Political writing can be an art form, especially in prose. The obstacle is that writing automatically being perceived as propaganda, said Lenore Myka, Week Nine’s prose writer-in-residence, who wants to challenge that idea.
For the final Chautauqua Writers’ Center Brown Bag of the summer, Myka will give her lecture at 12:15 p.m. today on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Her topic is “The Personal Has Always Been Political: Reframing Narratives as Radical Acts.”
“There’s a tendency in American literary traditions, particularly in an educational environment, to dissuade writers from thinking about their works in terms of the political,” she said. “Broadly speaking, politics – not just writing about red or blue states – … is often discouraged in teaching and educational settings.”
She said she plans to suggest writers become more aware of their political position and embrace it to better their work.
There’s a common misconception, she said, when writing about politics, that it will automatically be construed as propaganda.
“(I’m) also thinking about how underrepresented voices in the United States have obviously challenged this notion, as have the writers in the Global South,” Myka said. “(They) have long understood how there is a relationship between the creation of art and politics in the United States.”
Some Americans like to pretend this relationship doesn’t exist, she said, but those people would be wrong. Myka said she wants her audience to persevere in their writing.
“Humans always live in interesting times, but these are acutely interesting times,” she said. “There’s a lot to write about, and I hope people will be brave in their creative work.”
Every writer is a “work in progress,” Myka said, so there’s no differentiating between experienced and inexperienced writers.
“The practice of art is an ongoing learning experience,” she said. “Basic discussions of craft can be just as beneficial to somebody who’s been writing for 20 years as someone who’s been writing for two weeks.”
Myka — author of King of the Gypsies: Stories, winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, as well as a finalist for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize — turned freelance after teaching creative and academic writing at MIT, Boston University and New College of Florida.
“I’ve been (a) full-time freelancer since 2021 … mostly because my disposition is one that likes a lot of variety and a lot of flexibility,” she said. “I have yet to find a full-time job that provides that opportunity for me.”
Although she taught in academic settings, Myka said she found the environment confining and freelance was a better match, personality-wise.
“The pros for me for freelance, at least now, really outweigh the pros of a full-time job,” she said. “I meet a lot of different people. I work on a lot of different subject areas (and) a variety of different skill sets.”