Month: January 2016

Writing Prompts: Navigating Personal Process

Image:Navy Blue Stripes Earlier this month, I attended a writers’ conference called The Home School. This specific iteration was located in Miami, FL (which was an amazing change of scenery from Laramie). The Home School is a fairly new writers’ conference having had its first conference, I believe, in 2014. Its co-founder, and also my workshop mentor, Adam Fitzgerald, seems to place a high emphasis on interdisciplinary practice and how different forms and mediums of art can inform one another. One way in which the conference embodied this spirit was by its optional offerings in a couple different activities. There were collage-making sessions with Todd Colby as well as a variety of exercise classes with Miguel Gutierrez. There were also readings every night by the faculty. While it was all a pretty good time, I want to focus on, or rather list out, some of the writing exercises that me and my workshop peers either did or were recommended for outside of workshop. I say this because we’re all different in how we write, from …

Advice from the Final Semester

  “Let me tell you what I wish I’d known …”  – Lin-Manuel Miranda I have one more semester before I am released into the wild again. So for those of you who haven’t started your program yet, this is for you. When I started, I thought I wasn’t good. I was not as good as I am now, and I wasn’t as good as I will be in the future. But I was better than I had been, and I was making an investment in my future as an artist. Just by admitting that I needed an MFA program, and having the courage to fill in an application, I was leaps ahead of where I could have been. It is okay to not know everything, to feel like you’re a sham. The job of an admissions council is not to pick the people who are the best, but those who are going to be the best. You are going to be overwhelmed. You are going to worry a lot. You are going to feel …

Some Myths About Your Litmag Submissions

I read stories. A lot of them. I read for The Journal, the literary magazine at Ohio State, and I read (and edit copy) for Raleigh Review, an up-and-coming litmag founded by MFA alums from North Carolina State University. When I’m not reading for either of these magazines, I’m handling every last submission for Reservoir, where I’m the fiction editor, and helping to judge the book-length poetry and nonfiction contests run by my MFA program. I’m fairly sure this all added up to about two hundred stories last semester, from flash to novellas, and maybe another fifty poems, dozen essays, and thirty-five poetry collections. And sometimes I come across people online or in real life who have no insight into this process, a great many misconceptions as to how their work is being read. People who submit scattershot for years on end without success, or—and this is sadder to me—talented, sensitive writers too intimidated to submit at all. So let’s provide a little insight. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about submissions. Nobody gets published without …

Home for the Holidays

Image: Ignacio B. Peña Two things. Thing one. On Christmas Eve, I walked the markets in Edinburgh alone. I had a German sausage and stood against a corner street lamp watching people walk around until the markets closed at 8, until they asked for everyone to leave because it’s Christmas Eve and the Christmas market folks have places to be on a night like that. All of my flatmates had gone off to their respective holiday destinations, whereas I stayed in the city. I knew that I was coming back to an empty flat. It’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve in a place with people, as I had been invited by several friends, new and old, to come down closer to London if I wanted company during the holidays. However, I was being stubborn and I had started seeing someone local in the city and I wanted to be here for that. There was, in my mind, an unspoken hope that while this isn’t quite my city, I was …

Location, Location, Location

Back to Tuscaloosa. Back to work. (Well, sort of. Back to thinking about work. Back to knowing I should do work. Back to planning to do work sometime soon. Back to getting drinks at Loosa Brews?) This time last year, I had just submitted my MFA applications and was trying to find ways to distract myself as I waited for responses. I had no idea where I would end up. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted in a program. One important factor when considering where to apply is location. Yes, it is not the only factor, but it also shouldn’t be dismissed. For instance, how would you really feel about living somewhere that regularly gets below 20 degrees Fahrenheit during wintertime? How does a lack of sunshine affect your mood? Are you willing to do long-distance with your current partner? How important is it to you to be near family and friends? Do you prefer to live in a city, a town, or somewhere rural? What is the cost of living like in that …

2016 Notifications

Image: Eli Juicy Jones Yes, it’s that time of year again already. Buckle up! If you’re wondering whether applicants have heard back from programs, check out GradCafe. We recommend searching for “creative writing,” “fiction” and/or “poetry.” We cannot guarantee the below data from GradCafe is 100 percent accurate. Please let us know if a program is still notifying applicants. Where did you apply? Have you heard back from programs? Share below and good luck! ***** Updated 4/18/16 7:18 PM Programs that have notified so far according to GradCafe results. This does not necessarily mean they are done notifying. Programs are listed in alphabetical order. University of Alabama: most genres notified. University of Alaska-Fairbanks: acceptances in poetry and fiction. American University: acceptance in fiction. Antioch College: acceptance in poetry. University of Arizona (Tucson): all genres notified. Arizona State University: all genres notified. University of Arkansas: rejections, acceptances and waitlists in fiction and acceptance and waitlists in poetry. University of Baltimore: acceptances in fiction and poetry. Bennington College: acceptance in fiction. Boise State: all genres notified. Boston University: all genres notified. Bowling Green State …

GARRA

The Spanish and Portuguese word garra translates literally into English as claw, paw or talon. Figuratively is it used as courage, guts, gumption, determination, hustle, spirit or energetic optimism. If you follow football, the sport where you kick the ball with your feet, not the college social event with all the rules and tactics and special teams, you will hear the word often. The Brazilian right-backs Dani Alves and Marcelo have mas garra que talento. Spark, fire, gall, nerve, cheek–chutzpa is a good translation. Tenacity works. Get-up-and-go, if you want to be super clear. Writers need garra and god bless the five week winter break that is creeping nostalgically into a flowery and premature denouement. Christmas and New Year’s, seeing friends and family, meeting new and old folk, drinking and sleeping late, flying and reading buckets, have all filled me with an incredible amount of garra—I am ready to return. I am ready to get back at the helm. I am ready to write and MFA like the wind. Before the break, I had planned …