Having an MFA means I’m smart about some things that most people have no use for, let alone interest. I’m sitting in the office I used the three years I was in my program, surrounded by books whose authors are all speaking to one another. Authors I’ve shared a laugh with over dinner and authors I’ve watched from afar, in a crowded lecture hall, smitten by their very presence and the movement of their lips as words floated from them. These books, their authors, are all talking to me, chattering that makes such a din. I want to dive back into them after this year of hardly listening. I want to dive into my own words on the page. And, more than anything in the whole wide world, I want the words I wrote to become part of this chatter, this conversation among readers, writers, thinkers, poets, artists, and cultural critics.
It’s a quiet whisper of a prayer I utter many times a week: Make a place for it, the “it” being my manuscript. If you care to know, it’s one of those my-horrible-childhood kinds of books, but I mean that in the best possible way. Like my whispered prayer, the book tells a story that lies dormant beneath this life I live now, filled with the clattering of dinner plates and children’s laughter and screams. It’s a “grief book,” meaning I wrote it in grief and it makes most people who read it cry. Editors like it or at least they send me grand rhetoric about appreciating the time spent with it. But this market is competitive, they tell me. Our MFA program directors told us the average time it took an MFA student to publish a thesis is seven years. Seven years. I fear I will give up long before then, but no—I can envision this alter self sidling up and taking me by the hand, leading me forward past all of my apathy and ready-to-give-up-now-ness.
You may not realize it is so totally not-hip to write about wanting to be published because doing so implicates one as the narcisstic, self-aggrandizing writerly persona that one so doesn't wish to be. But here I am all the same, wanting to find a home for this book. Ann Lamott once said she thought getting published meant self-esteem would begin arriving by phone, fax, and mail. But, honest, I don’t need a publisher for self-esteem. I really am at peace with myself in the world, but I’d be really awfully glad for this book to find its place in the world, too.