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Do You Need An MFA?

Karin Gillespie got her 'Masters in Chick Lit' - people who write

Karin Gillespie

A Masters in Chick Lit“? Writer Karin Gillespie throws a coal in the MFA vs NYC debate with a witty takedown on the divide between “respectable” lit (read hardcover) and Fifty Shades of Grey / bodice-rippers (read e-book release for those “voracious” readers). Excerpt below, full piece here.


…I started thinking less like a commercial writer and more like an M.F.A. student. I started quoting John Gardner on how an artist “gets his sense of worth and honor from his conviction that art is powerful.” I read Poets & Writers magazine cover to cover. 

…At the end of the two-year program,  I read aloud from my thesis novel. People complimented me afterward, but no one laughed, not even a titter. It was an odd feeling. I tried to reassure myself; who needs laughs when you might one day be the author of “an unflinching and elegiac novel that echoes the work of (insert name of very important writer)”?

After graduation I shopped my thesis around. I sent it to agents with a more literary bent because I now considered myself a literary writer. I received a slew of rejections. One kind agent leveled with me and said my prose was competent but lacked personality. I wanted to write her back and say, “Wait. I thought that was a good thing?”

All said, Kseniya Melnik — whose book Snow in May just came out — got her agent after one of her MFA professors recommended one of her short stories to a few magazine editors. Granta published it, after which several agents contacted her.

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