Sunday, July 18, 2010


This post to the MFA/MFYou Newsletter, which is usually full of my own rants and reflections on all things writerly, will actually be a genuine newsletter. First of all, Issue Four of MFA/MFYou is up on the website, and it’s a good one. The MFA/MFYou website has officially been up and running for about two years now, and sometime soon I plan to talk here a little bit about some of the trends I’ve noticed in our MFA versus non-MFA submissions.

However, I’d like to put it out there right now that our MFA/MFYou experiment has pretty definitively proven, from my perspective anyway, that whether a writer has gone through formal MFA training or not doesn’t make any significant difference in his or her writing abilities. This is certainly not to say that I’m no longer an advocate of the value of the MFA. I still fully believe that going through an MFA course of study is extremely beneficial. My point here is that there are other ways to achieve that training, and what might work for one writer might not be right for another. As long as a writer is really working at it—is studying the craft, taking revision seriously, and seeking and openly receiving feedback from trusted readers—that writer will, I believe, continue to improve and eventually get published.

Yes, that’s right. I said it. I don’t think natural talent counts for much. If you want to be a writer, it’s all about working at it and working some more and working yet more still. And then, when you think you’re finished, go back and work even more. I believe that most people—I suppose I should qualify that and say most people who are fairly intelligent, and who like to read and write, and who are actually willing to acknowledge that their first drafts aren’t golden—have the ability to become published writers. The real question is, which people are going to stick with it and put in all the work necessary to actually get there? Most of the people who fit into that first vast group will taper off somewhere on the road to the second, and those of us who are left are the ones who get to be “writers.”

And now some more news . . . I’M GETTING MY FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED!!!! My short story collection Peter Never Came was awarded first prize in the Autumn House Press Fiction Contest, and the book will be published by Autumn House next spring. This is a huge and important step in my career as a writer, and these next few months as I work with my editor ("my editor," how good it feels to write that!) to get the manuscript ready to print are going to be some of the most exciting of my life, I bet. I’m also already thinking ahead, trying to plan out how to get copies of this book in the hands of as many readers as possible. I’m well aware that getting a book published is really only the beginning of a huge marketing process—after all, it doesn’t really count for much if you publish a book that nobody buys.

In the coming months I’ll be able to bring some new experiences and perspectives to the table here in the old MFA/MFYou Newsletter, and I hope you’ll all stick around for the ride.


Anonymous said...

wow, Ashley, I'm absolutely thrilled for you.


me and my gf think it's the perfect excuse to have martinis all round.

looking forward to future posts


Ashley Cowger said...

Hurray! Thanks, Adam. Martinis for everyone!