Making the MFA Work: Zachary Pace

by Mathew Cerletty

I recently got in touch with several friends who have graduated from MFA program in the last few months or years. Essentially, I was interested in two questions: (1) What are you doing now to pay the bills? (2) Do you feel that the MFA helped you move forward in your career or was the value entirely intrinsic/artistic?

These are questions, I think, everyone deserves honest answers to and I will be posting responses over the next few weeks. If you’re interesting in participating in this discussion, just let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Zachary Pace received his MFA from Sarah Lawrence in 2010. Here’s are his thoughts on making the MFA work:

1. Though it barely pays the bills, I’m an editor/publicist at a small press in Brooklyn called Akashic Books, publishers of literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Not that I expected to strike gold — I was aware from an early age that my life’s work would involve producing books, which has never been the most lucrative career path. In the fall I’ll begin freelance work with Edmund White, transcribing his new novel as he dictates it to me, offering my editorial suggestions.

2. The MFA was beneficial both professionally and privately, and continues to be so — it’ll enrich every day until the end of days. Of course the network was helpful to beginning a career, as the MFA program provided opportunities to meet people I wouldn’t have dreamt of meeting otherwise; people invested in guiding and supporting young ambitious writers on their paths.

Most importantly, the MFA program is where I began seriously thinking about my intentions for writing. CP Cavafy wrote, “In the loose living of my early years the impulses of my poetry were shaped, the boundaries of my art were plotted” — that very accurately describes my experience at Sarah Lawrence. With the freedom to spend entire days ruminating, and endlessly talking shop with fellow writers, I began to form (nebulous) ideas about what I wanted to accomplish in the (perhaps foolish) discipline of making poetry and sharing it with the reading world; ideas I continue to (and will) brood over (forever).


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