Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MFA Bias?

Jennifer asked for my views on whether literary journals give preference to writers who have an MFA degree. My short answer is that some probably do.

A survey of the journals whose stories have been consistently selected for The Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Prize Stories includes The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, Harper's Magazine, Ecotone, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Granta, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review, among others. Several of these publications are run by universities, and the editorial staffs of these journals include academic writing teachers and students. I think whether these editors do it consciously or not, they must have some tendency to lean toward writers coming out of academia, simply because that's what they've learned is representative of quality writing. As an academic scientist, I can attest to picking up biases when evaluating the work of other scientists for publication. Simply put, I'm trained one way, so I'm going to rely on those lessons when judging the work of others. The other part of this discussion involves the cover letter that accompanies a short story submission. If covers letters matter to an editor, then degrees, just like publications, will probably impress them.

Luckily, exceptions to this rule are plentiful. Jennifer mentioned Alice Munro, a regular in The New Yorker, who never got her MFA. From the editorial side of things, some prestigious journals still look at submissions blind, meaning the cover letters and the writer's identity is removed before a story is judged.

The second part of this question was whether or not there is an "MFA-type" story. I'll start by saying that, while I have taken a few university writing and literature classes, I do not have an MFA, so I can't completely discuss this topic from my own experience. But, I do believe that academia promotes a more uniform style than would be around if every writer had to develop on their own. Again, techniques and philosophies are shared since that's the nature of education, so I think it's normal that writers coming from the same place risk sounding the same.

Is this a good thing for literature? Probably not. But, I think education is good, and if a writer is attempting to learn writing from others, uniformity may be impossible to avoid. Just as with the rules and preferences we discuss in our blogs, the writer is faced with the task of learning the rules and then daring to break them for the better. That second step is crucial, in my opinion. Without it, I don't believe any writer can be great.


  1. I think there is perhaps, mostly, an education bias, not necessarily a MFA bias. It is SHOCKING to me when I see people with appalling grammar skills submitting work to agents and editors...

  2. Jeeze...I have an MA (lit). Do they have to have the "F" in there? LOL

  3. Hmm, I expected you to cover this topic from a different angle, because I once read that some agents cringe when they see "MFA." It might have been Bransford who posted about it, but I'm not sure.

  4. Talent cannot be taught. I wonder how many of the classics were written by people with the equivalent degrees?

    I agree with Beth that some of the basic rules of writing are shattered in many quieries and manuscripts. My hope is that helps the rest of us shine in comparison.

  5. Davin, thank you for this post. As someone who plans to get her MFA, I must say that this news is disturbing. I would hate to have my work judged on my level of education. And I hate to have it judged now based of the fact that I don't have an MFA.

    As an English major with a BA in Creative Writing, I know that I struggled with the fact that many of the students started sounding the same in their writing. Thankfully, we had professors who saw the problem and encouraged unique ideas and writing styles. That is one of the ways I developed my own style and voice. Of course, 7 years later, I'm struggling to find it all over again since I didn't write for 5 years. My own fault, of course!

  6. I agree with Rick. Talent cannot be taught. However, I do believe proper (and even simple) grammar can and should be taught. There just ain't no way I can say it any gooder. Ya know?

  7. Beth, Good point. Yes, I'd agree that the bias, in situations where there is one, is probably due to education rather than a specific degree.

    Litgirl, Honestly, I've always wondered that same thing myself. I'm not sure.

    Justus, Jennifer's question was based on literary journals, so I avoided talk of agents. I'm sure some agents hate writers with an MFA, just as I'm sure some journal editors hate it.

    Rick, I'm not sure how many of the classics were written by people with equivalent degrees...or if there was such a thing. Many of the classics were written my the upper class though, so education probably played a factor in many those cases. Of course, there will always be exceptions. I'm not sure if there is a trend one way or another. As for teaching, I'm a firm believe that a proper mentor can push an artist to be better. Whether the talent was already there or not is a different story.

    Michelle, I hope this post wasn't disturbing. First of all, these are just my opinions. Second of all, I think the publishing world is faced with the impossible task of deciding on the quality of work in a very short amount of time. Factors other than the writing are bound to come into play, at least a little. I'm not sure an MFA is any more of a force than past publications, popularity, or inside contacts. To me, it's a system, and there are rules to the system that require some maneuvering.

    Shorty, I love grammar. When I was an undergraduate I worked as a writing tutor, and we were required to take two years of additional grammar classes while we had our job. I thought it was fascinating!

  8. My sort of vague, unscientific observation is that participation in writing programs (either MFAs or summer programs or workshops or whatnot) matters more in the world of short stories and literary journals than it does in the world of agents and novels. Agents say to go ahead and put that into your query, because it probably means that the quality of your writing is above average, but not having an MFA is no bar to getting your ms read. I don't have an MFA or even a degree in literature; I was a political science major.

  9. Scott, I had a chance to meet with a handful of agents when I had the PEN fellowship. All of them stressed that the book mattered more than anything. But, I'd say about half of them did value the MFA and encouraged people to mention it in their query letters. I'm not sure that's any more scientific, but there you have it.

  10. My professors in the past have always said experience is what really matters. Always highlight your educational background when it deals with writing (BA in English, Creative Writing or MFA, MA in Creative Writing, etc.). Of course paying close attention to grammar is expected.

  11. Wow, I was clueless on this issue. I never thought it mattered. If the agent/editor likes your ms, they are not going to pass or accept based on your education. Now, I do have a BA in marketing and make a point to mention that in my queries. I don't know if they care, but it can't hurt.

  12. "All of them stressed that the book mattered more than anything."

    --Davin, did you and do you believe them? I can claim I'm Elvis Presley, but my simply claiming I'm Elvis won't make me Elvis. I can claim I love Elvis, but my simply claiming I love Elvis won't make me an Elvis lover.

    Those agents can claim the books matter more than anything, but I can claim things too, and I claim they're probably full of mucho crappola, or, basically, they're full of shit.

    I look at what others do, not at what they say they do. People only need to read through many agent submission requirements and who they ultimately represent, which in my opinion clearly shows more of a focus on WHO writers are, NOT on what they've written. I've been over this many times, as you've already seen a taste of.

    I don't understand why so many writers seemingly still persist in believing in "the good of the publishing system." It is mostly set up to benefit THEM, not US because it's set up by THEM, not US.

    MFAs, creative writing degrees, publishing credentials, who a writer knows "inside," the writer's sex--all this stuff other than actual written works definitely matters a lot to "the system," based in my opinion and experience. Most everything surrounding written works is typically given as much and even more emphasis than the actual works. Publishing's become a popularity club based in personalities and images.

    To me, nothing but the actual written works should matter. Whether a work's creator is a ten-legged ten-eyed fat sweaty purple Martian with a writing degree from Pluto's Finest University For Martian Writers or the work's creator is a two-legged hump-backed full-of-bad-bloated-breath red Saturnian with no writing degree but a summer job as a rock collector on Mars should not matter one whit to whether that work gets read or published.

    You yourself posted proof this stuff does matter with your examples in your main post. What you said about "representative of quality writing"--that's what those editors believe is quality writing. From where I'm sitting, most of the writing in those places (just like everywhere else) may be polished but is ultimately mediocre.

    Yet if a writer's work has appeared in those publications, has received a stamp-of-popular-publisher-approval, that means the work is good quality and other works from the writer will also be quality works? I don't understand this kind of position at all, yet this is the position many people seem to take. To me, it's illogical and shallow; it is not looking at the actual thing in question when making a judgment, but looking at something around the thing.

    I don't have favorite writers; I only have favorite works. A few writers have written stories that really moved me, yet other stories of theirs I cannot stand. I don't give a damn how good those stories I love are; that probably tells me little about the stories of theirs I've yet to read.

    And Alice Munro--she may not have an MFA, but if she regularly gets published in the ultra-exclusive New Yorker, it's probably because she's a well-known writer, which still would show that her being published is partly about who she is and not about her work. Becoming well-known will typically open publishing doors for writers, irrespective of the quality of their writings.

    Now who the actual writer is flew right out of my head, but I remember a funny anecdote by a famous writer. I think a magazine had been after him to publish one of his stories; he sent the place a letter declining. The place sent back another letter asking if they could then publish the letter wherein the famous writer declined their offer. I think if this happened today, the place would request one of his stools for selling on eBay.

    I don't think we agree on much of this, and I don't like posting my disagreement here. As I've said before, I'll try to maintain silence because I often have a contrary viewpoint. I just can't always stay silent because you post at my place and I check out yours too.

  13. Thanks, Davin. This is a much more civilized discussion than often transpires when the MFA issue is raised!

    I was curious about your opinion since you've had some success with short fiction, and I didn't think you had an MFA. But you also seem connected in the lit fic world--sometime if you feel like sharing, I'd be interested in your writing path--getting published, becoming an editor, and in particular the whole finalist thing at Glimmer Train!

  14. Reason Reanimator, I hope you never decide to keep silent. I personally think this is a great venue for you to voice your thoughts. As is anywhere else. Some people won't like it, but that's life.

    You referenced the line "All of them stressed that the book mattered more than anything." I do believe they were being honest when they said that. Actually, most but not all of the agents seemed very honest when I met them. Here's the thing. The book matters, but it's not all about quality. To an agent, the value of a book is mostly monetary. What an agent thinks of as a "good" book is one that they think they can profit from. Most of the agents agreed that they often founds brilliant books that they loved that they couldn't take on. They didn't think certain works were publishable, even if they liked it. So, to me, what they mean when they say that the book matters is, "can it turn a profit." That is a separate issue from other things like having an MFA. Yes, popularity, degrees, influence definitely matters. That stuff also helps to sell the book.

    A lot of people will probably agree with the sentiment that nothing but the written work should matter. That's a separate idea, in my mind, from publishing and from making any money from publishing. For my own personal self, I want quality writing. To that end, I've written a book that is the best I can do at the time. That's the artistic side. Now, I'm playing the publishing game because 1. I want to see if people will read my book and 2. the whole system is very fascinating to me. I'm enjoying the biases, the unfairness, it's a game to me for now. If I had to bet, I'd bet that I'll get discouraged pretty soon. It's already starting to happen, and I'm not even in the submission process at the moment.

  15. Jennifer, I'm glad you found the post useful! My own path is a pretty boring one, I think. I'm not ultra-successful. I feel like I'm just starting to make some gains both in the quality of my writing and in the progress of my publishing. And, of course, it has a lot of luck involved as well. The second story I ever published went to a literary journal that specialized in beginners. The editor nominated my story for a Pushcart Prize, and that was that. Then, I joined an online writing group called Zoetrope, which I've mentioned here in the past. Again, some luck came into play. I posted a short piece for critique and a really wonderful and well-established writer noticed it. Her name was Kathy Fish. She's notorious for getting the work out on new writers. So, she sent a few emails and soon some people were talking about me without me knowing it. I posted a few more personal stories and a couple of them were selected by SmokeLong Quarterly, again because the editors were paying attention to me thanks to Kathy Fish. They nominated one of my stories for a Pushcart as well. Then, they got overwhelmed with submissions and asked a handful of people to join the editorial staff. I was one of the ones to said yes. I don't know how many people said no before they even decided to ask me.

    The other break I had was that I got into a program called the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship. This is in Southern California and promoted itself as a unique program that sought out to be as beneficial as an MFA without taking as long. It was geared toward minority writers who haven't been born into the system. I sent in an excerpt of my novel to apply. There were only about 70 applicants, and 8 people were selected, so it wasn't incredibly selective. That 8-month fellowship was a big time sink for me last year, but it also helped in many ways. I got to meet a bunch of agents and writers, including people like Janet Fitch. It sort of helped plug me into the network, even though now I feel like I've pulled the plug again because I suck at maintaining those sorts of relationships. That fellowship also paid for a writing class taught by Mary Yukari Waters, and it was in that class that I wrote the story that placed in the Glimmer Train contest. Of course, in my cover letter to the contest I mentioned things like the fellowship. I'm not sure if it helped, but it probably did a little.

    Sorry for rambling. I just didn't want to waste a blog post on this stuff.

  16. Thanks for answering, Davin. Not at all rambling! I think most people here will be interested in your story.

    It sounds like a little bit of being in the right place at the right time, but also a lot of effort and diligence as well. You wrote the stories that got the attention and did the "big time sink" etc.

    I'm curious whether you write short fiction because you love it or if you see the publishing creds plus the contacts generated as a result as part of the "game" of getting your novel published. In other words, is the novel your true love?

    Thanks again, and I promise that after this I'll stop peppering you with questions. For awhile. ;)

  17. Okay--I see your point about their definition of book worth. Now that you've mentioned it, I definitely think they mean that in the back of their minds, though most don't say it outright enough. And I'm sure you know how depressing I find all that to be! If they admitted they primarily care about sales, at least they'd be honest. But they often claim they care about writing quality foremost, while what they do shows the opposite.

    I think most literary agents are near a hundred-percent business people. I wish they'd stop the pretense of being interested in the arts.

    And if worth is based on what sells and how much something sells, then I guess places like McDonald's must make the best food in the world! Yet that food is typically crap nutritionally.

    And how many times have supposedly economically super-bright people predicted something would sell that did not on the actual market, and predicted something wouldn't sell that did? For example, not every person playing the stock market will make money. Some will make more than others. Some will make none. Some will lose some. You can't really know till you play and the future unfolds.

    It is the same thing in publishing: they can't really predict sales that accurately, but many publishers seem to think they can--and claim they can. Then when returns come in, they too often bemoan they didn't make "enough money" and even dump books from their lists, books they'd originally taken on because they thought they'd be moneymakers.

    The predictive power of people isn't too great in most cases; this may be the universe's basic nature. Too unpredictable, too chaotic, at least when making very specific predictions.

    I think publishers can make or break books--by how they push them, how much they push them, and how much they don't push them. The big ones have the money for doing this and the visibility to pull it off. If some books don't sell much, the publishers' not providing enough marketing support may also be responsible, though, again, try getting most to admit this.

    In my opinion, if the mantra that "a good book sells itself by word-of-mouth" were always true then publicists probably wouldn't be needed or in existence anymore, as well as others in publishing, advertising--you name it. I truly believe that wearing fresh dog turds as necklace charms could become the height of fashion if someone pushed them on the public hard enough.

  18. I don't have an MFA, but I wonder why the bias? Aren't there qualified writers writing for literary journals on the basis of the content they write? That's very discouraging, but no more than my situation. I wasn't trained as a writer. I was trained in finance. So I have nothing to put in my cover letter. Nothing of value that would set me apart from the average Joe. No credentials whatsoever in writing. I feel it will hurt, but we'll see. Interesting post Davin. I enjoyed the discussion. :)

  19. Reason: The agents I know are looking for books that they can sell (otherwise, they starve) as well as books that they love that they think won't be best sellers but will make money for publishers. Publishers have to make money, so they print a lot of crappy celebrity bios and how-to books and hastily-written current events titles, but they also print a lot of high quality literature. Every amazing book I've read has been published by the same publishers who put out celeb bios. You can't blame free-market capitalism on publishing.

    I don't think there's a successful agent working who would turn down a beautifully written, compelling book written by a nobody. Readers, in general, don't care about an author's credentials. Publicity dollars are allocated by publishers based on how big they think the market for the book is. Certainly they don't have a brilliant track record of predicting what will sell, but new authors get published every year anyway. I've met a lot of published authors over the last several months, and few of them have MFAs or even degrees in literature or English. What they all have in common is that they wrote books that agents believed in, that publishers believed in because they were books these people thought readers would buy.

    The "blockbuster" model is clearly broken and the publishing industry knows it's in trouble, but nobody is going to turn their back on a well-written book that will probably have an audience.

    I have no "platform." I have laughable pub credits. I don't have any sort of degree related to writing. But my agent will be putting my novel out on submission very soon, because I wrote a good book. Publishing is run by finance guys, but the people who acquire, edit and promote books are almost all of them readers and lovers of books.

    I love the passion you have for writing. I also really loved the premise of your story about the woman who wanted to grow extra heads and arms. Very cool stuff.

  20. Scott-babe, in my opinion, whether you want to admit it or not, you're becoming part of the system now.* And feel compelled to defend it. That's what I think your post is: a defense of things you should not be defending and instead should be angry about. You better hope you don't have a bad experience, like many writers do, published or not. There's probably no pinnacle a writer reaches, like, he got an agent, he got his book published, he got on The Today Show, and so on, where after that moment, some writer somewhere who achieved the same did not get screwed. If you look up the definition of writer in many dictionaries, you'll find "a person who got screwed" somewhere on the list. ...Okay, you won't, but it should be there.

    In my opinion, the overall system is crap, inefficient and probably misses out on a lot of good and even some great writing. I don't give a damn if a small percentage of uncredentialed writers get works accepted. The vast majority of the published books I've seen list authors with some type of writing degree, with some connection inside either the publishing or the literary world, Hollywood, and/or with already-been-published credentials. Yet the vast majority of good writing I've seen has been on the internet, mostly unpublished unconnected heretics screaming into the wilderness while no one listens or publishes their works.

    It's easy to paint a rosy picture of publishing when you've finally made headway in publishing.

    Most insiders wax on and on about how savvy they are about the public, these insides claim they know their stuff, they know what will sell! Rah-rah-rah--they're perfect at their business! Of course these very same people do not release their financial statements or lists of all the works that didn't sell the way they thought they would. They also do not release lists of all the works they rejected that ultimately got published elsewhere.

    Scott, I must add, even though it may piss you off, but the following is one of the most naive things I've ever heard from a writer. You need a head's up shout at you for real:

    "I don't think there's a successful agent working who would turn down a beautifully written, compelling book written by a nobody."

    --Are you fucking kidding?!? You've got to be. Tell me you are. Maybe you meant to add at the end "beCAUSE it was written by a nobody," which would be a little better, but even still, read on.

    If that beautifully written compelling book by a nobody is NOT seen as one that would sell a minimum number of copies, either because of the content not being marketable enough or the author not being marketable enough or both, you bet that book will get turned down somewhere! In my opinion, these kinds of books have probably gotten turned down repeatedly. I'm sure I'm missing out on some great writing, simply because the world refuses to recognize it yet, so I'm unaware of its existence beneath all the noise out there.

    Don't forget that even many eventually published books were not and are not accepted by the first places they're submitted to.
    So every already-published book you may personally consider a beautiful compelling read that didn't get accepted by the first successful agent the writer submitted to--those books right there would disprove your idea. I or anyone else only needs to come up with one and especially a few to disprove what you said.

    Even agents themselves have admitted they've rejected manuscripts-by-unknowns they loved and thought were great because they didn't believe they'd sell. And this is especially the case with editors, who must appeal to bean counters directly. If you don't believe this happens, I don't know what else to say to you....

    Except thanks for checking out my story :o).

    *The same would go for me or anyone else. Only I doubt I'd defend it. I'd still keep my writers-are-Number-One cynical eyes peeled; it's the way I am.

  21. Scott mentioned something that I meant to say but forgot. I agree that agents and publishers balance their books, meaning that they will sell the popular stuff in the hopes of being able to publish quality wor at the same time. The best situation is when work is good and popular, but that's not always the case.

    Scott, as a reader, I will admit to caring about a reader's credentials, though. I don't think I would have discovered Jhumpa Lahiri or Yasunari Kawabata if I wasn't looking to read award winners. I used that as a selection criteria when I first started writing because I was overwhelmed by how many books were out there. Now, I try harder to pick up books at random and give them a chance. It's very time consuming, and from the few books I've ended up selecting, they have actually been coinciding with the awards that I respect.

    Other things like blurbs and word of mouth also matter to me. Whether or not they should is a different matter. I just don't know how else to choose when I'm in the bookstore facing a wall of those things.

    Reason Reanimator, in regard to you trying to disprove Scott's point about agents passing up on good books, I think you're wrongly assuming that agents, or anybody, will agree on whether or not a book is beautiful. That part isn't objective, so I don't think your argument is valid. A lot of the readers here would be bored to tears by the books I have on my shelf. That doesn't make those books good or bad. So, while I agree with you that agents will pass up books that they love, I don't agree that the fact that most books have been rejected helps to prove your point.

  22. Jennifer, in regard to your short fiction questions, it's sort of a mixture of both for me. I do love short fiction. I've found some really amazing short stories, the works of Alice Munro being among the very best for me. So, even if they didn't help in publication world, I'd still be writing them. But, there is some strategy involved. First of all, I don't currently have an impressive publication record. Most if not all of my publications are in small journals, journals that agents would probably not care about. But, if you get into enough of them, I do think it makes your query letter look a little more impressive. So, the game part of my short story publications is that I rarely try to get a short story published in the same journal twice because that's harder to express in a short query letter. So, I spread them around. There's also a sense of climbing up the ladder. Whether it's true or not, I think getting into small publications helps your chances of getting into bigger publications, which helps your chances of catching an agent's interest. In other words, I'm hoping getting into The Storyteller helps me to get into Noo Journal, which helps me to get into SmokeLong, then Indiana Review, then Ploughshares, then The New Yorker, etc. But, the other good thing about publishing in smaller journals is that you can get some awards and make some contacts. I think those things help for publication.

  23. "I used that as a selection criteria when I first started writing because I was overwhelmed by how many books were out there."

    I tried to read a lot of books from the NYT bestseller list. That didn't turn out too well; some of those books, uh, suck.

  24. I'm not impressed by all of the Nobel Prize winners or all of the Pulitzer winners either.

  25. "I don't agree that the fact that most books have been rejected helps to prove your point."

    --Davin, please don't make strawpeople on my post! I never said that. I specifically kept most of my response within the context of what Scott said. I never said what you claim I said. I said to him, "you may personally consider." And he brought up the word beautiful, not me. If you don't like its use, take it up with him. lol

    I said:

    "Don't forget that even many eventually published books were not and are not accepted by the first places they're submitted to.
    So every already-published book you may personally consider a beautiful compelling read that didn't get accepted by the first successful agent the writer submitted to--those books right there would disprove your idea. I or anyone else only needs to come up with one and especially a few to disprove what you said."

    --Don't equate the first and second sentences of that paragraph. Obviously "many eventually published books" and "every already-published book you may personally consider a beautiful compelling read" are most likely not equal, and that's why I didn't equate them. I don't even know how many or what specific books he considers in those terms.

    I only meant to introduce a general idea to more easily move to a specific idea in the second sentence.

    I said: "those books right there would disprove your idea"--the ones he personally considered worthy. I did not say my first sentence in that paragraph could directly be used to disprove what Scott said. I implied that his idea was subjective, though I didn't state it.

    He could clear up some of this by listing the books he finds beautiful compelling reads and people can research their publishing history. But if they are all older books or something, before agents were around, that wouldn't help. And even if that didn't disprove what he said w.r.t. his personal taste, the general notion I think he also introduced has already been shown as untrue by others.

    I've come across a few well-known agents who've admitted to rejecting what they considered "beautifully written manuscripts"--they rejected them because they did not feel they'd sell a minimum number of copies, the content was usually too personal, wasn't easily marketable. I'm not saying anything that far out there. Others have said this before me.

  26. Reason: I was polite to you, but you responded with condescension and profanity. That wasn't nice.

  27. You're correct, Reason Reanimator. I'm sorry. But, I think I interpreted Scott's comment more accurately than you did. I think when he said, "I don't think there's a successful agent working who would turn down a beautifully written, compelling book written by a nobody" that he was referring to the agent thinking the book was beautiful, not Scott personally. Maybe I'm wrong.

  28. Davin: Yes, that's the sense I meant to convey.

  29. "That wasn't nice"? Scott, you're going to make me tear up with your non-profanity. Not really. I know your secret of contrast. It won't work on me!

  30. I don't mean to nitpick but I see this a lot-- MFA programs being referred to as "academia." The work coming out of MFA programs may be "academic" in the derogatory sense, but academia as an institution is more scholarly in nature than what goes on in MFA programs. Academe = scholarly research. MFA programs= institutionalization of writing. There is a difference.

  31. Somehow I stumbled across this blog (procrastinating as per my usual writing routine...) and I felt compelled to comment, as someone with her MFA.

    I'm not sure about the bias out there, as I have had my fair share of rejection slips, MFA and all. I've had some successes as well though, and I'm compelled to give myself credit for those, not my degree.

    While I agree that there could be writers who come away from programs with their work transformed into some sort of institutionalized prose, I did not see that happening in my program. And I know that for myself personally, in both the MFA program and at Writer's Workshops I've attended, my focus is always to push myself against the grain.

  32. Mella, Thanks a lot for your comments! It's good to get some insight from an insider. It sounds to me like you are making some smart decisions. Going against the grain is important, and is getting a good education, at least in my opinion. (I'm better at learning from others than learning on my own.) I think you have a winning combination. As will all things, there are probably wide differences among literary journals. I'll bet some places care about an MFA while others don't.

  33. The literary expectations of the supervising professors for my Masters degree in writing did more to damage me as a writer than all the rejection slips I've ever received put together. Still, I'm glad I did it, because it looks good on the CV and, in some surreal, weird way I experienced tremendous growth as a writer simply because I refused to accept the professors' assessment of my writing talent.

    At the end of the day, I believe my Master's is going to make no difference to whether I'm published or not. The fulfillment of that dream rests on two things: writing a great book, and having a lucky break that brings that great book to the attention of an agent or publisher who is prepared to take a chance on an unknown.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.