November 6, 2017
SNHU students asked, I answered.
How does someone with a writing degree network with other writers? - Joanne Lucas
The writing community is a beautiful, massive thing. Part of being a good writer is investing yourself in the community. There are innumerable ways to network, and I could probably write an entire article about each of the following ways - especially since you can do this both in person and on the web. In my opinion, the number one way for a writer to network online is currently via Twitter. Even if you don't have a massive online presence or feel like tweeting, you can search popular hashtags like #amwriting or #amreading to find out what other writers are doing at that very moment. There are writing tips (#ontheporch, #writingtips), Twitter contests (#PitchWars, #pitmad, #QueryKombat come to mind), and agent requests/wishlists (#MSWL). "Follow" these writers, and "follow" your own community to make connections - The Penmen Review and @SNHUmfa are great places to find current and former SNHU students.
Join online critique groups (the better ones, you might pay for, for the less committed ones, you do not). In person, I recommend checking out your local libraries and bookstores for events, critique groups, and readings to establish contact with your local literary community. Buy books - they are written by people like you.
For a blend of both online and in-person experiences, attend conferences and network with the people going via Twitter/Facebook beforehand, and join organizations that represent your genre, such as Society of Children's Book Writers and IllustratorsScience Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, or Romance Writers of America.
What's the biggest factor considered when hiring new teachers into creative writing programs? How do individuals who want to break into the field gain experience in a real-world way if jobs tend to go to people who've already been teaching? - Cody Higgins
I certainly can't speak for every creative writing program, but previous teaching experience is indeed a major factor in the hiring process. This is often especially true for online programs, where it's preferred to have a background in online teaching or learning experience. That said, it's hardly the only factor. There's a perfect storm hiring teams look for, which includes the right blend of teaching experience, education, publication record and the personality of the applicant to make sure it's the right match for the culture and landscape of the university. What you have to remember in the process is that the majority of the positions you're looking at can have hundreds or thousands of applicants, too.
As for your second question, of course, "get teaching experience" is easier said than done. But, you can certainly start out in any way possible - subbing, tutoring and even coaching are good places to begin. Explore your state's rules for teaching certifications.
What can I do while still in school to prepare myself for being hired (in the field of education)? - Desiree Hossack
You should work to write as much as possible and submit for publication. Time-wise, it's smart to build a publication record with smaller credentials instead of investing yourself solely in writing the next great American novel. I typically advise my students to submit their short stories, articles, academic work and poems to places like literary magazines and online news outlets (while working on their novels!) to begin building a publication record.
I would like to know why a creative writing degree requires learning how to teach my degree to others instead of more craft-building courses? I feel like I was being prepared for disappointment in publishing and should learn how to teach as a back-up. - Angel Rodrigues
To me, there are three reasons why people seek degrees: the pleasure, investment and pure satisfaction of edifying themselves through learning, the opportunity to enhance one's own career path or simply because they aren't sure what else to do. I don't think you should prepare for disappointment. I do think you should develop realistic expectations about the process of publishing a novel and the fiscal responsibility that accompanies living a day-to-day life. If we prepare for this process with the right expectations, we can better avoid disappointment.
Despite the fact that most students enjoy the craft courses the most, a large majority of creative writing programs have some kind of teaching course curriculum attached. In my opinion, they all should have a career focus as well - here's why:
Let's say you write an amazing novel. It takes you six months. (Yes, I know some people write these in a month. But others take ten years.) It takes you another six months to properly revise and edit the novel. During or after this time, you workshop the novel with critique partners or beta readers, and do another round of revision. To traditionally publish this work, your next steps involve writing a flawless query letter (which can take days, weeks or months) that hooks at least one agent enough to request your manuscript. From there, the magic happens - and after six to twelve weeks (sometimes shorter, often longer), the potential agent reads and loves the manuscript and offers representation. That's great! But from there, the agent has to sell your work to a publication house. And then the publication house wants to publish it - also great!
But from there, you're still looking at another one to three years before you can walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelves.
Who's been paying the bills during this time?
If you go the self-publishing route, you're still starting out in the same way. And instead of querying agents and enduring that waiting game, your focus is on perfecting the manuscript, publishing it via a number of different options, and then acting as a sole proprietor of your own business - including marketing, PR, advertising the novel to try and engage readers all while writing a new one for the next go-around. That's a full-time job unto itself, and it might not pay the bills until much later down the line.
So, again: who's been paying the bills during this time?
Because the publication process is a long one from beginning to end, no matter what, it's smart to be building career skills in the meantime. Unless you're fully supported through another avenue (which is wonderful, if so!) - you're likely going to need to figure out how to bring in an income during the writing and publishing process. Many writers feel at home in a classroom, and teaching is a common path for writers to take to allow themselves the time to write while continuing to practice the craft. In fact, many (though hardly all!) writers prefer adjuncting to full-time roles for this reason - the part-time nature of the job allows them to contribute to a household while setting aside the time to write. Teaching is also not the only way to build a career while writing, of course - there are hundreds of creative jobs in marketing, advertising, academia, the arts, and beyond, as well as traditional jobs that pay the bills and leave room for a writer to write early in the morning or later at night.
Joan Smith is the lead faculty for Creative Writing and Literature at SNHU. She is a published fiction writer, nonfiction essayist and poet under the penname J. F. Smith. Her work can be found in literary magazines and in online publications such as the Washington Post, Thought Catalog and Bartleby Snopes. Smith holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and two BA degrees (English and Social Science) from Providence College. She lives south of Boston with her husband, daughter and son, teaches dance in her spare time and is working on a young adult novel.
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