Award-winning authors without advanced writing degrees

If you want to be a “real writer” do you need an MFA?

Graduate writing programs can be a great way to become better writers—there’s no doubt. And full disclosure: I’ll graduate from one myself this spring. But the literary community needs to be careful to not view people without these degrees as lesser-than writers.

There’s more than one way to become a great writer. To prove this, I decided to create a list of award-winning authors who don’t have advanced degrees.

Here is a small list of award-winning writers without advanced English or creative writing degrees:

Ann Leckie

Winner of the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, and British Fantasy awards, among others. She’s the author of the Ancillary space opera series.

 N. K. Jemisin

Jemisin won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and is a three-time Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award winner. Most notably, Jemisin became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season, the beginning of her fantasy trilogy.

Neil Gaiman

Seasoned fiction writer Neil Gaiman has won the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, and Newberry awards, as well as the British National Book Award, among many many others.

Michelle Tea

Memoirist, novelist, and poet Michelle Tea is a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Tea’s impressive career has not only crossed genres, but also spanned editing anthologies to founding a performance series and publishing imprint.

Jonathan Franzen

This novelist and essayist has won a National Book Award, Salon Book Award, Galaxy National Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. The Corrections is often considered one of the most important contemporary novels.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert is my honorable mention. She’s been a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the National Magazine Award, The National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Even if she hasn’t won any of these prestigious prizes, it’s worth mentioning she has come damn close to many of them. If you haven’t read it, check out The Last American Manthe book she wrote before Eat, Pray, Love.





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