Writing and Professionalism

My colleague at Second Job has a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition. As part of his program, he took a class on professionalism (can’t remember its exact title). In this class he learned how to go on the job market, how to interview at a university, how to write a CV, etc. As part of my MFA I had two minor class discussions about how and when to submit your work to journals (most of it was summed up by: later). I learned many things during the course of my MFA that I use near-daily, but at the end, I did not know how to query a book, organize a poetry manuscript, or how to manage a writing career after grad school ended.

Maybe insecure grad students grow up to be insecure writers. Maybe these professors had no idea how they got to where they were, and didn’t want to remind anyone of that. But one of my professors lived two hours ago on [very scenic location]. How did he swing that? How did he get his book of vignettes published? Another professor is the poetry editor at [major magazine]. How did he get to that place?

This article addresses some of these issues. Sure, professors want to focus mainly on craft and let the rest take care of itself. But a little idea of what lies ahead would be useful. I was a little distrustful at first. I hate the idea that college needs to be all directly applicable to the job market. And of course I hate it. Who would study poetry other than print ad designers in that case? But this is not the article’s slant.

How can you expect to earn money as an MFA? Or, how do you find a job that gives you the time to write? MFAs are under tremendous pressure by everyone they know to justify themselves and their choices. The program can be a place where real writers can tell these fearful graduate students that they can in fact write a novel while holding down a full-time job.

What do you wish someone had told you about the work of getting your writing out under reader’s noses?

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3 responses to “Writing and Professionalism

  1. After my MA in writing I drifted into adjunct composition teaching at the local community college. I soon found that I hated it. I think in part it was because I had no idea how to conduct a class. Despite 2+ years of writing instruction, I would have appreciated even a couple of class sessions discussing how to schedule the hour (or two), how to create a course syllabus, how to create assignments, et cetera.

  2. I wish they’d told me everything.

    Next time I go to a writing conference, I’m going to go to those business seminars–I always passed those up, because writers I respected said to write a book first. So I did. Now what?

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