Iowa Writers’ Workshop retracts maxim “show, don’t tell”

Professors teaching in the University’s MFA writing program, the famous “Iowa Writers’ Workshop,” have officially retracted the universal literary adage to “show, don’t tell.”

According to Professor James A. McPherson, “show, don’t tell” was originally a joke, played by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on his classmates during his stint in the Writers’ Workshop.

“Vonnegut was such an asshole,” McPherson told The Iowa Iowan. “Piss-drunk in class every day.”

The phrase stuck, sources say, and until recently, it was still commonplace to critique a piece of creative writing by telling the author to “show” rather than “tell.”

“Honestly, it’s an embarrassment to writers everywhere,” McPherson said, “that it took us this long to realize that you can’t ‘show’—you have to ‘tell.’ Because it’s a fucking story.”

(from The Iowa Iowan)


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