Dear MFAW people,

I’m guessing that, for the majority of you, your first desire to write was a way to express an emotion that you were having difficulty feeling or understanding. Or it might have been an early attempt to document, to explore the world in which you lived. But then you grow up and reality kicks in big time, and reality can be an obstacle to working with your imagination.  It can mess with your mind. If you’re not careful it can catch you with your guard down and say things like: Oh please, you think your little poem is going to change the plight of people living as refugees? You think your little novel is going to make people think about a compassionate society that cares for its citizens?

In response to this voice, we can choose to focus on the value of the conversation that our writing will prompt with our audience. Because, as writers, we are not only recorders of history and memory, we are also striving to be forward-thinkers and visionaries.  Our job is to promote thought, to witness, to explore, to dream, and above all, to create connection.

In her poem, “Children of our Age,” the 1996 Nobel Laureate in literature, Wislawa Szymborska, wrote:

“Whether you like it or not,

Your genes have a political past

Your skin a political cast,

Your eyes, a political slant.”

She is speaking here of what separates us from one another, and at times like these, there is so much to separate us that it becomes an incredibly huge task to look for what unites us. But as writers, it is our responsibility to keep reminding our country of this connection. 

So when someone asks you, What do you do? perhaps you can come up with a sentence or two that says something like:  “I am part of an international conversation. I use my imagination to explore possibilities, to investigate the past, and to dream about the future.” And when someone asks you, What can you do with a degree in creative writing? perhaps you can say something like, “Well, my degree is just the key that opens a door. But once I step over the threshold, I can be a poet or a playwright or a novelist or a memoirist or a blogger or a protestor or an activist.” It really doesn’t matter what label you claim; you will be – you are – a writer in the world and it is the action you take that holds all the promise. 

I know that many of us are having a difficult time with the outcome of the election.  Remember that we are a community: a community of writers, whose role in our society is to attempt to witness, document, invent, and imagine a different kind of future.  Imagination is our strength. Faith is our call to action.

With gratitude for community,

Elena Georgiou,

Program Director, Goddard MFA in Creative Writing

Dear Writers
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Elena Georgiou

Elena Georgiou is the author of the short-story collection The Immigrant’s Refrigerator (GenPop Books, 2018), and the poetry collections Rhapsody of the Naked Immigrants (Harbor Mountain Press) and mercy mercy me (University of Wisconsin), which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Award. She is also co-editor (with Michael Lassell) of the poetry anthology, The World In Us (St. Martin’s Press). Georgiou has won an Astraea Emerging Writers Award, a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, and was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work appears in journals such as BOMB, Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, Gargoyle, Lumina, MiPoesia, and Spoon River Review. She is an editor at Tarpaulin Sky Press and the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Goddard College. Georgiou is an English-Cypriot originally from London, where she spent the first twenty-seven years of her life. Since then, she has lived in the US — first in New York, now in Vermont. She maintains a website at

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13 thoughts on “Dear Writers

  • November 20, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Thank you.

  • November 11, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Thank you Elena!

  • November 10, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you.

  • November 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Dear Sistren,

    Please know that I am reading all of your comments and absorbing them. I apologize that I don’t have the time to write to each of you individually, but it is a workday and my to-do list looks like Mount Everest. I truly appreciate all of you taking the time to read this letter, and I hope it helps youto feel that you have a home.


  • November 10, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Thank you, Elena, for this encouragement and inspiration.

  • November 10, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for the reminder and the affirmation ;o)


  • November 10, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Thank you for this E. I needed this grounding today.

  • Pingback:Post-election letter from Goddard MFA Director Elena Georgiou | Tarpaulin Sky Press

  • November 10, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Just beautiful, thank you!

  • November 10, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Thank you, Elena, and thank you Goddard community.

  • November 10, 2016 at 10:42 am

    If you don’t know the kind of person I am
    and I don’t know the kind of person you are
    a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
    and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

    For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
    a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
    sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
    storming out to play through the broken dyke.

    And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
    but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
    I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
    to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

    And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
    a remote important region in all who talk:
    though we could fool each other, we should consider–
    lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
    the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

    -William Stafford

  • November 10, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Bless you, and bless this post.

    • November 11, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Beautiful, Elena. Thank you!

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