Hey, it’s A. E. again. Today I’m sharing a story about an experience I had while attempting to join a creative writing club at the University of West Georgia. I’ve talked about the creative writing department at this school before, and today I’m talking about a student organization.
So let’s begin!
The Creative Writing Guild is a student group at the University of West Georgia I attended in my first year there (maybe my second year too honestly I don’t totally remember). It was not a good time for reasons I’m going to tell you about.
Now there has to be a disclaimer before I begin. This is my personal experience with the Creative Writing Guild at the University of West Georgia. Also, this story I’m sharing happened with people in the club who all graduated from the school while I still attended. After they graduated, the entire club was empty except for me, so it was considered defunct. I then reached out to the professor about reworking the club so it would accept and let students who write sci-fi and fantasy take part. I never heard back from the professor, and that was the end of the Creative Writing Guild while I still attended the school.
If the Creative Writing Guild has gotten back together and started being more open to other genres besides poetry and literary fiction, then that is not the Guild I am talking about. I am talking about the 2013-2014/2015 Creative Writing Guild that was not so welcoming and not so creative.
So that’s the disclaimer, and on to my personal story.
This takes place during my beginning years at UWG, so I’m not fully aware about the elitist academic attitude towards creative writing yet, but I’ve definitely started to get a bad feeling overall. I’ve had several creative writing classes with professors who’ve proven themselves to dislike any genre of writing that’s not poetry, literary fiction or creative nonfiction. I’ve heard them say the words “cheap, generic, trash” anytime I mention my love of fantasy and sci-fi.
Still, in my first year I heard about the Creative Writing Guild and jumped to join. A club at college! To make some backstory, I was 23 in 2013, my first year at university and my first time leaving home. I lived on campus and was getting a taste of living my own life. My mother wasn’t there to make any decisions for me, let alone enforce any rules. I was making my own rules, and learning how to stand on my own two feet. So deciding to join a club was something else new and exciting for me.
That said, I went to join the Creative Writing Guild, full of joy and excitement and anticipation.
Only to be met with students who had the same elitist snobby attitude towards sci-fi and fantasy as did the professors. When I first entered the room, they were standoffish and cliquey, meaning they didn’t talk to me or try to make me feel welcome. I mean the majority of the students there didn’t even come over and introduce themselves. There were two people who talked to me, one who was the leader. The other I had shared a creative writing class with, we even sat next to each other, so I hoped she would be my friend as I didn’t have any friends just yet. Later on she made it clear she had no intentions of being friends with me but right now this is just the first time I met with the club.
So when I mentioned I liked to write fantasy, the woman I was talking to, let’s call her Alice, smiled in this really sardonic way. At the same time, a group of students were coming into the room. And she called a man over, let’s call him Travis, and told him with that same smirk that I just told her I liked to write fantasy.
Travis didn’t even attempt to talk to me, he in fact turned his face away from me and said he refuses to talk about it and stalked away.
That moment, watching this grown man put his nose in the air and adamantly refuse to talk about fantasy genre like its something so beneath him that he wouldn’t waste his breath, I knew I had made a big mistake. This was NOT a creative writing guild. I watched him go and sit down with a group of others.
Imagine the room at this point. It was rather spacious, and had a lot of windows. The seating had couches and armchairs at one side. And the opposite end was several circle tables with chairs. The Creative Writing Guild sat at the tables.
I was sitting alone on the couch.
They never once called me over to sit with them, they never once introduced themselves, they didn’t attempt to bring me into the conversation or ask me my name or anything. They were a group, and I was an outsider.
I guess I should mention that I was the only black person there and everyone else was white, but I honestly didn’t get the idea that this was a race thing. This was an elitist thing. They believed any genre besides poetry and literary fiction was worthless and not even worth talking about. I had ousted myself as “cheap, generic and trash” by admitting I liked fantasy, and was therefore not one of them.
But you know what made me sad about meeting them? I didn’t believe that Travis grew up believing sci-fi and fantasy was trash. I think as a child he probably loved it. And comics and superheros. Then he came here and the professors insisted that those genres were trash and indoctrinated him to stop liking it. And that’s why as a grown man he’s refusing to talk to me in such a rude snobby manner.
That was my first meeting with the Creative Writing Guild. The second time, it was more of the same. They all got together in their big group, talking and laughing, and literally left me sitting at another table alone. At this point I still didn’t know anyone’s name, no one had asked me my name, they didn’t have me join the conversation.
So I left, and I never came back. Everyone in the group graduated, and like I said, when I reached out to the overseeing professor about restarting the Creative Writing Guild, and this time being more open to other genres, the professor never got back to me.
And that was the end of the Not-So Creative Writing Guild during the time I went there.
Listen to me. There is nothing creative about rejecting other genres of writing. You’re not cool or hip or academic or smarter or sophisticated or educated by putting your nose in the air and refusing to talk about fantasy. You’re not elite and educated by calling other writing “trash.” In fact, you’re the opposite of all of that.
Because doing this only means that you actually simply don’t respect any other writing than the one you’re a fan of. It’s not that fantasy or sci-fi is cheap and trash, these people actually just don’t respect or care or acknowledge or see value in other writing. I’d say that makes them very small-minded and vain. Not to mention incredibly conceited. How can someone have their head so swollen to believe the only writing that is worth respect is only their favored writing genre? That’s like a musician who plays classical believes any other musical genre is trash and refuses to respect rock or jazz or gospel. What is the point in thinking like that?
Tell me, please. What is the point? What is the point in believing yourself to be better than other people based on what they like? What’s the point in passing judgment on other styles of creative expression to be lesser than the one you enjoy?
If someone can answer these, I’d gratefully appreciate it. I can’t think any answer that makes reasonable logical sense. The only answer I can think of is that it must feel good to be self-important and imagine yourself better than everyone else.
Like white supremacy!
That’s it for this post. Next one will tackle what the word “genre” means. News flash, literary fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, are all also genres of writing. So they aren’t “better” or more “respectable” than fantasy, sci-fi, horror or romance!
But there is a post script. During my final year at UWG, a certain creative writing professor told me the school was thinking about holding classes for other genres, she specifically mentioned horror and other genres. So the complaints I hold about the University of West Georgia’s creative writing department are strictly about my time and my experience there, which is 2013-2019. It’s rather clear to me that within the next decade it’ll look differently.
So that’s it.
And as always, while I write my cat Aomine keeps me company by my side.