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Life After the MFA Series
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December 2020, Part 1
Franz Kafka was an insurance clerk, Harper Lee an airline ticketing agent. Vonnegut managed a car dealership, and Haruki Murakami once ran a jazz and coffee bar called Peter Cat. Many of our most beloved writers understood the necessity of the “day job.” This month, we dig into:
  • ways to finance your writing
  • career paths that a writing degree supports
  • jobs that feed or drain a writer
  • best practices for the nuts and bolts of job applications
In a later email, we will explore supplemental funding for specific writing projects, such as grants, contests, and fellowships, but for right now, let’s stick to the conventional—and perhaps unconventional—nine-to-fives.
AWP offers a robust set of services for locating your next full-time position in the Careers section of the AWP website Check out our Job List as well as our Video Resources on Careers & Publishing, which tackle a variety of job hunt-related questions and concerns.
For a fantastic article that covers the breadth and depth of careers for writers, how to find the perfect job for your skillset, and what to do if your career begins to feel like a drain on your writing, as well as offering a great list of resources at the end, try "Making It Work: Writers Finding Careers" from AWP’s Writer's Notebook.
In “From MFA to JOB: Making a Living, Making a Difference,” episode 120 from the AWP podcast series, writers Jen Benka, Kenny Kruse, Monica Prince, and Kenyatta Rogers discuss “alternative employment possibilities for writers while making a real difference for communities.” This panel ignites the imagination around the journey to those meaningful careers that allow MFA graduates to work within a community of writers and artists, cultivate and curate artistic experiences and opportunities, and make a living.
Perhaps there exists a significant gap between when you earned your BA and your MFA. Exiting the workforce to pursue a writing degree and then returning can pose some challenges for writers over 35. In her essay “What’s an Older Job Seeker to Do?"—also published on AWP’s Writer's Notebook blog—Alyssa Colton offers some useful advice for those writers reentering the job market.
Want to work in the world of publishing? Here are a few takes on jobs devoted to making and selling books:

In “Be a Literary Agent,” John Coyne has collected thoughts from a variety of folks in the business on MFA grads becoming literary agents.
Another podcast from our series, "The Other Track: MFAs in the Book Business," focuses on how writers become publishing professionals—editors, publicists, arts administrators, reviewers—and looks at the ways their degrees have shaped their careers and how they do their jobs. The conversation includes writers Caroline Casey, Jynne Martin, Leslie Shipman, Jeff Shotts, and Craig Teicher.
Susan Falcon delves into what exactly an acquisitions editor is, how it’s a career worth growing into, and how it provides another path in the book business aside from copyeditor or editorial assistant in "Acquisitions Editing: Centurions at the Gate."

Want a peek into what a variety of writing careers look like? Try these on for size:

A clear picture of travel writing from Suzanne Roberts: "I Want to Get Paid to Travel the World!"
As Rachel Kessler notes in this fantastic read, “F. Scott Fitzgerald did it, Salman Rushdie did it, Don DeLillo did it”: "Beef Jerky, Bras, and Car Parts: Writing for Advertising" offers us a window into the realities of the advertising world. Hint: it’s not at all like Mad Men, and Kessler argues that it helped her hone her writing practice through strict deadlines, word limits, and significant consideration of audience.  
And finally, an excellent presentation on careers for writers in the world of science and technology: Woody Lewis on "Making Your Living as a Technical Writer."
That’s all for now. We’ll join once more this month when we shift into exploring the academic side of the job search.

Warm wishes,
Jennifer January
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant