Now that I’m Approaching the End of my MFA, I am Beginning to Panic by Patrick Hanrahan

Posted: April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Now that I’m approaching the end of my MFA studies I am beginning to panic.  How will I survive without the feedback and camaraderie provided by workshops?   Now I find myself writing for myself, and surprise surprise I’m not much of an audience.

The importance of hearing one’s writing read aloud was driven home to me by Robert E. Ginna Jr. in a Summer Conference Workshop when he invited the illustrious James Salter to read to our group.  To hear this man read his own words, from a well worn paperback, was truly inspiring.  Unfortunately, when I try reading my stuff aloud my family wonders what’s wrong with me.   Funny looks all round.

Thankfully, I recently I discovered the Irish American Writers and Artists (   We meet for salons in both Symphony Space and The Cell Theatre once a month.  Click on “what’s happening”.  It is a readymade supportive audience of writers, poets, songwriters, comics and actors with open ears and big hearts.  An Irish audience can be a dodgy thing.  It will love you or resent you and it’s worth knowing that pride was always listed as the first deadly sin.  We have to be careful there.

Included in the attendees is an actor who appears in a network tv series and is a friend of a struggling playwright, also a member.   His character is usually sitting in a car in a deserted area of Brooklyn tossing off expletive laced bon mots.   It is Brooklyn after all.   Imagine having your own professional actor to read your lines and find laughs and drama where you had buried them.  I heard Julian Fellowes of “Downton Abbey” say on NPR that he writes the words but when Maggie Smith delivers them they’re hilarious.

So now everything I write must pass muster.  It has to resonate or I may not be invited back to read aloud for my allocated and well deserved ten minutes a month.

  1. Mary Ellen Walsh says:

    It’s a whole ‘nother thang when you “hear” what you wrote. Thanks for the info: “Irish American Writers and Artists (” Will check it out.!!! Good luck.

  2. Matthew says:

    I can’t write anything that I can’t hear while writing it. Are you familiar with George Guidall? He’s an actor who reads a ton of books on tape. I first heard him read Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” and then Borges’ short story collection “Labyrinths.” Whenever I write now I hear the words come out in his voice. I feel it helps me write a cleaner first draft, which means…well, not less work when revising, but more time for better revisions, I suppose.
    I would also like to point out one of the highlights of my time in the MFA was my 1st semester, in a short story class, when the author of this post read a page from a short story I’d submitted to workshop. You’re a dulcet fellow, Mr. Hanrahan.

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