Mark Polanzak

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments
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Mark Polanzak is the author of the hybrid work POP! (Stillhouse) and the story collection The OK End of Funny Town (BOA Editions), which won the BOA Short Fiction Prize. Polanzak’s writing is experimental, absurdist, and magical. His short stories and essays have appeared in The Southern Review, The American Scholar, Third Coast, The Pinch, and anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading. His first book, POP!, is a genre-defying hybrid work that blurs the lines between fiction and memoir. His story collection, The OK End of Funny Town, has received praise from The Boston Globe, Kirkus, Booklist, Literary Hub, and Buzzfeed Books. Polanzak's work has received grants and residencies from the DISQUIET International Literary Program and Vermont Studio Center, and been honored by Writer’s Digest and the Italo Calvino Prize for Fabulist Fiction. In 2011, Polanzak cofounded the unique educational literary magazine, draft: the journal of process, which showcases early drafts alongside final drafts of stories, poems, essays, and screenplays from acclaimed writers. The magazine is regularly taught in over 50 colleges, universities, and writing programs across the U.S. and Canada. Polanzak also coproduced draft’s podcast series, The Fail Safe, conducting interviews with successful authors about their creative failures. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s MFA program in fiction, Polanzak teaches creative writing, literature, and podcasting in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department at Berklee’s Boston campus.

Career Highlights
  • Published The OK End of Funny Town (BOA Editions) in 2020
  • Published the article, "Giant," included in Best American Nonrequired Reading in 2017
  • Published his first book, Pop! (Stillhouse) in 2016, a hybrid of memoir and fiction
  • Fiction and nonfiction has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Gingko Tree Review, Pindeldyboz, Third Coast, The Pinch, The Southern Review, Wag's Revue, and The American Scholar, among others
  • Scholarship, Vermont Studio Center, 2019
  • BOA Short Fiction Prize, 2018
  • Scholarship, Disquiet International Literary Program, 2017
  • B.A., Skidmore College
  • M.F.A., University of Arizona
In Their Own Words

"I'm a founding editor (with writer, Rachel Yoder) of draft: the journal of process. The concept is that we have a published short story by two established writers, and we ask the authors for the first drafts to appear alongside the final pieces. Then we do an interview with the author about the process of creating that early draft and making it into the final story."

"We had Greg Hrbek and Mary Miller in the first issue, and now we have Matt Bell and Stacey Richter in this latest issue. We have Dave Eggers and Amy Bloom in the next one. The magazine reveals to students that people don't just speak into the printing press. There's work. There are about 10 drafts between initial inspiration and what the final published, polished product looks like. That gives students some confidence, because they see that mistakes were made, and the writers worked on it."

"We do a workshop at the core of the course. So students write a short story to begin with, and everybody reads each other's writing. We all discuss it there, and we put work into editing the stories. Sometimes a student will be hesitant to share their experiences. I hear so much, 'I'm not a good writer,' or a student prefaces their story with, 'I'm so bad at this.' There's this real hesitation to express oneself or be confident that they have something to say."

"But the best part is, students will take the writing class and think about story structure in their music. It's all about communication and connection, expression. So when they learn, 'I can communicate through writing,' they go back and transfer it to music."