Ursula K. Le Guin on Submission and Rejection: It Never Stops

“The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin, Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)

Continuing the theme of AWP 2014 highlights, the final session I attended was “A Reading and Conversation with Molly Gloss and Ursula K Le Guin.” The two women have been friends for over thirty years, since Gloss was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of student in Le Guin’s writing workshops.

Ursula K Le Guin
Photo by K. Kendall (CC BY 2.0)

Both authors were charming, forthright, and informative, and the audience was treated to several candid, memorable lines and moments. For example, when asked if they went on writers’ retreats in their early careers, Le Guin replied that “retreat” sounds too much as though a battle had been lost.

The session ended with their reading from unpublished works, in Le Guin’s case, a short story she is shopping around that had recently been rejected, reminding the audience that even for someone with five Hugo Awards and as many Nebula Awards, the process never stops.

See Also

Read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Paris Review interview.

ReadProof that Molly Gloss Deserves To Be One of Your Favorite Authors.”

Missed AWP this year? No worries. Watch an even more extended conversation Le Guin had last year at UC Berkeley (go to the 4:45 mark if you want to skip the introduction):

Joy Lawson Davis on writing “Bright, Talented & Black”

I am very pleased to re-publish this guest post by Dr. Joy Lawson Davis on why she wrote her book Bright, Talented & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (you can also read an excerpt of her book and my review). Dr. Davis and Bright, Talented & Black are making a real difference in schools and families across the country. Follow her blog at http://wearegifted2.blogspot.com/.

Why I Wrote the Book

by Joy L. Davis

Joy-Lawson-DavisThe evolution of this book began over twenty years ago. I got started in Gifted Education as a teacher in a small rural district in Virginia. I was the elementary art teacher. One day I remember the principal asking me if I would be interested in assisting with the development of the district gifted program. The district administration was looking for someone who was creative, had a passion and an ‘eye’ for intellectual talent in children, and I think ‘a bit crazy or zealous’ for causes. I took the job on a part-time basis at first, and later moved to another rural district to do this same work fulltime, and that’s when I was fully introduced to Gifted Education as a doctrine, a discipline, a field of its own. I began work on my master’s degree while working this second coordinator position. Since then, I’ve been involved in gifted education in one capacity or another at many different levels.

Throughout my career, I’ve come in contact with teachers, administrators and parents who were concerned about ‘why’ African American and other minority culture students did not have access to the same services in gifted education as their counterparts of the majority group. Some knew gifted children from all cultural groups, had worked with them and were committed to making a difference in their lives. Others were more pessimistic and questioned whether or not children of color, particularly AA children, had the same high level intellectual and creative potential that they witnessed in white children. And, of course, when they saw me coming, they would ask questions: How can I get my child into the gifted program? Why is the evaluation process so unfair? I have referred students in the past, but they were never found ‘eligible’ for services, what did I do wrong? What are the benefits of being in the program because my child was in, and now has asked to be taken out—she just doesn’t seem to be as interested? My child is so sensitive and intense sometimes, this makes him different from his peers and it’s hard enough being a high achieving black male, why is he like this, and what can I do to help him?

Many of these questions were coming from educators, but many were also coming from parents and grandparents. From past experience as an educator and parent, I also knew that it was usually African American parents and family members who received the least amount of information from districts about advanced programs and gifted services. Sometimes this was due to their lack of advocacy skills, but other times it was the bias built into the educational system. This bias was there to maintain gifted programs as an elite form of education for the ‘chosen, vocal few’—those whose parents who were the most affluent and understood best how to advocate for their children.

Writing this book was an opportunity to answer those questions and share the wealth of information that I have accumulated as a gifted education ‘insider’, with families who are, more often than not, on the outside of this field. Their children are among the millions of Bright, Talented and Black students who have been long overlooked and underserved in gifted education programs. African American children and their parents need help to exercise their entitlement to gifted education services, and I believe that the information contained in this book can be just the help they’ve needed for a long time.

Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D. has over 25 years of experience in the field of gifted education. Among her positions have been that of a teacher, district level coordinator, the first Executive Director of the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts & Technology in Virginia, and State Specialist for Gifted Programs for Virginia Department of Education. Dr. Davis has been a consultant to districts across the nation. As an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Dr. Davis teaches courses in Diversity Education & Gifted Education. She is also affiliated with the International Gifted Education Teacher Development Network (Iget-Network), providing professional development support for educators in the Caribbean and South Africa. Recently, she was invited by the Vice Chancellor of the School of Education to the University of Wits in Johannesburg, South Africa to present in a seminar entitled: ‘Targeting High Potential Youth from Marginalised Communities’.

Dr. Davis’ research and publication interests have focused on development of comprehensive services for culturally diverse gifted learners and in parent involvement in the lives of their gifted children, with particular emphasis on the needs of African American gifted learners. She holds two degrees (Masters and Doctorate) in gifted education from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, and is Chair of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Diversity & Equity Committee.

Someone Needs A Jane Austen Education

cover of A Jane Austen EducationSince turning the last page of William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, I’ve been thinking of how to begin a short review of the book, which I found to be candid, insightful, and refreshingly well-written in that Orwellian windowpane kind of way that nearly escapes our attention.

My inspiration has come from none other than V. S. Naipaul, who recently said of Austen, when he was asked if the writing of any woman measures up to his own, “I don’t think so.” He went on to say that he “couldn’t possibly share [Austen’s] sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.

“He felt that women writers were ‘quite different’. He said: ‘I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.’

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s ‘sentimentality, the narrow view of the world’. ‘And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,’ he said. Read More

Pride and prejudice, indeed! Kamy Wicoff, founder of She Writes, has written a most satisfying response to Naipaul’s sweeping dismissal of female writers, so I will focus here on his more pointed criticism of Austen.

The short version: Are you kidding me?!

The slightly longer version, a single paragraph written in the form of flattery most sincere:

No one who has ever read Jane Austen with attention would suppose her to have been anything but a master storyteller, though it is a truth as unfortunate as it is widely acknowledged that some men face a considerable obstacle in this regard. The author of a recent account of his own particular lessons learned from the novels of Miss Austen, a Mr. William Deresiewicz, of the city of Portland, in the state of Oregon, a fact he tells us “surprises him as much as you,” explains the situation thus: “I’m a guy, after all. We aren’t exactly taught to pay any attention to ‘minute particulars.’” He continues, “We are expected to preserve a manly silence, or speak only of impersonal matters—in other words, girls, gear, and sports or, if we take ourselves very seriously, politics and public affairs.” Such were his original propensities, but this very same Mr. Deresiewicz, in prose exquisite, with candor uncompromising, and taking each novel in turn, comes to grow more than a little fond of Austen’s minute particulars, holding her in the most high regard and esteem, coming in the end to know that “Feelings are the primary way we know about novels”—and something even more important: “You didn’t have to be certain, I now saw, to be strong, and you didn’t have to dominate people to earn their respect. Real men weren’t afraid to admit that they still had things to learn—not even from a woman.”

Read an excerpt.

Visit William Deresiewicz’s website and blog.

Related blog post: “Has a book changed the way you live?”