Why is Publishing so important?

The Daily Life Text

On August 10 I’ll graduate from my MFA program.

Lots of folks are saying really nice things: “Congratulations!” And “You must be so proud!” Or “You must be happy to have all that work behind you.”

But none of these really resonate, because, well, I didn’t embark on this program to get a degree. I embarked on this program to improve my writing, so that, in its long, novel format, it could be published. (I’m already published in short form.)

Put another way, although I’m not in academia and probably won’t ever go for a tenure-track position (never say never), I’m feeling the “publish or perish” pressure.

Put yet another way, the degree is nice. I worked hard and made friends and am part of a community. But I won’t really feel like I’ve done anything until my work is on the shelf. (Obviously I’m not debunking whatever an MFA feels like for anyone else. We all have our own races to run.)

I’m thinking about this a lot lately, as I query my manuscript. As I’m researching possible outlets, I see agent, or editor, blogs that pass on valuable knowledge, and author blogs that do the same. These things are a veritable fount of warmth and happines. Like, isn’t it wonderful, that there are these people out there, who love books and words and who spent their every waking minute thinking about the way we tell stories? Isn’t it amazing to be, however tangential, a part of a community like this?

And, earlier in my MFA career, I met an editor who started her own literary society for writers of children’s and young-adult books. And I met a woman who worked tirelessly to build a place where writers could feel more connected to each other. And I met another editor who gave so freely of herself that, whenever I called on her after the residency, she responded. And published writers who consistently answer calls for help from writers like me. Agent recommendations, proofing query letters, general brainstorming.

Like, how lucky I am, to be loosely connected to this group of folks who think this way, and who want others to read and gain just a little bit of whatever they’re feeling!

And then, right on the heels of that warm fuzzy stuff, “I can’t wait to be able to pass on knowledge like this. I can’t wait to be able to publish, so that I can speak from the bookshelf, from a position of full experience. I can’t wait to inspire others to love craft, and words, and books.”

Last semester, Doyce joined our MFA program. The husband of a close friend, and now, a good friend in his own standing, he was on the fence about the residency. Early on, we had this exchange:

“Don’t make yourself responsible for my happiness with this thing,” I tell Yi Shun while we walk along the shore to the beach house she and a few other students have rented. “That’s not going to work out.”

“For me?” she asks.

“Also you.”

Doyce is not going to believe this, but I have been thinking about this since we had the exchange. Mostly because something was off. Not the part where I’m anxious about Doyce wanting to enjoy the residency, Get Something out of it, maybe even like it enough to sign on to the program–all that is true. But it was something about the motivation. Why was I so anxious? What did it mean?

Earlier this week, as I was sending out some queries, I finally figured it out. I wanted Doyce to join us in part because I knew he could add to us. I knew his knowledge and experience, which is so different from so many students’–and even most instructors’–in our program would only make us better, as a body. We could learn from him, and he might even learn from us.

The pressure to see Doyce happy with this thing came from wanting to build a better community.

Ultimately, when I publish, I’ll be that much better equipped to be a better part of the community. With an MFA under my belt, I am a step closer. I think.

That’s why graduation matters.



Verbagram, the Grilled Cheese Edition: A Tall Tale*

The Daily Life Text

Verbagram: (n.) A thingamajibber in which I make up for my crap food photography by telling you a story about the food in question.

A few months ago, this happened:

Don’t quite understand it?
It’s okay. It has taken me lo! all these months to process it myself.
Here is what happened.
We went to our local brewery for the first of their Food Truck Fridays, which is, yes, when food truck arrives at brewery. The truck that week was the Grilled Cheese Truck. It was late getting there and late setting up, which is why Mr. Gooddirt had something like two and a half strong beers before he got into line.
Presumably the ABV contributed to some kind of food-related myopia, because when he delivered our food to the table he dropped off two normal grilled cheese sandwiches, one for me, and one for my friend, and an order of tater tots, and then he weaved a little and said, “Be Right Back,” and then he came back with another two handfuls of grilled cheese.
Well. I thought it was two handfuls of grilled cheese. Basically it was two grilled cheese sandwiches, each stuffed with mac and cheese, and slapped together. The whole thing was glued together by another layer of mac and cheese and more pulled pork.
The woman who is sitting next to Mr. Gooddirt is most likely laughing because she can’t believe he is trying to explain the thing to her and eat it all at the same time.
Also, it arrived in two containers and weighed about as much as a brick.
The next morning Mr. Gooddirt smelled like bacon and could not roll over onto his belly.
True story.
*Not really very tall. In fact, just normal height.