Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

>The Waffle House


I hardly knew Chuck when he came to the bar where I worked and gave me a copy of Ivan Illich’s book, Deschooling Society. I read it and dropped out of college. Illich, in case you don’t know, argues that education isn’t really about learning but about maintaining class structure. He argues against experts mediating and defining our experience.
I learned what I know about writing by the act of writing itself and by reading. I used to joke that people shouldn’t go to school for MFAs, they should go instead to The Waffle House and listen to people talk. That’s kind of a smart ass thing to say, as my friend Sara Backer, a writer and English teacher, pointed out, and I’ve stopped saying it, although the point it still valid–one of the most important things for a writer to understand is how to pay attention, how to observe, how to listen to people talk.

Categories: writing

1 reply

  1. >But, Alison, I wasn’t criticizing your advice to observe and listen. My objection was to your either/or fallacy: that writers EITHER get MFA degrees OR eavesdrop in Waffle House. You don’t seem to realize these are the same people. Typical MFA students aren’t elitist (as the stereotype goes); many can’t even afford to eat at Waffle House and make a cup of coffee last several hours.The truth is, most writers enter graduate programs not to learn how to write but simply to have time to write (while living on fellowships, TA-ships, and student loans). Why put them down for this? That’s why I said your comment was snarky.Nice blog, by the way. May you attract a phenomenal following!

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