#5onFri: My Gratitude List — The DIY MFA Team

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Community

Dear Word Nerds,

As we launch into the holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the wonderful things that have come of this year, and—more importantly—all the people who helped me get where I am.

While DIY MFA started off as a one-woman show, these days it is far from that. Rather, there are many people behind the scenes helping to make DIY MFA what it is today. Without these amazing people on the DIY MFA team, I would not be able to do what I do.

Bess-sm1-Cropped-275x275Bess Cozby

You probably already know that DIY MFA offers tons of great content several times per week, but what you probably don’t realize is that the mastermind behind all these articles is not only me, but my amazing web editor, Bess Cozby.

Bess has been part of the DIY MFA family since day one. When I ran the first DIY MFA experiment on my teeny-weeny personal blog back in 2010, she was one of the first people to participate. We realized that we were both based in NYC and ended up meeting in person. Later, in fall 2012, Bess volunteered as an intern, then became the first core member of my team a few months later.

In her tenure as web editor, she has helped put together a phenomenal group of columnists and guest post regulars, plus spearheading and coordinating this #5onFriday column. Bess has a remarkable eye for spotting talent and has been instrumental in shaping the voice and vibe of the DIY MFA curated content.

As if that wasn’t enough, she also works full-time at Tor/Forge (an imprint of Macmillan) and recently acquired her first book. Remember her name, people, because this girl is going to be running an imprint someday.

Elisabeth-headshot-1-275x275Elisabeth Kauffman

If there is someone I rely on almost daily with DIY MFA, it’s Elisabeth. She is the producer for DIY MFA Radio and coordinator for Writer Igniter Con, but her role is so much bigger than that.

When I start going down a rabbit hole of some crazy idea, Elisabeth is always the person who gives me that much-needed (but also gentle) reality check. When I’m in the middle of a meltdown because I have eight zillion deadlines all at once, Elisabeth is the person who reminds me to breathe and then in the next sentence says: “what can I do to help?”

With DIY MFA Radio, she is the second set of ears who listens to every episode and edits out anything silly or ridiculous I might say. Basically, if I (and my guests) sound smart and collected on the show, a huge part of that credit goes to Elisabeth for making us sound good.

As for Writer Igniter Con, there would be no conference at DIY MFA without Elisabeth. Aside from helping me curate the event line-up, select speakers and prepare all the materials so that it was seamless, she also corralled the agents and coordinated submissions for the various panels at the Con. These critique panels were by far and away the favorites at the conference, mostly thanks to Elisabeth’s ninja skills at coordinating everything.

Elisabeth runs Writing Refinery (her freelance editing company) and whenever a writer asks me to refer a freelance editor, I send them to her. Her sharp instincts and gentle hand are the perfect combination to help writers polish their manuscripts into something that will make them proud.


One of the first things I realized when creating DIY MFA is that I myself could not be an expert at everything and that sooner or later I would have to bring more voices to the website. Bess and I worked together to create a team of phenomenal columnists and guest post “regulars” to round out the areas of expertise represented on the site.

While not all of these columnists are actively writing for the site, they have all had an impact in shaping the collective DIY MFA voice.

101 Course Ambassadors

These people are among the best-kept secrets at DIY MFA. Each quarter, I recruit a couple of DIY MFA 101 course “alumni” to serve as ambassadors for the up-coming term. These writers serve as a cross between TA’s and student advisors for the incoming class. They answer questions, offer guidance, and help foster the creative and supportive community that is one the core components of the class. Several ambassadors have even served several times, becoming an integral part of the course community.

I want to give a super-mega shout-out to one course ambassador in particular, who has been on every single class conference call since the class first began. If I ever get hit by a NYC bus and can’t call in to class, I know she’s ready to step in and take the reins. Laura, you rock!

Lawyer-Hubby and the Kidlets

I can’t begin to say thank you enough to my amazing partner in crime: Greg (AKA Lawyer-Hubby). His lawyer-eyes read every contract I sign, every newsletter I write, every page I create on the site. He corrals our crazy kids when I need to work on weekends. And it is thanks to his “responsible career” that I have been able to take all the crazy risks and try unconventional things, allowing me to create DIY MFA in the first place.

The Kidlets (AKA Little Man and Lady Bug) are the reason I do what I do. I firmly believe that a lifelong love of learning is central to becoming your best self. Whenever I lose my focus, I look at the vibrant curiosity in my two kids and instantly remember the joy that comes from learning something new or figuring something out. Kids don’t learn because of some end-result or reward. They learn because they can’t NOT do it. Learning is as natural to them as breathing. My goal in life is to have the sponge-like curiosity of a three-year-old forever.

Finally, thank you to all my word nerds!

You are part of what makes DIY MFA possible. Without this amazing community of writers reading, commenting, and sharing our posts, DIY MFA would probably still be just some “crazy idea” I tried once upon a time on my personal blog.

Thank you for being part of the word nerd community.

Keep writing, and keep being awesome!


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