Year: 2015

On drawing the line

Image: Eugenia Loli   Walking away from my first MFA poetry workshop has, so far, been an experience of sorting through questions rather than answers. Though I’ve taken workshops in undergrad, my writing has changed a great deal since then, so this is the first time I’ve properly gathered some diverse responses. It’s been tough interpreting which pieces of feedback will serve my aims and which won’t, especially since my classmates write differently than me. After much thought and attempts to put myself in their shoes, I realized that, somehow, somewhere, I need to draw the line. There have been roughly two aesthetic veins I’ve been working with, and the poems I produce in each are ones that I don’t believe, at least in this moment, can be reconciled under one manuscript. One is a more personal lyric which makes use of the page’s negative space as part of the language’s semantics (at least, I hope that is what’s effectively happening). The other can be described, I suppose, as some kind or branch of surrealism …

Navigating the Need for Help

  I don’t like needing help; I like asking for help even less. In the solitary practice of writing it wouldn’t seem that I rub up against this aversion for help very often but I do, more than I could have ever imagined. Lately as I’ve turned over in my head what I would write about this month, I came back to a few underlying concepts and as New Years Eve approached and I had not managed to form these words my thoughts shifted to what “advice” I would give writers going into a new year, new deadlines, contests, opportunities and difficulties. The internet is bursting with advice for writers, all of it important; much of it technical. I have read countless articles about creating and maintaining a writing routine, how to choose where to submit, M.F.A vs. workshops. Even more articles on craft and nuts and bolts of good quality writing. I don’t see much about navigating life as a writer. I’ve always focused my words in that general direction here because other topics …

And now I cook

Image: Morag Cooking Winter break is a time to cook, sleep and collect more stories. I stroll through the local (not university) library, picking out books with funky fonts and interesting back covers. My dining table is covered with cookbooks and essay collections; my ottoman is clear of sticky notes and binders but instead has beer coasters and even more books splayed open. It’s December and it is cold. The roads are quiet; the air feels blue behind the smoke that spills from the power plant. Yesterday, I opened my kitchen blinds and did a little dance when I saw the cracked and brown foliage covered with fine shreddings of snow. I ran to open my front windows and saw that the whole of my street, perfectly still in the winter lull, was blanketed too. My apartment tends to smell like some sort of vegetable and spice, now that I have the time to roast sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. My counters and sink are full of bowls and pots from soaking beans or simmered …

One Semester Down

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a few weeks, staying at my dad’s house. Even though technically I now live in Tuscaloosa, L.A. still feels like my actual “home.” This makes sense, given that I’ve only spent a few months in Tuscaloosa, and I wonder if at some point it will start to feel more like home than Los Angeles, or if graduate school will simply be a time of transience, not firmly anchored in one place or another. In about a week and a half, I’ll be back in Tuscaloosa, and while I’m looking forward to starting up next semester, I’m also reluctant to let go of Los Angeles’s familiarity, the sense of relaxation and peace that accompanies sleeping in, reading all day, seeing friends I’ve known for over a decade, and eating all the best Japanese food. In reflecting on my first semester, I’m glad that I chose to attend Alabama. One of the greatest gifts that the program at Alabama offers is time, and at this point, I can’t imagine being …

The Best and Worst Things About Being an MFA Student in 2015

It’s the end of the year, and that means time for lists! By this time next year, I will have graduated my MFA program. By this time six months from now, I will have just graduated. This time last year, I’d only been in the program for six months. So this means that 2015 was my only year of completely being in this graduate program. Time to reflect! BEST THINGS: 1. I LEARNED HOW TO WRITE! I know, what? In a writing program? It seems obvious, but until you’re in the thick of it, you don’t realize just how much you’re changing and adapting and learning until you look at a manuscript you wrote before entering the program, and you give out an “ohhhhh fuuuuuuudge.” All of the reading and writing and analyzing and work-shopping forces you to grow and evolve as a person in the field. 2. I MET REALLY COOL PEOPLE. My professors and my fellow students are some of the coolest, most open-hearted people I’ve worked with. Sometimes I read things that …

46,397 words

Image by Ignacio B. Peña I have now handed in my creative portfolio, which officially marked the end of my first term as a writing postgrad student. Last week became a mental pressure cooker of revising and rewriting and now that I printed, stapled, and handed in two hard copies of my creative portfolio, I felt like wasting a little bit of time; I started going through everything I had written since arriving in Scotland and pasted them all into an empty Word document just to get a sense of how much I’ve written. The total comes to 46, 397 words. It’s not an exact science since I’m not obsessed enough to go through every social media post or message in that time, but that breaks down to: 14,542 words of fiction (latest versions on everything) 6,306 words written in response to novels read for my literature class 3,998 words written for my final literature essay 8,005 words written between all my posts for this site (not including this post) 13,546 words written in e-mails …

The MFA Year, Singular

Image: Daniel Oines For me this is The MFA Year, singular. Boston University’s creative writing MFA is, as far as I know, the only 1-year program in the country. I’ve had varied reactions to the length of this program. Those who are not in the writing world generally think it’s a benefit to return to school for only 1 year. A short program means less time away from the workforce, during which, depending on the field, you might worry about becoming less competitive. Those familiar with MFA programs—which are generally 2 years but can be 3 or even 4—ask if 1 year is enough. Certainly, it’s an intense year. By the end of my first semester, I will have workshopped 16 poems and put together a first draft of my thesis. I will have taught a multi-genre creative writing course to undergraduates, something that was unimaginable to me last year. This is one factor that drew me to this brief program: in a compressed timeframe, I’m pushed to accomplish what I wasn’t sure I could …