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On The Brink: Life After the MFA in Writing - Two Grads Link with International Literacy Project

Posted on 2020-01-22 in MFA in Writing News

Jaclyn Morken and Carolyn Gray

People often ask what comes after completing an MFA in Writing, what possibilities are there for a graduate who wishes to remain firmly planted in the literary world and build professional skills in, for example, the publishing industry? My answer is, in so many words, “the sky’s the limit.” But by far the best examples of post-MFA possibilities come from our graduates themselves.

Carolyn Gray and Jaclyn Morken graduated from USask’s MFA in Writing in 2019. The ink had barely dried on their thesis projects or, perhaps more accurately, their keyboards had barely cooled, when they accepted internships through the Brink Literacy Project. Launched in 2007, Brink’s mission, as stated on their website is “devoted to utilizing the power of storytelling to positively affect the lives of people on the brink. Through our education, community, and publishing divisions, or non-profit works worldwide to foster a love of literature, increase literacy rates, and use storytelling to empower underserved communities.” Brink’s educational mandate focusses on developing editing skills, writing skills, marketing, and outreach. The Brink community also offers numerous publishing opportunities for emerging writers.

Carolyn Gray, the first MFA in Writing grad to be awarded an internship with Brink, was in the final semester of her studies when she received notification about this wonderful opportunity. Carolyn’s  internship took place from January to April, 2019. What a roll she was on, receiving her MFA in Writing, taking up the position of Writer-in-Residence at Winnipeg Public Library and more recently being appointed Editor of Prairie Fire Magazine, one of Canada’s best and most longstanding literary magazines. Recalling her time as an intern with Brink Literacy Project, Carolyn says: “I was interested in the publishing industry, and was drawn to the Brink Internship because it promised intensive training with professionals. As well, Brink has an objective of reaching underserved and diverse communities which made the prospect even more exciting. The Brink experience was fun, challenging, thorough, and a wholly rewarding experience. Now, about eight months later, I’m working full time in the publishing industry.”

Jaclyn Morken began her twelve-week internship with Brink Literacy Project in September 2019. When asked about her typical duties as a Brink intern, Jaclyn states, “just some of my work included interviewing published authors, reviewing an ARC (advance reading copy) of a forthcoming short story collection, managing social media accounts, and editing live submissions to Brink’s magazine F(r)iction, as well as its writing contest.”

Brink’s outreach and accessibility mandate is strong. On this topic Jaclyn remarks: “This awareness and respect of others and their ability levels is one reason why I am so proud to be involved with Brink Literacy Project. Brink is committed to opening the publishing industry to those who might not otherwise have access to it, providing  resources and platforms for underrepresented and marginalized voices to tell their stories…Now, as a Junior Editor, I’m continuing to evaluate incoming submissions to F(r)iction, and I’m also working with my supervisor on university partnership initiatives.”

No one said being a writer is easy, and after the community an MFA in Writing can offer, going it alone can feel isolating, but there are opportunities out there, and professional partnerships to explore. Our creativity as writers extends to being inventive and open about career opportunities, and inventiveness is one skill we can humbly claim to possess. We wish Carolyn all the best in her new editorship at Prairie Fire, and Jaclyn in her continued editing work with Brink Literacy Project!

 

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