Tanner Hadfield and the Writing Life

0 Commentsby   |  02.02.14  |  Alumni Spotlight


Tanner Hadfield, Selfie, 2014

When we last saw English major Tanner Hadfield he was headed off to the land of the Rockies (and the Broncos! for football fans) as he prepared to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Tanner was certainly qualified. Prof. Al Haley remembers making a major discovery in Eng. 323: Poetry Workshop in the Fall 2009:

“There was this quiet person who wrote surreal poems with the most amazing language, and you could still understand them. It was like John Berryman meeting up with John Ashberry and someone much more sober and coherent. I’d never seen anything quite like it from a student.”

Tanner went on to prove that his real forte was in fiction writing. His story in a semi-magical realist mode, “Snowing in Darling,” written a year later, won first place in the 2011 Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers (TACWT) contest.

With that kind of “back story,” we’re not to surprised to get this update about what’s been going on in Boulder.

  • Tanner finished runner-up in the fiction category of an annual writing contest for authors from western U.S. states. The story will be published in an upcoming issue this year of the University of Utah’s “Western Humanities Review,” a journal founded in 1947:  http://ourworld.info/whrweb/
  • He continues to serve as assistant editor for Caketrain Journal whichis associasted with a publishing house in Pittsburgh.  http://www.caketrain.org/
  • Since joining the UC program, he has been teaching freshman and sophomore classes.

Having learned of the above accomplishments from a well-informed source, we thought we’d conclude this post/update by contacting Tanner himself and asking him to respond to a couple of questions about the writing life.

INKWELL: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing since studying it at the graduate level?

TANNER: It’s still an ongoing process, and definitely a scary one, but the biggest advance would have to be learning to remove myself from my writing vacuum. That is, letting go of empty self-expression and vague notions of success in favor of writing for an actual real world audience, with an actual purpose in conversation with contemporary culture and literature. Very many people are very good writers inside the safety of their own vacuum and most of them stay there forever.

INKWELL: As someone who works as a fiction editor, what kinds of stories attract you and what do you see in stories that immediately generate a thumbs-down?

TANNER:  I’m attracted to stories with a rich, economical prose style and angle. The knowing chance of folly via abstraction. An immediate thumbs-down comes from a lack of immediacy. If one waits even until the second paragraph to get to the good stuff, one’s odds become abysmal. Merely competent writing is of no use and won’t buy one time outside the classroom (though achieving competence is certainly a necessary step in the process of becoming a real writer). This is just the nature of the present world of writing. It may not be cutthroat, but it’s incredibly competitive!

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