Poets & Writers Magazine welcomes letters from its readers. Please post a comment on select articles at www.pw.org/magazine, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Letters accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.
THE POWER OF PROMOTION
“Emma Straub’s Life in Letters (So Far)” by Eryn Loeb (September/October 2012) painted the author as an energetic, proactive, and unflaggingly optimistic writer whose experiences have much to teach writers in their pursuit of publication. But if the intention was to give writers heart when they open those rejection letters, it seems to me that she might have selected a candidate with fewer inherent advantages. Many of us don’t have the option to quit our day jobs in order to focus on our craft. Rather than focus on Straub’s rejections, Loeb might have done better to highlight Straub’s success in promoting her work. I was impressed by how active Straub was in that arena, whereas many authors sit back and let the publisher do the work—and are often disappointed with the results. But what, exactly, did Straub’s “exhaustive legwork” on her book’s behalf entail? Loeb offered few specific details regarding Straub’s efforts, but inquiring minds want to know: What can authors do to pick up the slack where publishers leave off? And in a world where self-publishing is a cheaper, easier, and more widely accepted venture than ever before, how can authors reach their readers without the guidance and funding of a publishing house?
Brooklyn, New York
THE GRASS IS GREENER
Thank you for Jesse Browner’s essay, “Lives of the Civil Servants: The Choices We Make” (September/October 2012). What a redemptive and eloquent piece of writing. I spent two decades working in a multinational corporation and, at most, wrote maybe a dozen “good” poems during that time. I admire Browner’s stamina and determination, and his accomplishments in publishing several novels during his decades of civil service.
C. P. Mangel
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Browner’s essay is an overview of the life and work of somebody who is fortunate enough to have a job that is “intellectually rewarding,” a “happy family and a dog,” and five books in print—instead of what he imagines to be a life of international adventures. I suspect Browner’s books would be better if he wrote about the life he has and how grateful he is to have it. It sure beats the “personal unhappiness, isolation, and loneliness” that some writers believe is a prerequisite to creating great art.
CAN WRITING BE TAUGHT?
The idea that aspiring writers can meet in a classroom with an established writer who shares his insights is wonderful. I remember when there were fewer than eight MFA programs in the United States. If your MFA Issue (September/October 2012) is any indication, these programs have spread like wildfire. MFA programs are great for those with the time and money to participate, but editors would be remiss if they assumed that those graduates are the only writers worth their time.
Eric L. Rudrud
Bismarck, North Dakota
Due to a production error, some of the student-faculty-ratio placement figures published in the “2013 MFA Index: 85 Full-Residency Programs” (September/October 2012) were incorrect. Corrected placement figures can be found at www.pw.org/stf.
The residency requirement for Hollins University was incorrectly listed in “2013 MFA Index: 29 Low-Residency Programs” (September/October 2012). The program requires students to be in residence six weeks per year.
The publisher of Dean Young’s new poetry collection was incorrectly listed in “MFA Bookshelf: New Books by Program Faculty” (September/October 2012). Bender: New and Selected was published by Copper Canyon Press.