The Hybrid Writer’s Life (Post-MFA)

I love this article from Paige Sullivan with Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog!

There’s a lot of pressure and uncertainty for writers around the question of whether or not to go for an MFA, and then, what if you do? What if you go for that MFA, graduate, and then…what? Do you get to say, “I’m a writer” when people ask what you do for a living (even if your writing isn’t what pays the bills)? And what if being a writer isn’t your career dream, but you know that writing is an invaluable skill that you want to further hone and develop? Or what if it’s like Rae Pagliarulo says in her terrific follow-up article to Sullivan’s, where you have no intention of shucking off your non-writer job, but you know that pursuing an MFA will feed your soul regardless?

In other words, what does a writer look like, and how can we as writers (whether professional, self-proclaimed, or otherwise) come to grips with this wild identity?

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz headshot.jpg Photo by Chris Marley

By Paige Sullivan

A newly-enrolled MFA student, my job as an assistant editor at my program’s top-tier, in-house literary journal was what you’d expect: reading the slush pile. The journal accepted both paper and online submissions, meaning each week I’d work through a stack of submission packets colorfully paper clipped together in addition to sifting through the online queue.

While the work was sometimes dull, it was crucial to sharpening my reading skills, and it afforded me an invaluable understanding of the spectrum of talent and skill that exists out there. Truly, we got it all: exceptional work, promising work, and strange poems that tried to compare love to meatball marinara.

My favorite part of reading the paper submissions were the more personal touches of the printed and hand-signed cover letters, which were sometimes accompanied by a business card. For me, these submissions became fascinating character…

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One thought on “The Hybrid Writer’s Life (Post-MFA)”

  1. 🙏❤️ Such a good antidote to the breezy Facebook message I just got from someone who’s written a children’s book and wants directions to a publisher and how much of an advance to expect, like it is all so simple and mundane.

    You go, MFAs! I love hearing about all the different jobs, and the care given to the slush pile.

    My first novel is coming out soon, and I count myself lucky to honestly have a day job with awesome benefits as a writer and editor at Michigan Tech. Before that, I waitressed and wrote for content mills to make ends meet while waiting for painfully slow magazine feature checks in the mail. Major tip: take the freelance out of your titles and query letters. Be a poet. Be a writer. Be an editor. Period. The free in freelance sends the wrong message. You deserve to be paid for your great work!

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