When I was a child, I thought overnight camps were for kids whose parents didn’t love them. It didn’t help that my dad, an immigrant from India, had never heard of such a preposterous thing. (He also though a sleepover at someone else’s house — as in, a slumber party — was ridiculous, even immoral. “Why,” he would ask, in his thick accent, “would you want to go sleep at a friend’s house when you have a perfectly fine bed here?”

My 8-year old suddenly wants to go to overnight camp this summer. I’m not even sure how she heard about overnight camp. We’re saying “no” this time around. She’s just a little too immature. But this has me wondering — When is a good age for overnight camp? I’m talking about a camp that’s 1-2 weeks long. Did you do it? If so, how old were you when you went. Did you like it?

Victoria Mixon‘s link to this article doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know, but it depresses me just the same even though I’ve no interest in getting an MFA.

I have taught in MFA programs for many years now, and I begin my first class of each semester by looking around the workshop table at my students’ eager faces and then telling them they are pursuing a degree that will entitle them to nothing. I don’t do this to be sadistic or because I want to be an unpopular professor; I tell them this because it’s the truth. They are embarking on a life in which apprenticeship doesn’t mean a cushy summer internship in an air-conditioned office but rather a solitary, poverty-inducing, soul-scorching voyage whose destination is unknown and unknowable.

If they were enrolled in medical school, in all likelihood they would wind up doctors. If in law school, better than even odds, they’d become lawyers. But writing school guarantees them little other than debt.

I don’t ever want to go back to practicing law. I want to write. But the $100 check I received in the mail on Saturday, from an essay I had published back in 2008 (late, because of financial woes) is likely the only money I’ll make all year.

And then there’s this section of the article, which really depressed me:

But in the last several years, I’ve watched friends and colleagues suddenly find themselves without publishers after having brought out many books. Writers now use words like “track” and “mid-list” and “brand” and “platform.” They tweet and blog and make Facebook friends in the time they used to spend writing. Authors who stumble can find themselves quickly in dire straits. How, under these conditions, can a writer take the risks required to create something original and resonant and true?

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s some truth to this post by Nathan Bransford.

Maybe my timing is perfect after all?


8 thoughts on “Campy

  1. Good luck, my friend. (haven’t read the linked to posts yet, but the excerpts you cited have everything to do with my life as a useless phd holder) Sorry if I’m not in a more positive mood. You should see the post I’m writing right now. Impossible to be more depressing.

    As for camp, my son chickened out from going last year, but his best friend, who had just turned 7 went — but he went with his 10 year old brother. I don’t know when we’ll send Kelvin. If he decides to go this year and there’s a scholarship, I might even send him (the best friend will still go with the brother). The problem with this particular camp is that it’s FIVE HOURS away. That’s a bit too much for me. If it were like 2 hours, I’d probably have sent him last year already. I think that 9-10 is a good age.

  2. My daughter went to weeklong sleepaway camp for the first time at 8. She did great. She went with her best friend, which helped. But honestly, I think it was harder for the parents than it was for her.

  3. Well five hours is REALLY far to drop off a child at camp. One of the overnights I think she might like is 15 minutes from our house (it’s only 4 nights) and the other one is 2 hours away.

    But I think we’ll wait until she’s at least 9.

  4. That’s a great idea, Jen. Maybe I’ll see if a friend of hers is interested when she’s ready to do it…

  5. My first school camp was at 8 and my grandmother didn’t get it either. She totally called my Mom a bad parent for letting me go, haha. To be fair, I went with school and it was only 3 days or something, so not as long as 2 weeks. It was great, though 🙂

    As for law school kids becoming lawyers – you beat the odds on that one, you’ll beat them now, too 🙂

  6. I think I’ve mentioned my MFA experience before. I did realize it led to nothing and dropped out when I lost funding just before my last semester. I decided it wasn’t even worth scraping together the slightly over 2 grand I’d need to come up with to finish. The jobs I’d seen that year paid 1/2 of what my corporate job did and my corporate job was an entry level position that really didn’t pay *that* much.

    Once I finish my book–on hold while I’m teaching–I’ll shop it around for an agent, but I’m thinking I’ll just publish the thing online after a while. Maybe I’ll make a buck or two.

  7. Thank you for the link! That post of Nathan’s actually makes pretty much the same point as Dani Shapiro’s article, he just couches it in a little more cheerleading terms—not, “These are the facts, you’re just going to have to live with them,” but, “These are the facts! Aren’t they great?”

    The truth is that indie publishing right this very minute IS great. It’s phenomenal, and it’s only going to get better. In fact, I’ve been guest-blogging about it on She Writes. I’m also running a series of interviews on indie publishing on my own blog, featuring Literary Lab’s Michelle and Davin last week, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos this week, and Bob Spear next week, with others to follow.

    Why am I focusing so much on indie publishing right now? Because, although I’m a traditionally-published author, I’m choosing to go with indie publishing for my own book (on the craft of fiction), forthcoming at the end of next month. Nathan’s right—we’re not each going to be getting the eyeballs we’re used to hearing about from the traditional publishing industry. But the industry itself is being reinvented from the inside out, and that’s pretty darn exciting.

    Oh, and I’m totally with you on the MFA issue. I never wanted one, either.

  8. I’d give my right arm to be published by an indie publisher, Victoria! And I’ve been reading your guest blog at SheWrites. It’s so, so helpful!

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