Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Here’s an interesting piece in Literary Hub about how the literary world is pretty much closed to those who can’t afford the price of admission.
I’ve had this belief for a long time, considering, only in part, my own experience. As the writer Lorraine Berry points out in the piece, there’s been a general policy — usually unspoken — among agents and editors that it’s efficient to filter submissions through the MFA net. That is, if you don’t have one you aren’t going to be taken seriously.
Let’s face it, though. Getting an MFA isn’t cheap. Maybe there are grant and loan packages available, but you still have to put your life on hold for a couple of years and invest in the process. Which, incidentally, might not pay off like you think. It’s a risk. But it’s much less of a risk if you or your family have the cash to prop you up. Berry quotes a gatekeeper type who says the MFA indicates not a certain level of talent but a high level of dedication.
I call BS on that one.
Likewise, New York publishing is the be all and end all when it comes to careers in literature. Working in the business can also be a smooth entrée to getting a book published, so lots of young writers seek out internships in the business. I should say unpaid internships. That sure filters out the riffraff, eh? Who can work their asses off for no money but somehow manage to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn or even Jersey? The internships are — I’m wagering — mostly filled by well-connected candidates coming from good private schools. Their trust funds pay the rent.
I hope someone has some anecdotes that go against this grain.
Just last week I ran across a job ad for an associate editor position at an online literary magazine based in New York. (I won’t name any names, because I think there’s got to be a mistake here somewhere.) The job is part-time at 12 to 16 hours a week, and the “salary” is $500 a month. That’s per month, not per week (I checked). Breaks down to $7.81/hour at 16 hours a week, but minimum wage in New York is going up to $9.00/hour in 2016.
Say it with me: It’s a labor of love.
Read Berry’s article and see if you don’t agree. And ask yourself if maybe it’s always been this way, but in bootstraps America we’ve been led to believe that the only obstacles we have in front of us are the ones we put there ourselves.
I’ll call BS on that one too…