Month: February 2015

Snow and Fire

Recently I shoveled a foot of snow off my car with my cat’s litter dustpan. Well, mostly–I’m 5’3″, so when I was finished, my Kia still had a fin in the middle of its roof that I couldn’t reach. What’s funny, sort of, is that my mother had said the day before Snowmageddon hit Kentucky that I might want to pick up a snow shovel, and I said “oh, I’m sure it will melt before I need to go anywhere.” Right. So there I was 48 hours later, excavating my car with a dustpan and trying not to scratch the white car underneath the white snow. My jeans were tucked into my tennis shoes to keep the snow off my bare skin for the hours it took to get my car cleared. For that whole week, from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, I made sure my faucets were dripping, gave Mom permission to say “I told you so,” and wrote. Though I was in serious need of human interaction by Friday, it was an invaluable week. …

February = Fiction Envy

Following three snow days, two false starts and a traveling teacher, I finally completed my first full week of classes for my second semester of my MFA at Stony Brook Manhattan. Overall, things are going well but I’m definitely developing a form of Fiction Envy. But first, a quick highlight of my classes this spring term. The class I’d feared most, the only mandatory class for my program, is turning out to be far more interesting and rewarding than I’d anticipated. I think I was resistant because the goal of the class is to teach us about the history of creative writing and skirts along the edges of literature and more traditional English studies. The latter two are areas where I am very poorly educated so I was afraid I’d fall short, but rather I’m finding that the class is simply giving me a chance to understand the differences and learn as I go along. So far, so good. On Tuesdays, I have a humor class with Patty Marx – yes, that Patty Marx from The New …

An Inside Look With Heather Houston, Seton Hill University ’16

Note: Thank you to first year contributor J.R. Dawson for providing me with these questions! How does your residency work and how it is paced? Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program (#SHUWPF) operates with two residencies a year – January and June. Our program is 2.5 years long. Six residencies and five ‘college terms’. Students start with a residency (where they are labeled as ONEs) and they end with a residency (where they are labeled SIXs). Winter Residency starts on a Friday night at 7pm with orientation. Summer residency starts on a Tuesday at the same time. One of the directors opens the program and we are told about the theme of the week. The theme for this January 2015 was “Why do you write?” Our residencies are broken up into three-hour blocks in the morning and the afternoon. The first morning the three-hour block is broken in half. The first 1.5 hours is a mixed class (meaning anyone from any class in the program) where we talk about the Common Reading for the residency. This …

Jenny Pansing

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Whittier Strong

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? I still had my final semester of undergrad to do. But it was a lighter semester–a paper-making class and an independent study in drawing to finish my art minor. I also started a part-time job as a writing tutor in the tutoring center at my university. With what spare time I had beyond that, I got a Netflix subscription and watched my favorite shows (old Britcoms for the win). I played my video games (Star Trek Online is my most-played). I continued my involvement in social groups, even making new friends just as I was (possibly???) moving. And I spent time with old friends, not knowing if I would be in Minneapolis much longer. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? I think the best piece of advice I received was to relax. This …

“Otherness” in MFA programs

Much has been made of the lack of people of color (POC) enrolled in master of fine arts programs. Last year, best-selling writer of color, Junot Diaz, made the rounds on a variety of news outlets to discuss the lack of diversity in many MFA programs. Diaz was expressing a real concern and frustration for the lack of diversity in both the student body and the faculty at many of the MFA programs around the country. As his message got louder and spread across the media last summer, other writers echoed his sentiments and shared their stories about workshop experiences (NPR  dubbed the experience “writing while other”). For many writers who identify themselves as “other,” they see this problem as an extension of the publishing world as well, where agents and publishers are not interested in fiction projects that are written by or feature people of color. The excuse is often given that no one buys those books. The standard reply from a person of color, “How would you know? Have you tried?” Obviously, books exists …

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Gillian Douple

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? During the post-application period, I wrote in my journal a lot about my anxieties of not getting into any school. My friends and family were great and supportive about my attempts to go to grad school, but I knew it would get pretty tiring if I could only talk about one thing. Journaling was a good outlet. When that didn’t work, I went to the gym. Obsessively. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? Best advice received: one of my undergrad professors told me that I was terrific, but that this entire process is a crapshoot. He told me I could slip through the cracks, that there were just too many applications, that sometimes the professors pick the wrong students. There was just no way of knowing. His advice helped me be realistic about …

Daniel Go

Breaking the Lull: A New Term Begins

So the end of last term was a desperate time for me. I had a bad case of the holiday blues, not to mention the very real cold sickness I was nursing, and financially I was in a really bad place. Luckily, things fell into place. I managed to pick up a job in a call center just as December rolled in, and it couldn’t have come any later. Just a week later, I heard back on the GAship I phone interviewed for, and I got it. Can’t tell you how happy I was. Tuition covered, a stipend, free health insurance. Again, just what I needed. So while everyone else was enjoying presents, holiday treats, and family, I was working. Working a lot. Working so much I barely remember December. I wasn’t bitter for any of it. It would have been nice being able to see some of my family, but I had a lot of catching up to do as far as bills went, so I was glad to be saved in a sense. …