Month: July 2014

Something Beautiful: Mental Health and the MFA

What do we talk about when we talk about depression and writing? It’s hard to begin, not least because the pairing of these topics can feel almost overly familiar. They’re a classic combo, really—a sort of burger and fries, peanut butter and jelly, Lennon and McCartney of the literary world. From The Bell Jar to Darkness Visible, writers writing about depression has become practically a trope. It’s archetypal: the tortured writer loopy at his desk, popping pills and chugging whiskey. But ultimately, my story isn’t about an archetype. It’s about me, and as my struggle with mental illness collides with my MFA experience, there is no well-trod trajectory for what will happen next. I’m just weeks away from starting my graduate program at Temple University, and I’m doing so while grappling with severe depressive symptoms. Think hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, excessive fatigue, and spontaneous tears. These are pieces of who I am right now, and, like it or not, they’re probably coming with me when I hit the North Philadelphia pavement next month. I’ll be teaching …

"Writing," Jonathan Kim

Navigating the First Summer of My MFA

Image: Jonathan Kim This past May marked the end of my first year in Boise State’s MFA program. In a whirlwind of moving twice, losing a relationship, cautiously starting another, searching for my voice as a writer, and of course, figuring out the best place to buy groceries, the summer loomed ahead of me. In the past few years, summer hadn’t meant much with full-time jobs and responsibilities. But I had left all of that behind in entering my MFA program. What was I supposed to do with my summer, the first official, extended break from graduate school? In reality, I was afraid. A year earlier I was beginning my round two of applications for fiction MFA programs. I saved up enough money and released myself from any so-called job burdens from June 2012 to November 2012. “I’ll write every day,” I assured my then-boyfriend, who graciously covered my share of our San Francisco rent. While I did eventually write the three short stories that got me into my MFA program, I certainly didn’t write …

On the Move

I’ve moved 10 times in 10 years. The hardest followed heartache, how do you tenderly break apart two lives bonded together? We’d moved to edge of the continent and lived out the lyrics in our favorite songs all the way down PCH. He was a boy of summer and I was a California girl. When it all ended, I sold everything from the storage unit we had back home to cobble together enough money for a security deposit and a bed. The couch and oversized chair we’d made monthly installment payments on, the large Z Gallerie coffee and end tables woven from abacca, a gift from my parents, the  bar height dining room table and chairs that seated eight  that we’d hosted so many dinners around and played so many games of cards at, but which mostly just acted as a storage area for all my school books and many handbags, the high quality futon mattress and bedframe we’d gotten a good deal on because my middle sister let us use her employee discount at …

Researching the MFA

Image: astronomy_blog When you’re applying to MFA programs, research is your best friend. Taking the time to figure out what you want out of a program will help you narrow down your list, find places you love, and maybe even keep your application costs down (it can get expensive, believe me). There are a myriad of things to consider when you’re compiling a list: What’s your desired program length? Do you want to teach? How much do you want to teach? Do you want to be able to take classes outside of the creative writing department? Does location matter? Do you want to do cross-genre work? Are you interested in a specific cohort size (large, small)? And on and on and on… that’s why it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions early on. While I was finalizing my program list I created an Excel document that contained all of the application information for each program. I was better able to keep track of deadline dates, sample lengths, which schools had received my recommendation letters, and everything else. I’d recommend …