By Taylor Johnson
Every year it seems like more and more books are being adapted for the small and big screen, and the same question follows its release: which is better, the movie or the book? I struggle with this decision as well: whether to watch the movie or read the book first. I fear that by doing one, I’ll miss something about the other, and the overall story that the author intended for me to know will be lost or tampered with in some way. I enjoy both mediums of storytelling, but I wonder if in some way I betray my writer-self for liking a film adaptation more than the book on which it was based.
Everyone has their reasons for why they feel one is better than the other. Remember the Harry Potter debate? The 8 book series was still being published as the movies were released, and in some circles, one could be dismissed for even considering watching the films before finishing the books. These people, the purists I like to call them, only read the books and didn’t dream of watching even a minute of the films. They feared that the book would lose its integrity, that the story would be lost in the vast world of CGI and special effects. Others only ever watched the movies, never cracking the spine of the actual texts.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (who recently won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature) is a dystopian novel that was published in 2005. The film was adapted five years later Both received critical acclaim in their respective fields, but it is no secret that the two have their differences—the most apparent being its treatment of character development. I watched the film first and then read the book and after doing so, discovered an unsettling change. In the book, it is made abundantly clear that Kathy and Ruth (the story’s two female protagonists) are close friends throughout childhood which informs the difficulties they face as adults. In the film, on the other hand, this relationship is not as apparent, and changes the story quite a bit. They are distant as small children and Ruth is painted as sneaky and selfish when they become teens, which creates an audience bias for Kathy. The film made me dislike Ruth, whereas the novel made her more relatable and sympathetic. After reading the book, I felt as though the movie cheated me a bit. I didn’t know the characters as well as I thought I did, and it made me wonder how many other stories I really didn’t know simply because I’d watched the movie instead of reading the book.
Given the demands on our time, I wonder whether other people face this dilemma: to read first or just watch the movie?
By Finola Mc Donald
(An except of an interview with Alumna, Joanna Valente, in our upcoming 2017 issue)
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Sexting the Dead (Unknown Press, 2017) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets.
FM: What moves you to create?
JV: The need to be seen, to change the status quo, to change how women and queer people are viewed. For me, being an artist of any kind means you see what others don’t. Being an artist is intensely political to me, and while I don’t necessarily think all artists have to be, I also can’t imagine not being political, not fighting for equality or the betterment of people. I want us to live in a kinder, better world, and that is what writing is for me, to highlight experiences that aren’t seen as “norm” and to normalize them. To highlight the nuances of human interaction, because we live in more grays and shades than extremes.
FM: How and when did you first get into writing?
JV: I was 11 and I had just gotten my period and started listening to music like The Cure and Tori Amos and began reading Emily Dickinson, and I think the combination of all those things led me to it. That being said, I was also intensely shy and introspective and was deeply into visual art (often I could be found painting or drawing), so in some way, it was just another outlet for me to express something, myself.
Rebellion is also a big part of art for me. And I think my English teacher at the time would always give me 89% on essays and I wanted so bad to get a 90, so in some strange way, I think that really prompted me to excel at writing because I knew I could, I knew that I was capable. The same running theme of rebellion has always been the case for me. As I got older, being a femme was something that was a barrier, being assaulted, being silenced. And I’ve rebelled against that.
Even in my MFA program, my writing was often seen as “women’s work”, as if writing about womanhood or queerness was seen as something other that men didn’t have to be interested in. Being non-binary, of course, is doubly erased by people, so right now I’m trying to write to that experience. Perhaps it’s half-rebellion and half just me trying to understand myself better, but finding your real identity is a rebellion in itself.
By Rosa Sugarman
Image by Kurt Vonnegut
When authors come to SUNY Purchase for a reading, one questions always seems to reappear during the Q&A: What advice would you give to young writers? The answer is always different and often contradictory to other writers’ advice. Some say to treat it like a 9-5; work tirelessly to perfect your craft. Some say don’t study it at all, let it be your private joy and keep capitalism out of your artistic pursuits. While it’s difficult to reconcile this mishmash of artistic practices, there is a way to allow your inner artist space to breath while putting in the hours necessary to honing your craft. You need a second art.
I practice two other arts: painting and drumming. I’m no Louise Bourgeois and no Tobi Vail, but I feel no pressure to perfect my secondary artistic pursuits. These arts are strictly for me. When I feel due dates and criticism discouraging my natural urge to write, it can be humbling to return to an untarnished medium to remember why exactly I make any art at all. Then, I can take that same energy over to the page and finish a piece I’m proud of before the deadline.
A second art form should always be low pressure. Novelist Susan Minot told Donald Friedman (creator of book and art exhibition The Writer’s Brush) “Sometimes when I’m feeling a little burnt out with writing, [painting is] a pleasure…It’s never something I feel, ‘Oh, I better go do that,’ which is what writing sometimes has become, because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” For Minot (along with the 90 other career writers whose paintings are shown in The Writer’s brush) painting remained a pastime long after she started selling books. One can imagine having too many projects going at once would cause an artistic stalemate, but if treated with levity, juggling projects can bring pleasure back art.
There’s also something to be said about getting into a creative state of mind and staying there. When writing is associated with school or work, it can be tempting to completely shut down after class. Rather than binging netflix or scrolling endlessly through instagram, take out the watercolor set. The same meditative state of mind one gets from consuming media can become productive if it’s channeled towards creation. If the artistic mind is a muscle, there’s no shame in finding low pressure ways to strengthen it.
A writer can also learn about writing from working in other forms. For me, it’s a matter of seeing the same principles passing over. For example, it’s a good idea to sketch an outline before you begin painting. It’s also alright to not stick with it if your vision evolves, simply erase and redraw. An outline for a story can benefit from a similar treatment. In drumming, the pace will stay the same throughout a song except perhaps in key moments. The pacing in a story should follow the same principle.
The best part of adopting an art form you’re not committed to is if you don’t like what you’re doing, or feel you’ll never improve, it doesn’t matter.You can keep a stack of ugly paintings under your bed and never show anyone. You could disassemble your drum kit and sell it on craigslist. Or, you could show off what you’ve done and push criticisms aside with “this is just something I do for fun.” It doesn’t matter. It’s all yours.
By Kayla Dale
I’ve had the privilege of following many talented students through years-worth of creative writing classes, and have not only created friendships, but also watched their voices blossom as writers. I’ve read their fiction, but I have never had the opportunity to ask them the big question: “Why are you here at Purchase pursuing the Creative Writing BA?” I applied to this program with the desire to share my personal experiences with others through fiction, adopting my own experimental writing style and unique voice that reflect the way my mind works. I wanted to know what personal circumstances have provoked my fellow students to write, and never stop writing. I interviewed three upperclassmen of different gender and background about why they applied to the Creative Writing Program at Purchase College. Please note that the first two contributors, Kukuwa and Michael, are Creative Writing majors. The third contributor, Aren, is a non-major who has, with instructor approval, designed their own curriculum and was able to take classes in the Creative Writing Program. All of their answers are below.
Kukuwa Ashun, Senior:
“My love for writing stemmed from my love for books. I used to collect so many books at a young age. I found myself immersed in those monthly Scholastic book orders they gave us in elementary school. Having this connection with stories at a young age encouraged me to write my own narratives and share them with other people around me. This kind of mentality was one that my family continuously supported, and with their help, I knew I wanted to pursue my BA here at Purchase. Participating in workshops, taking literature classes, attending readings by visiting authors, and discovering more about myself as a writer, made me not regret my decision to follow this trajectory. I will forever be thankful for my years here.”
Michael Chamak, Senior:
“I’ve always liked the idea of entertaining people, especially through storytelling. I feel like any time I can entertain someone or make them feel good is an accomplishment of which to be proud. Throughout high school and the beginning of college I was focused on TV and film production. As I went on, I was drawn more and more to the writing side of production. I found that I enjoyed writing the stories much more than I enjoyed working on a set, which consists mostly of waiting, and exhausting repetition. I’m drawn to creative writing because I prefer to tell the stories that I want to without the confines of reality. If I wanted to, I could write a story about dragon-riding aliens without having to worry about budgetary restrictions.”
Aren Landau, Senior:
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a storyteller. That is, I’ve always known I had something to say. When I started college, I was a BA in the Art Conservatory because I’d had many mentors who encouraged me to pursue art as a profession. The art program was excellent, but it wasn’t fulfilling my need for storytelling in the way I had hoped. Then I stumbled blindly into an intro creative writing class. From there, creative writing evolved from a pastime, to a passion, to a career trajectory, and I have never been happier. As a young teen fresh out of the closet, I felt there were never enough good books with lesbian protagonists. Malinda Lo was a huge inspiration to me in that regard, because she was the first author I read who combined the genre I wanted to write in(fantasy/sci-fi) with the kind of people I wanted to write about.”