“The Writing Class” Provides Real Instruction

writingclasscoverThe Writing Class” by Jincy Willett is an eye-opening instruction on the world of writing and publishing, as told through a sort of locked room mystery” framework. The writing class instructor and main character, Amy Gallup, is a jaded, reclusive, borderline agoraphobic writer who peaked early in her career and has not been able to write much in the the many years preceding the story.   Faced with a class of the usual adult education students, some with talent, others not, she imparts her wisdom about the world of writing with a caustic wit and laser-focused approach to criticism.  The problems begin when someone in her class starts to make threatening phone calls to her home at night, writes vicious paradies and criticisms of the students’ writing assignments, and eventually ups the ante to murder.  The author, Willett, is brilliant at providing the various students’ voices in the excerpts of their writing, as well as the amusing blog entries that the teacher posts throughout the class session.  Her insight into the whole writing and submission process is illuminating and very satisfyingly acerbic.  I can totally understand why the poor aspiring writer, the villain in the story,  goes insane from years of insensitive, negative or no responses to submissions.  Although the voice of the main character, Amy, is unique and engaging, but I found that the overall pace of the story was off, and I got a bit bogged down in it.  The narrative had a strong start, but then there was too much back and forth and speculation over who was “The Sniper” (as the class dubbed the unknown disturbed student), before things came to a crescendo with the first murder. As in many mysteries featuring a host of characters right from the start, I had trouble keeping straight the various students, because they were introduced all at once and many did not have enough distinguishing characteristics to make them fully formed in the reader’s mind.  I also had a hard time believing that the local police would be so dis-interested in the case, and that Amy and the rest of the class would take such a cavalier attitude towards the danger, and continue to meet and pursue their amateur investigation into the murder.  The end, although it featured a tense scene when the culprit is revealed, is generally unsatisfying and felt as if the author lost interest in her characters and just needed to finally wrap the whole thing up.  Overall, read it for the writing advice, the clever use of language, and not for the mystery plot.

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