Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Writers Ask: Goofus and Gallant


On this episode of Writers Ask we actually dole out some real, earnest advice: on applying to MFA programs, keeping your life and work in perspective, and how to find books in a Barnes and Noble. Also, why shouldn’t you include the phrase “Pushcart Prize nominee” in your cover letter to literary magazines?

Here’s a little sample of Goofus and Gallant, for anyone who wasn’t a regular Highlights for Children reader in their childhood (or adulthood; we don’t judge).

Goofus and Gallant

Solid advice! Unless Gallant drops those scissors and they spear him in the foot.

Stream the episode here, by clicking on the little player thingy:

Download Writers Ask: Goofus and Gallant (right-click, save-as)

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

5 thoughts on “Writers Ask: Goofus and Gallant

  1. Great, honest talk. Loved it!

    Pushcart Nominee, Jeff Vande Zande

  2. On a similar note, if a person shouldn’t bother to mention a Pushcart nomination, then should he or she bother to mention his or her MFA in a submission letter? Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? I guess if a Pushcart nomination doesn’t mean anything, nor does an MFA…not really. It’s strange, one pursues and MFA to become a writer, but it doesn’t necessarily make one a writer. If you get a nursing degree, you’re a nurse. If you get an MFA… well, you have an MFA and still have to prove that you’re a writer. Now look, you have me ranting. Here’s the big question… should magazines request cover letters at all? It should just come down to the work, right?

  3. I suppose all the things one might mention in a letter–MFA, previous publications, honors or awards–are just meant to establish legitimacy, to basically say, “See? I’ve been doing this seriously for a while.”

    I can only speak to my own experience as an editor, but I’ve probably been influenced, in small ways, by cover letters before. Not that I would take or not take a story because of someone’s credentials. But if someone has been published in top-tier places, or has an MFA from a really good program, that might raise my expectations for the story. Or, recently, someone submitted a short, pretty funny piece that had some great moments but also some stuff that wasn’t working. When I saw in her cover letter that she was a freshman in college, that prompted me to send a bit longer, more encouraging note, because I felt like she had some serious talent for someone who self-described as a dabbler in fiction, and I wanted to encourage her to keep doing it.

    Because of the way Submittable is set up, I’ll admit I sometimes don’t even look at the cover letter until after I’ve read the story. But it can provide some context, like whether we’ve read submissions by that writer before and encouraged them to send more work, or if they’re just starting out as a writer, or how they heard of Barrelhouse. None of those things would make me accept or reject a story–even a really obnoxious cover letter, by itself, isn’t a deal breaker–but I do like reading them, just as a reminder that there’s a real person on the other end of the submission.


  4. Pingback: 5 Random Things: Outline This | Laura Maylene Walter

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