Dog Pile Essays

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In fact, having to slog through 500 pages of your error-riddled student memoir makes me wish you had suffered more.” It was cutting, yes, and unkind, and probably not the sort of thing you’d see published today, but the fact that this blew up the internet was surprising to both Boudinot and a number of other writers, many of whom agreed with his basic premise: Most aspiring writers are bad.

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The site is long gone, but today, if you visit Ryan Boudinot.com, it redirects you to a post on a now-defunct local gossip blog that compared Boudinot’s refusal to apologize for his essay to sexual assault. Soon after the essay was published, Boudinot stepped down from Seattle City of Literature, the nonprofit he’d founded. All of this—the personal and professional consequences of one essay—was what I wanted to talk to Boudinot about.

I’ve written about the contemporary phenomenon of “cancelation” before and I reached out to Boudinot last winter to see if he was interested in telling his story.

Then, in 2015, he wrote a viral, and virally hated, essay for .

It was called “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.” The piece was based on a simple and not particularly controversial premise: Boudinot, who had just quit his teaching job, argued that writing cannot be taught.

He was dragged all over social media, people posted open letters denouncing him and calling for interviewed one of his former students.

Someone, he doesn’t know who, bought the URL of his name and used the site to post criticism of him. He’d recently edited an anthology and Sasquatch, the publisher, told bookstores that Boudinot wouldn’t be at the readings if they’d rather not host him.

They circled above me for a while, and then began to dive bomb, pecking at my head.

This early, tentative disapproval felt like the terns circling.

Initially, the audience was with him, but then, something shifted, and the commentators quickly turned vicious.

“By mid-apology,” Ronson writes, “it seemed irrelevant whether the criticisms had legitimacy.

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