Tag Archives: Writers on Writing

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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5 Fabulous Author Interviews

As an author, one of my most favorite things to read are author interviews. Not only is it a terrific way to engage with the larger writing community, but it’s also a chance to learn about new reads to dig into, to discover new writing processes, and, of course, to fantasize about being interviewed myself. Here are five of my favorite, more recent author interviews (in no particular order):

author awesome

  1. Brian Beglin’s interview with Aimee Bender, The Missouri Review

I think that’s where a workshop can truly help—we can show the writer the work, in a way. We can say, “Look this is good, and that other part ain’t so good, even though it’s clear you think it’s brilliant.” I find that usually the parts I think are brilliant end up seeming strained to other people. Which is both humbling and liberating at the same time.

–AB

I’ve loved writing and reading all my life, but Aimee Bender’s is definitely the first voice I ever truly fell in love with — her stories are utterly transportive and I find myself reading them over and over again trying to figure out how she did it.

2. Justin Meckes’ interview with Anna Lea Jancewicz, Writer Blog

Above my desk, I have three framed photos, of Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and Kelly Link. Those three women make me want to write.

–ALJ

I definitely need a photo of Jancewicz to hang above my desk. If you haven’t checked her out yet…what are you still doing here? Her website: https://annajancewicz.com/

3. NPR’s interview with Kelly Link

…it’s a lot of fun to write a story in which everybody in the story already feels at ease with the strangeness — I think there’s a kind of useful dissonance, reading a world in which the people in that world are used to that place. And that’s because that’s true of real life; you often come into situations where everybody already knows what’s going on, and you have to sort of piece it together.

–KL

The first time I ever read Link’s short story “Stone Animals” (from her collection Magic for Beginners) I threw the book down and wanted to rant and write and cry and hug her all at the same time. It drove me crazy knowing that someone so talented was out there in the world and that I didn’t know them, that I wasn’t them, that they were writing the stories I’d always wanted to write. Jealousy quickly abates; immense admiration endures.

4. Juliet Escoria‘s interview with xTx, Electric Lit

At this point, yes, it bothers me that I haven’t been able to merge my ‘selves’ to the people that matter in my life. I’ve printed out select stories and given them to my mom to read and she loves them but it’s a small fraction of my work. She knows nothing about my books or the story award I received last year. Nobody does. I just feel like I’ve created work that I can be proud of and nobody in my life really knows about any of it. It’s stupid and I’m working on changing things.

–xTx

I first discovered xTx’s work while reading H.L. Nelson and Joanne Merriam’s anthology, Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good, and it’s been a complete googly-eyed fan-love affair ever since. She’s creepy, tough, funny, tragic, sincere, delicious.

5. Emily Pohl-Weary’s interview with Helen Oyeyemi, Hazlitt

I do not outline. I find it very difficult to write when I know what’s going to happen. I feel a bit trapped. In one of my other novels, White Is for Witching, the story is basically circular, so it begins with a disappearance and ends with a disappearance. It was very difficult and sad for me to write, knowing exactly what was going to happen to the heroine. It felt like I was trapping her, and I wanted my character to go free.

–HO

Stuart Evers, writing for The Independent, says it best: “[Helen Oyeyemi] cares not a fig for convention or the whims of critics or readers, just for the pleasures of writing something unexpected and astonishing.”

Check out these authors and their works now! Seriously — now!

Happy Writing & Reading!