Month: May 2015

I Quit my Job Yesterday

This post has caused a lot of anxiety on my part, because it’s very personal. I’m an MFA candidate. I also worked full-time at a job that was in no way writing-related and expected me to work ten hours a day with a vigorous passion for others. This last month, I made a decision to leave that job in order to completely focus on my studies. My job involves other people, including about a hundred children who depend on me being there at my job. There is a lot of guilt that has come with leaving them. They don’t understand why I need to do what I need to do, and on some days, I doubt myself in my selfishness. But this is the way things have to be right now. When I got into my low-res program, I thought I could balance both. It became apparent on both sides pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to happen. Both needed me. My program needed me. My job needed me. And they were each getting half …

April, May, and Beyond

Forgive me for the extreme tardiness in posting this, my last entry as a first-year blogger for The MFA Years. The end of the semester proved daunting as I put the wraps on probably the toughest semester of my program. I honestly needed a week to recover after classes let out — a pattern I am learning is my norm. And then, before I knew it, I was off on a two-week vacation, first to Minneapolis for a wedding, then to the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania for some time with dear friends. A month ago, I spotted my first robin redbreast of the season. The deciduous trees were budding, and the dandelions were in bloom. A year ago, I didn’t know that any of these things existed in Fairbanks, Alaska. In my head was firmly planted a vision of a desolate tundra, but time and experience would prove this vision wrong. It’s a metaphor for my entire experience at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. There was so much I could not know until I got into …

Performing Poets

Imagine you’re a young chef, about to leave Le Cordon Bleu after having studied under some of the best gastronomers the world has to offer, and, just as you’re sent off to practice your art, you realize that nobody taught you the proper way to set a table. Sure, it’s not essential to know whether the fork goes on the left or the right side of the plate to be able to craft a devilishly decadent dinner, but having a good place-setting is essential to the atmosphere you’re trying to create around the experience of your cooking. That’s how I felt when, a year ago, almost to the day, I walked across the stage at Kenyon in my cap and gown, where I was hooded by one of the senior administrators and received my diploma from the president of the college. I, at that moment, had an AB in English with an emphasis in poetry, but nobody had ever taught me across four years filled to the brim with English classes, how to give a …

A Poet in Prose Land

This semester, I took Forms in Fiction with Garnett Kilberg-Cohen. You may be thinking to yourself, There goes poet Gillian, prose-ing around like she’s frolicking through a meadow! Way to experiment! My Forms in Fiction class this semester was all about studying the textures in the genre of fiction, and so we looked at hybrid work with So Long See You Tomorrow (autobiographical and simultaneously fictionalized), postcard fiction/flash fiction, fabulist works, a bit of horror, and A Shutter of Snow, which was a book that somehow seemed to encompass all of those. We looked at graphic short stories. We created our own creative pieces in these different species of fiction, and we workshopped them. We wrote critical pieces about the works that we’d read. And though I would liken my fiction class to frolicking through a meadow any day, I will say that there were certain learning curves, especially at the beginning of the class. I kept single-spacing my work (no one liked this), and I kept referring to the narrator as “the speaker” (I …

School’s Out For Summer: End of Year One

This semester has been a long one, but it has finally come to a close. Indeed, this semester really was longer because we spilled over the official end of the semester, only by a day, but we were all fatigued and ready for it to end. This was a snowier winter than some so we missed several days of class because of “snow days,” something I’d never experienced before as a Californian. But there you have it, at long last, we’re done. With the end of this semester also comes the end of my first year of my MFA and I’m not quite sure yet how that makes me feel. Clearly I feel both a sense of accomplishment and relief, but also a bit empty or perhaps just unsure. Although I’m looking forward to the three-month summer break ahead, I am also finding myself slightly at odds as to what will happen this time next year when I will either be finished or at least nearly finished with my degree. What then? I suppose what …

Dear Future MFA

I am finishing up the first year of my MFA and I will say it has been the most rewarding year of my life. I learned a ton about myself, writing, reading and the nature of grades. I will begin by talking about the self. There is absolutely no way you are going to get through the first year without writing something deeply personal. There’s only so much writing you can do before you pull the covers on yourself. You begin to discuss your addictions, or your family or your sexuality even in fictional work. There’s no way around it. The only way out is through. Crank out those semi-autobiographical works and do not resist. When you are done writing them, you’ll stop writing them. You might find that your work is a variation on a theme. Don’t worry about it. Marguerite Duras wrote about the same thing for years and no one said anything. I also learned that workshop is very arbitrary. You will get conflicting feedback from your peers. You will anger and maybe …