Skip to content

Guest Post: FYI, no MFA by Kelly Simmons

March 3, 2009

kelly-simmonsA funny thing happens when you publish a book:  People expect you to be smart.  And I don’t mean the manageable kind of smart, like witty-at-a-cocktail party, or entertaining-at-the-soccer-field, or even best-read-at-the-knitting-class.  (Those are close to doable.)  I can handle people expecting I’m the next Nora Ephron. It’s people who expect the next Salman Rushdie that get me into trouble.

Wherever I am, when discussion turns to something literary, all heads swivel in my direction.   At my 12-year-old daughter’s book club, I was asked which book is more romantic:  Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, or Jane Eyre.   Gulp.  It’s either bring up the latest study linking past marijuana use and memory loss, or tell ‘em I’ll get back to them on that.   At a Christmas party I was asked what I thought of Martin Amis’ earlier work.   That’s like asking me if I preferred Michael Jackson when he was seven years old! I quip.   (It makes only a tiny bit of sense, but everyone laughs because I must be funny; I’m a writer.)

Of course, when I visit book groups to discuss my novel, I’m comfortable discussing literary aspects of my own work.   Or so I thought.   Then I was invited to sit in on a graduate class that was studying Standing Still as part of their curriculum.   I held my own until the second hour, when the professor asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks, because sitting in the middle of his ordinary nouns and verbs was “verisimilitude.”  I confess in a room full of twenty scholars that I don’t know what “verisimilitude” means. The next question, I am certain, is going to be “how did you become a writer with such a small vocabulary?”

Since so many writers teach writing, have Masters of Fine Arts, or at least majored in English Lit, it’s a reasonable assumption, I suppose, that we have an encyclopedic knowledge of the classics.   But some of us majored in diaper changing.  Some of us didn’t even graduate from college.  And please, when it’s Sunday morning and I stop by for a cup of coffee, don’t come up to me with the Times crossword puzzle.   I told you last week:  literary envelope has to be Mailer, and that’s all my pea brain can muster.

Kelly Simmons, is the author of Standing Still, now in paperback, and coming soon, The Bird House.   She visits as many book clubs as she can (here’s a great article about it:  And she’s offering an exclusive Book Group DVD to those she can’t.  Visit her website or email her at

Check back tomorrow for a chance to win an autographed copy of Standing Still.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2009 6:53 am

    wonderful!! what a fun way to begin my Tuesday morning 🙂

  2. March 3, 2009 7:15 am

    This was a very funny post. I admit people think authors should know everything that is related to books or vocab. Thats something that cannot be escaped from. But i do get the point Kelly has made.

    I’ll have to check out ‘Standing still’.

  3. March 3, 2009 7:37 am

    This was great! I would love to read her book, so I’ll be back tomorrow for sure. 🙂

  4. March 3, 2009 8:17 am

    Love this guest post! The book is wonderful too!

  5. March 3, 2009 8:34 am

    That was great! I’ll be back tomorrow for a chance to win! (pick me pick me pick me…..) (disregard all subliminal messages…..)

  6. March 3, 2009 9:11 am

    Nice post! I know authors from both sides of the MFA fence, and I loved reading Kelly’s perspective!

  7. March 3, 2009 12:23 pm

    Great Post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

  8. Carol permalink
    March 3, 2009 12:43 pm

    That was a great post. I think she is definitely someone I would enjoy.

  9. March 3, 2009 1:55 pm

    Great post! I was lucky enough to already win Kelly’s book and actually received it in the mail this morning. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

  10. March 3, 2009 2:48 pm

    I loved that! As someone who frequently freezes in the face of questions about literature (I have an MA and taught), I appreciate this. Invariably, I’ll get a question about Spenser or Dickens, and I know next to nothing about 19th C. lit because it wasn’t my area! Why do all people think that all writers are cut from the exact same cloth and must know all the same things? Doesn’t the diversity of books on the market tell people anything?

    Definitely coming back for the draw!

  11. March 3, 2009 7:36 pm

    Awesome! Great post.

  12. March 4, 2009 8:02 am

    I really enjoyed this one. I have a BA in English, and I can’t say that I know a lot about the classics or that I even enjoyed them. And these days my vocabulary isn’t much to brag about.

  13. March 4, 2009 7:42 pm

    Sounds like a lot of pressure!

  14. March 4, 2009 8:06 pm

    LOL ooo that is hilarious! it has to be a mailer…lol and her pea-brain…I don’t believe for a second Kelly has a pea-brain.

  15. March 6, 2009 11:17 am

    This was fantastic! Fun, accessible and it made me want to read her books! So good thing you have a giveaway going! I’m heading on up to enter right now!

  16. March 8, 2009 5:54 pm

    What a fun essay. Funny enough I get the same thing as a reader. People know I read a lot (I’ve been ill for 30 years and can’t do much else) and they expect me to have read everything. I get ” You read a lot, what do you think of War and Peace (or Jane Austen, or Philip Roth etc.).” When I say I haven’t read them they act as if I’ve never read anything good or even serious. At least it doesn’t happen in public like it can with writers. Great idea for a post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: