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Life After the MFA Series
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June 2021
Last month we discussed how to weather the writing life through its ups and downs. Mentors can impart wisdom and encouragement on how to navigate those ups and downs, so this installment will be devoted to finding the right mentor for you, exploring the usefulness of a writing mentorship, and cultivating a lasting relationship with your mentor.
Looking for a mentor? AWP offers the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, a robust biannual program that pairs emerging writers and published authors for a three-month series on topics such as craft, revision, publishing, and the writing life. Writer to Writer is free of charge to mentees with an AWP membership, with mentors volunteering their time and receiving a free one-year AWP membership. In this program, mentees share work with mentors and ask their burning professional questions.
Want the inside scoop on the Writer to Writer experience? Check out these pieces on our Program Reflections page: Benjamin Ludwig writes about what he gave and what he received in return in the Writer to Writer program in “A Narrow, Intimate Space: Mentorship as Mirror,” and Dale Griffiths Stamos and Kelly Jo Eldredge describe their experiences as our first playwriting pair in an interview with AWP.
Over the course of Jill Talbot’s mentorship of Kendra Vanderlip, both mentor and mentee lost a parent. In “A Surprising Gift in a Time of Loss,” Jill shares how she and Kendra found comfort in their shared experience and how their “conversations about writing, about essays and other essayists, kept us moving forward, looking beyond the loss.”

As Ludwig notes, any mentorship is strengthened by shared, lived experience. In “Letter to an Emerging Indigenous Writer” over at Lit Hub, Daniel Heath Justice offers mentorship to other indigenous writers from afar, imparting wisdom he’s gained as a writer and member of the Cherokee Nation, as well as Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and English at the University of British Columbia:

“Too often we’ve been told that our words don’t matter. Too often we’ve been told that Indigenous people are unworthy of consideration as writers. We quite literally have centuries of colonizers telling us, our families, and our ancestors these things. Do not believe them. Your work is the inscribed embodiment of the survival and struggle of generations, the realization of possibility that’s so different from what so many of our ancestors had to face.”
While you might be on the search for mentorship that can take your career to the next level, consider the wisdom you already possess and how useful your experience in an MFA program might be to writers just beginning to put pen to paper. Enter programs like the Summer Mentorship Program run by the Adroit Journal and the Bridge by the nonprofit organization Brooklyn Poets. Over at Poets & Writers, Marwa Halel writes about the Bridge’s success with uniting new writers looking for guidance and MFA grads looking for work in “Bridging the Student-Mentor Gap."
We leave you this week with thoughts from novelist Rick Moody on the differences between mentorship and teaching, which ultimately made him a better writer, and how Angela Carter unknowingly mentored him (from his article “Writers and Mentors,” published in the Atlantic):

“Angela Carter's class was important to me because it relied on a completely alien tradition of writing instruction—alien, that is, to what we more often experience here in the United States. Were I compelled to name this alternative style, I think I would call it mentorship. I don't think that Carter, if she were still alive, would admit to having mentored me—to having explained to me how to live a little bit, and how to act like a writer, instead of merely dreaming of being one. But she did all these things, regardless of how much or how little work I turned in or how bad the work was.”
Join us next month for our final email in the series, where we will discuss literary citizenship.

Jennifer January
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant