudden Death, Over Time (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2012), MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book (Dream of Things, 2011), the memoir Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley (Vintage: 2004), Cheerleaders from Gomorrah: Tales from the Lycra Archipelago (Confluence: 1994) and Coyote in the Mountains (Limberlost: 1989). He has also published numerous articles and columns in magazines and newspapers, including Travel & Leisure, Wildlife Conservation, and The Huffington Post. He has been a professor of writing for many years, most recently as a core faculty member of the Pacific University MFA program (Forest Grove, Oregon). He is Writer at Large at The College of Idaho.

John lives in the Sawtooth Valley of central Idaho.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2011

    If You Want to Take Your Writer to a Deeper Place

    MFA in a Box is a "why to write" not a "how to write" craft book. If you are looking for instruction on technique, such as point of view, pacing, and plot structure, see Julie Checkoway's terrific Creating Fiction: Instruction and Insights from Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs. But if you are ready to plunge into the depths of your writer's soul and uncover the secrets that you might be holding back, then MFA in a Box could change the whole way you think about the process of writing.

    The book unfolds through stories--from the author's life, books, and world events--to illustrate hard-to-understand truths. They are both entertaining and illuminating.

    If you are ready to peel away the layers of secrets you are keeping from yourself and your readers, to confront the dark side of writing and stop worrying about avoiding narrative conflict and saving face, then you will be finish this book a changed person. Reading the book is a kind of spiritual experience. It is a Pandora's box as much as an MFA box, one you will want to keep opening every time you find yourself compromising your writing by hiding the world instead of revealing it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 16, 2011

    The Best Book I've Read About Being a Writer

    I've read (and own) a lot of books about the rewards and perils of being a writer. I went to college with the intention of graduating a writer. None of these things gave me the sense of being understood that this book does. No, it's not going to tell you how to get published, or how to make $75,000 a year as a freelance writer - none of those things. But it will get down to the heart of what it means to be a writer and give you a road map to the creative life. It is a somewhat off-the-beaten path map. I have been a huge fan of the Artist's Way but this is, in the end, a lot more real and useful. It is very readable and you may find that it points out those things you've felt have been missing but haven't been able to identify. It did for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    You'll use it like you use your dictionary.

    Deep. Wise. Thoughtful. Informative. Hilarious. Almost every sentence is highlighted. You'll use it like you use your dictionary. It's that good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2011

    "Witty, audacious, and wise." - Robin Metz

    "Witty, audacious, and wise." -- Robin Metz, author of Unbidden Angel, winner of the Rainer Maria Rilke International Poetry Award, and Director of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College

    Witty, audacious, and wise, John Rember's MFA in a Box is a unique and valuable book that addresses the subject--and the life experience--of Creative Writing from both a practical perspective and in a manner so highly personable you'll read it like a memoir--and want to meet the author. Rember has the storyteller's magic. You'll be enthralled. And walk away a more astute and vibrant writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2011

    "Instructor tackles the whys of writing" by Jeff Baker, Book Editor, The (Portland) Oregonian

    John Rember teaches in the creative writing program at Pacific University in Forest Grove. The program is low-residency, meaning students and faculty gather once each semester for an intensive session and then study by correspondence until the next meeting. It's a cheaper way to get a master of fine arts degree than the traditional method of attending regular classes, but Rember has come up with a way to get some of the same knowledge for $16.95.

    Rember's "MFA in a Box: A Why to Write Book" is more than an advice book with a catchy title. (It's also less valuable than a graduate degree, of course, and is, he writes, "in no way intended to replace a real MFA. If it were, I'd be charging a lot more for it.")

    What makes it different than the many, many books about writing on the market today is the way Rember engages his readers in some of the issues every writer faces -- writing about place, about family, about grief -- not as problems to be overcome but as issues to be understood. His method is personal (lots of stories from his life) and intellectual (lots of quotes from Conrad and Faulkner and "The Epic of Gilgamesh"). He's upfront about saying the path he took to become a writer wouldn't work for everyone but many of the obstacles are the same for everyone who wants to write but wonders why they should try something so difficult and full of failure.

    Nothing, Rember writes, is "as dark as that place in the middle of a story where you're convinced that you're writing a bridge to nowhere, and that the idea of writing as an identity and occupation was a bad one in the first place.

    "Every writer faces that dark place, and a lot of them succumb to it. A good many people who invest years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars in an MFA degree never write again, simply because they cannot follow a story into its own depths, or they fear that if they do, they'll never get back to daylight again."

    Rember lives in central Idaho and is the author of four books, most notably "Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley." He starts "MFA in a Box" by describing the 600-mile drive from Idaho to Forest Grove to teach at Pacific and uses the journey as a jumping-off point for a fascinating meditation on writing violence. Rember credits his students for helping shape his book; it seems like his classes were the best kind of two-way street, where teacher and students learned from each other.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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