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After working hard to achieve an MFA, it’s time to plan the next steps of your writing career. Should you be submitting to only the most prestigious journals and magazines, or spend time building a platform on social media or Substack? When is it time to find a literary agent? What are different paths creative writers have taken to earn income—and still have time and energy to write? And how much marketing do publishers really expect authors to do? In this panel, authors of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction will discuss their early-career experiences and what they wish they knew after the MFA.

Leigh Stein (author, What to Miss When) moderates this chat with authors Alex DiFrancesco, Ashley M. Farmer, and Darrel Alejandro Holnes.


Alex DiFrancesco is the author of All City, Psychopomps, Transmutation, and Breaking the Curse (June, ’24). They were the first transgender awards finalist in over 80 years of the Ohioana Book Awards, as well as a 2022 recipient of The Ohio Arts Council’s Individual Excellence Award. They are currently an LGBTQIA+ nonfiction and children’s book editor at Jessica Kingsley Publishers. They live in Philadelphia with their Westie, Roxy Music, Dog of Doom.

Darrel Alejandro Holnes is an Afro-Panamanian American writer. His plays have received productions or readings at the Kennedy Center for the Arts American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), The Brick Theater, Kitchen Theater Company, Pregones Theater/PRTT, Primary Stages, and elsewhere. His most recent play, Black Feminist Video Game, was produced by The Civilians for 59E59, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Center Theater Group, and other theaters and venues and won an inaugural Anthem Award. Holnes is the author of Migrant Psalms (Northwestern University Press, 2021) and Stepmotherland (Notre Dame Press, 2022). He is the recipient of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize from Letras Latinas, the Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing (Poetry). His poem “Praise Song for My Mutilated World” won the C. P. Cavafy Poetry Prize from Poetry International. For more information visit

Ashley Farmer is the author of the essay collection Dear Damage (Sarabande Books, 2022), winner of the 2022 International Rubery Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2020 Sarabande Series in Kentucky Literature, as well as three other books. Her work has been published in places like Gay Magazine, TriQuarterly, The Progressive, Santa Monica Review, BuzzFeed, Flaunt, Nerve, Potomac Review, Gigantic, Salt Hill Journal, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Review’s Short Fiction Award, a Best American Essays notable distinction, and fellowships from Syracuse University and the Baltic Writing Residency. Ashley lives in Salt Lake City, UT with the writer Ryan Ridge.

Leigh Stein (moderator) is an author, a cultural critic, and a career coach for writers. She is the author of five books, including the critically acclaimed satirical novel Self Care (Penguin, 2020) and the poetry collection What to Miss When (Soft Skull Press, 2021). She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker online, Allure, ELLE, Poets & Writers, AirMail, BuzzFeed, and The Cut.