a criticism of the “show not tell” focus in writing workshops

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There’s a thought-provoking op-ed in the NY Times about writing workshops, called Viet Thanh Nguyen Reveals How Writers’ Workshops Can Be Hostile (Viet Thanh Nguyen – 4/26/17) that criticizes the standard “show not tell” approach.  Nguyen is talking from the viewpoint of a fiction writer, so I’m not sure his criticism of creative writing workshops on-a-whole as being harmful because they are geared towards white middle-class men are fully valid. June Jordan’s book Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint, which harnesses the power of “show not tell” for multicultural students, can be used as an argument against his claims, for example, and personal and Confessional poetry by people of all races and genders and sexual orientations has been an effective vehicle for change for several decades now.  (“The personal is political” is another common mantra in the poetry world.)  But Nguyen’s questions about how  to tackle issues like “politics, history, theory, philosophy, [and] ideology” in workshops are interesting esp. in light of the new shift towards politics in all types of poetry, not just the personal kind.

A quote from Nguyen’s article: 

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