AMBER LOVE 18-JAN-2016 Please support this content at This week’s topic is something I call “PAY TO PLAY” about privilege in the arts. It’s about a discussion that crops up in creative circles about once a month and last Friday sparked the #NotaRealWriter tag on Twitter:

  • If you aren’t published, are you a writer?
  • Do you need an MFA to be a ____?
  • You’re not a “real” writer if you don’t ______.
  • If you paint as a hobby, but never sold anything are you a “real” artist?

Fortunately, most of the people I network with turn these discussions into something hopeful and positive for the creators who are looking to break in or stay happy as hobbyists. What’s disheartening is when some of great influence says something that comes off belittling (ok, 140 characters is hard to give context) and then gets called out on his shit.

Neil Gaiman tweet Clarion endorsement

What I liked about this latest Gaiman kerfluffle is that he owned up in a way, admitting he doesn’t have the education he was promoting (an expensive six-week workshop course at UCSD). Other people would have defended their statement and been more defensive about being called out.


Do you know how Marguerite Bennett got her break in comics? It wasn’t from putting out indie comics or short stories in anthologies where no one makes money. She took a writing class and Scott Snyder (co-lead of the Batman universe) was her instructor. He mentored her and gave her the introduction at DC Comics. That’s PRIVILEGE. She has an education from Sarah Lawrence University. She had the means to take the class, the means to travel and meet people, the opportunity to dedicate time to writing comic scripts and has since become popular. He did that for her because he believed in her ability to tell stories. MOST of us in the creative arts don’t have that privilege. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve success; I’m saying, her story is that someone else gave her that big break. I discussed other ways that this can happen in comics in this week’s video.

If you have any idea how many traditionally published authors I consider friends (the kind I can DM on the weekend and they’ll get back to me), you’d think I’d have some kind of “in” with publishing. Not one person has offered to pass along my manuscripts or comic scripts to their agent or publisher or even given me an introduction to follow up on my own. So I do what teachers and panelists have recommended: the continued pursuit of doing the writing and trying to get short stories and anthology projects out there into the wild; and self publish.

YOU’RE A WRITER IF ________:

Other contemporaries like Chuck Wendig say, you’re a writer if you write. I’m on the fence about it. If you’re alone in the forest and acting out a play, you’re not an actor. If you accidentally lit a tea towel on fire with the stove and extinguished the flames, you’re not a firefighter. So I’m not sure if a writer without readers IS a writer or if they’re a person who happens to write.

However, I don’t think you need fancy workshops or an MFA to get to the point where you are recognized as a writer. I think they’re a huge advantage, but at this point in time, there’s no Federal License to Practice the Craft of Writing which is attained after X number of weeks in a course or workshop. I love workshops! I love listening to people who have found their success talk about their methods. I also know writers who say those workshops are a waste of time and money and that they learned the same content by paying attention to other writers and reading their blogs or books.

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