Literary Criticism or How I Get Paid Nothing to Use My Degree and Talk Shit (Shelby Hinte)

Everyone wants to know how you become a writer

like how do you write

like how do you get paid

like when do you get to call yourself a writer

is it when you talk about writing or

when you write?

mfa or nyc

mfa or diy

mfa or die

mfa or [ ]

the great literary debate and it doesn’t even include




what a waste

spent 7 years in college to be taken seriously

taught poetry at a college for nothing 

at a men’s jail for something

buttoned up my blouse all the way and pretended to be older

You a writer miss?

No, she’s Taylor Swift

You just graduate high school to teach high school?

at night, after teaching poetry in the jail I poured 5-dollar beers into plastic cups for tourists

Jack London’s old bar

a literary place with literary drunks

“What else you do?”

“You’re looking at it.” 

(fight the urge to say:

I’m in college

I’m a teacher

I’m a serious person

please just fucking adore me)

“you’re probably too young to have read White Fang”

Now he was a real man

a real writer

writers aren’t shit now

I’m toying with an idea for a book now (they all say)

Jack London died at 40


his wife Charmain typed all his later works

he drank 


dictated to her. 

(she was also 

a writer, 

her husband’s editor 

she goes down in history 


his typist 

if she is 

written about at all)

At the bar I imagined 

never coming back

getting a real job

getting taken seriously

being a professional writer

one where people don’t ask

but what pays the bills?

Now I’m on unemployment

lost one job in the pandemic and left another

fight the urge to explain my situation daily

now I just want a job that pays me 

buys time to make art

give me an apron and someone who looks down on me

assume I’m a slacker

set the bar low


in my free time I review books by real writers

it’s how I’m using my degree(s) 

read something I hated

wrote about it in a tempered manner

lots of 5-dollar words to talk a lot of shit

not much nice to say about the book but I liked when she wrote

“That’s poetry. . . life and sex and cruelty. Not something you learn in community college. Not something you write in a notebook.”

my favorite writer is a college drop-out

she never claimed to be a professional writer

she writes emails in all lowercase and asks questions like 

How much does your art mean to you?

What will you sacrifice for it?

sometimes I think she’s the only one asking the right questions

She is the true GOAT


Shelby Hinte is a writer and teacher in California. She is a regular contributor to Write or Die Tribe and a fiction reader at No Contact. Her writing and criticism have been featured in BOMB Magazine, ZYZZYVA, Hobart, Entropy, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. 


imageMM Kaufman