Alice Munro, master of the contemporary short story, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, and non-possessor of a MFA degree.
No, a MFA is not needed here–not at the august literary journal, The Missouri Review, that is.
Here is an excerpt from an encouraging email I received last month from TMR about the writing backgrounds of the winners of its prestigious Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize contest:
“Writing contests can feel intimidating, especially for writers who are honing their craft on their own, outside the imposed structure of a workshop or graduate program. I’ve heard writers ask, “Do people without MFAs ever win these contests?” The answer is yes. It has happened before and will happen again.”
And this is good, of course, and it’s encouraging to read something like this.
But isn’t this, writers, our just due?
When did a MFA degree become de rigueur in the literary world?
Yesterday I chanced upon an article for writers that addresses rejection. The author complied a long list of do’s and don’ts for fiction writers, most of which I’d heard before, and many that made sense (so it seemed at that moment), and I duly saved the article and made a note to use it when I revise.
Today I sat down with a stack of The New Yorker magazines from past months and flipped through their fiction offerings. Not much appealed to me.
Then I hit on Alice Munro’s “Some Women” (The New Yorker, December 22 & 29 ’08). Loved the story; I was immediately engaged, it held me tight all the way to the end. But the best part of reading it was that all the way through I couldn’t help but notice that Munro kept breaking a whole handful of so-called rules that we story writers burden ourselves with.