Guest author: Elizabeth Gaucher
In the four years since I earned my MFA degree, I’ve eased into a place with writing, editing, and publication that satisfies me, and that place does not involve my own book, nor does it involve traditional classroom instruction.
There. I said it. I put it in writing. I don’t want a book, I don’t need a book, and I am quite happy about the whole situation.
This in no way means I don’t celebrate other people’s books. Having your own book is an awe-inspiring accomplishment, and absolutely crucial to certain career paths. The thing is, we aren’t all on the same path; if we were, that would be quite dull.
Today, right now, in 2019, I am happier than I ever imagined I could be with my degree. As we hear an awful lot about the book trajectory, I thought I’d reach out to my fellow MFA people with a different story.
One of the challenging things about being a writer is that, well, most other people aren’t writers. They tend to think of writers as people who have written books. I will admit, it helps my cocktail party conversations to be able to talk about three books which include my work. I have an essay in a collection, and I have a couple of short stories in books.
I am proud of those books, but truly I love a rag-tag collection of other things the most.
I’m a huge fan of the Life in 10 Minutes project. This online project encourages submissions of 10-minute flash CNF. One tiny piece I wrote made it into an anthology and almost made it into a Diane Gilliam project. Almost. (That she even looked twice is good enough for me.)
I take work from my personal blog and re-purpose it all the time as editorial commentary on current events and even as support for political candidates. Every now and then I take a post a few years old and use it as fodder for a new essay.
Revised essays from my thesis are in various literary journals. I write dark flash fiction for fun annually for a friend’s blog project, and one of those stories is being transformed for a contest of short pieces in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. Experiences connected to my writing life have become blog posts for Brevity, and if you read the Brevity blog, you know the connections made with other writers in that space are invaluable.
I love to write my own narratives, but increasingly my greatest happiness comes from helping other writers get their words into the world. My writing services business contracts with individuals to edit and revise and improve their projects, and my online literary journal publishes and supports essay writers around the world. When I help a writer revise and strengthen his or her work, the process is collaborative and instructive; it feeds my desire to teach. In addition, my editorial team soon will announce the first winner of The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Anne died earlier this year. She was a bedrock supporter of my MFA study and a dear friend. To be able to honor her spirit of support for other writers with a formal literary prize means everything to me. My degree helped give me the confidence to make this happen.
I’m sharing a smattering of my own writing, editing, and publishing experiences because I want it to inspire you. I hope to demonstrate that little things add up to big things over time. I want you to believe you can create your own writing life. I want you to know that if you have your own book, I applaud you; but also that if you don’t, I am one of you.
And who are we?
We are #WVWCMFA.
We write poems and essays and memoirs and novels and stories. We write editorial commentary. We embrace the writing community and support other writers. We are editors and publishers and teachers. We do not accept cookie-cutter definitions of what it means to love writing. We read out loud. We read to ourselves. We make the world better one word at a time.
Each of us has a unique writing life to celebrate.