Month: June 2016

An Inside Look With Mary B. Sellers, Louisiana State University ’18

Image: Billy Metcalf What is it like living in Baton Rouge? How far does your stipend go there living wise? I have the advantage of growing up in the South, so I wasn’t too worried about any ‘cultural shock’. But Baton Rouge itself—it’s a nice city. It’s got that “Louisiana” texture to it which I find delightful—like: big, beautiful trees, too many shrimp poboy signs to count, shockingly lax liquor laws… But one of the best things about living here is the proximity to New Orleans. It’s about an hour South (depending on whether you’re more of the speed-demon or grandma driving type), which is an easy drive to do, even for a day trip. There’s also Mardi Gras, which is a life-changer. Really. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to leave this Earth without experiencing a true Louisiana Mardi Gras. Baton Rouge has its own parades, too, which are just as fun as the New Orleans ones, but more intimate (translation: better chance of getting beads). As for safety, it’s varied. There are safe …

An Inside Look With Kenny Stoneman, Kingston University ’15

Image: Barnyz A note from Kenny: There didn’t seem to be a natural place to mention it, but I attended the MFA program at Kingston University – London from September 2014 – September 2015.  Because I only finished the first year, I received an MA, rather than the full MFA.  Most schools in the UK work that way – the MA is the first year, while the MFA is the second. What was it like living in London? How did you navigate the cost of living there? Lesson #1 about living in London: it’s expensive. There is absolutely no way around that fact, although I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to very many people. Be prepared to budget, and also be ready for exorbitant prices on just about everything. But there are a few things most Americans won’t realize about London until they get there. For thing, if you’re on a student visa, you are legally not allowed to work more than 20 hrs/wk, so unless you’re independently wealthy, you will need student loans to support yourself. I …

To Roadtripping and Year One Finally Finished

I’ve driven through 13 states since the last day of my first year of graduate school. I’ve been busy roadtripping and visiting friends and family this summer. One state my partner and I drove through was Wyoming. Though “Big Sky Country” is designated for Montana, I see why it could also apply to Wyoming. While driving, I listened to some old music on my fifth-generation iPod. As Mark Linkous came on, I thought about Elliott Smith, who died for his music and something more. As I looked up, the clouds gathering like the underbelly of a whale, I thought about spray painting my teeth silver and whispering, not shouting, “Valhalla,” a simple release of compressed air, letting go of the steering wheel, and considering this my last episode of daydreaming while driving. “You couldn’t have picked between two more different places to choose from,” said my partner, alluding to the fact that I could’ve moved here to “Big Sky Country” rather than the South for my program. I was romanticizing the landscape. I know that. And …

Writer, Queer

This morning, I woke up in time—before I had to start rushing for work, before the heat turned us both into puddles—to actually take my dog on a decent walk. Titus, a corgi, loves gallivanting through his territory, a little Napoleon up against the big dogs who roll over in his presence. He loves people, especially if they have food, and he loves finding their leftovers in the grass, often gulping them down before I can stop him. As a kid, the only family dog I remember well enough to have had a bond with was a mutt named Tristan—with the colorings of a German Shepherd and the floppy ears of a Golden Retriever, plus the curly tail of a Shiba Inu, he had the attention span of a third-grader on Koolaid. While Titus’ favorite activity on walks is sucking up anything remotely edible like a vacuum sucking up Cheerios under a toddler’s high-chair, my childhood dog Tristan lived to chase cute little woodland creatures. He’d run from window to window in our house, slobbering …

MFA Mailbox

Image: Wayne Stadler Today contributors Ignacio Peña, Lauren Sharkey and Cady Vishniac are answering two questions from a potential MFA applicant. If you have questions about the application process or the MFA/MA in general, send them to themfayears@gmail.com. We’d love to answer them! Let us know if you’d like your question(s) published on the blog. First, thanks so much for putting this site together! I love the different perspectives each blogger has on their MFA program and their writing life. I’m considering applying for an MFA in a year or two, and this blog has been so informative. I have a couple question for the bloggers: Many MFA applicants cite “time to write” as one of the main reasons they want to get an MFA. I can definitely relate to that; it’s HARD to be creative while working 60 hrs a week! But after reading the posts here about teaching and working on literary magazines, I’m thinking, “Where’s the writing time?” How much time do MFA students actually get to write? I would love to see a …

On Anxiety & Writing in the MFA

Image: Porsche Brosseau “Well, it seems to me, based on what I’m hearing, that you have what’s called general anxiety.” This comes as no surprise, but the psychologist looks at me with expectation, searching for some kind of reaction to the news. I nod and look away, already crystallized with this information, a thing lived every day for my whole life. Of course I have anxiety—I have been anxious always, always worrying about how I am perceived, always brought to tears when someone dislikes me, always fixated on illnesses to the point of hypochondria. My anxiety can be cruel and self-torturing, a thing that drains me, that pulls me away from the good things that have entered my life. I collapse at a single “bad” thought—a thought that is unreasonable, hyperbolic, “crazy.” I get obsessed, my brain compelling me to go online and look at WebMD, to look at images of gore, to search the internet for any unkind opinion of myself. I indulge in my fears about death, my health, my self-perception, I see …

An Inside Look With Dan Calhoun, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Image: Kent Kanouse What is it like living in Lafayette? How far does your stipend go there living wise? Lafayette is in an interesting area. One of the upsides is the rich Cajun culture. The food is fantastic (red beans and rice, boudin and sausage, etouffee and fresh seafood) there are tons of festivals, and the locals are friendly. Another plus is New Orleans is a pleasant two hour car ride away from Lafayette (and Baton Rouge is a one hour car ride away and Houston is a three car ride away). Lafayette has the essentials: a good mix of local stores and restaurants and chain stores and restaurants. And if you happen to love daiquiris, Lafayette is paradise. There are at least six different bars dedicated to daiquiris (Daiquiris Supreme is my personal favorite).  The downside to Lafayette is the heat (summer is brutal!) and the traffic. Why did you decide to pursue a PhD after graduating from Wichita State? I decided to pursue a PhD because I wanted a few more years to work …