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Life After the MFA Series
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November 2020
In last month’s email, we presented advice from three different graduates on recalibrating to a post-MFA writer’s life, as well as ruminations from Roxane Gay and Andrew Solomon on mindfully developing a writing/living philosophy.
This month, we will explore the importance of locating or creating a literary community to support your work and well-being. Whether you find meeting new people and sharing your work with relative strangers pleasurable or fear-inducing, the writers featured here each make a different and wonderful case for surrounding yourself with voices of encouragement and accountability.
In “Networking for Writers,” Niyati Keni offers some useful tips for building a writing network, whether or not networking comes naturally (over on Litro).
Walter Mosley’s remarks at the 20th-anniversary celebration of Cave Canem, published by Lit Hub, exalt the influence of the organization and reflect on how Cave Canem went “from a small group of rough and rowdy aspirants who were only expected to be black and have something to say that had gone unsaid for centuries” to “one of the most sophisticated cultural institutions in America.”
In "A Writer’s Comeback: How I Built My Own Literary Scene and Saved Myself," at Poets & Writers, Julia Fierro explores how she found strength in building her own writing community, Sackett Street Writers, after feeling dejected when she didn't experience the immediate success she had expected upon graduating from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Dawne Shand discusses building an organization that offers community and financial support to up-and-coming Asian American writers in “From Start-Up to Incubator: Kundiman Means Business (of Innovative Writing),” published on the Ploughshares blog. And Piyali Bhattacharya’s essay “How to Build a Powerful Community of Brown Female Voices,” also at Lit Hub, describes how an idea for an anthology nurtured a community of South Asian American women writers.
Feeling inspired? Search AWP’s Database of Writing Conferences & Centers and locate your new writing community. Or build your own community from the ground up and employ Leslie Pietrzyk’s ideas for group writing prompts in “Prompt Writing: Not Just for Workshop” from AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook.
That’s all for our second email in the series. This time, we'll leave you with the incredibly pertinent advice of AWP Board Member Susan Jackson Rodgers, director of the MFA program at Oregon State University and author of the novel This Must Be the Place and the story collections The Trouble with You Is and Ex-Boyfriend on Aisle 6:
“Set specific goals for your writing. Mark them on a calendar and review your goals and deadlines regularly—once a week is ideal. And try to stay connected to at least one person from your program. Be a part of a writing group (or pair), whether online or face-to-face. Writing groups can be the traditional “read-and-critique” groups, or they can be “accountability” groups—people you check in with regularly about your work, your deadlines, your challenges, and successes. And when the well runs dry, read. Read, read, read. Books will always be your best teachers and source of inspiration. Reread the books that make you want to write, then write.”
Book recommendation: Dinty Moore’s The Mindful Writer.
Keep an eye out for our next email in December! We will review advice on stepping into a (non-academic) career, leveraging your MFA for gainful employment, jobs that feed and drain a writer, and ways to finance your writing.

Warm wishes,
Jennifer January
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant