Author: Alexandra McLaughlin

What I Want to Remember from AWP

At AWP last week, I felt fortunate for the opportunity, yet overwhelmed about “making the most of it” and also, walking around D.C., I felt like an imposter. People wore business suits and bluetooths and walked with purpose, while I felt dazed and hungry and underdressed, and if that isn’t a metaphor for adulthood (at least early adulthood), I don’t know what is. AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) is the largest literary conference in North America. This year, over 12,000 people took part: ranging from graduate students to publishers to poets to memoirists to teachers to editors. Each day offered dozens of panels on a variety of topics. Here are some of the ones I attended: “What Journalists Can Teach Literary Writers,” “Writing from the Wound,” “Success, Failure, and The Green-Eyed Monster: Thriving in a Competitive Environment,” “The Craft of Empathy,” and “Writing Neighborhoods: (Re)Creating the Places We Live.” I think too often we feel inspired and motivated at these types of conferences, but when we return to our lives, we remember laundry, grocery …

5 Things I’ve Learned From Workshop

  Workshops push you to write because there is a real, concrete, tangible deadline. I hate to admit this, but the deadline forces me to write instead of watching Netflix or browsing shoes online, and that push helps. Workshop can feel like information overload. Especially if you’re like me, and you go home and immediately devour all of the written feedback at once. I find it helpful to read all of the written notes and line-by-line comments once, quickly, and then put them away and make a list of things that I find helpful: ideas to use in revision. I think this is helpful because by putting everything away, you are recording only what you remember, and because you inevitably remember certain things and not others, these are the things that matter to you. Go for the metaphors. Even if they fall flat some of the time, when they work, they really work.* I hate revising. First drafts are fun because they are freedom and potential, a balloon expanding. Workshop deflates the balloon to a …

What Does Home Mean?

Does home mean decorating your apartment? Does it mean buying a map of the world to fill the empty wall in your living room? Does it mean running along the Oconee River and learning how many songs it takes to complete a loop? Does it mean adopting a gray and black striped tabby named Allie, who meows at your bedroom door in the morning, who falls asleep in your lap? Does it mean receiving two homemade chocolate cakes for your 23rd birthday? One from your roommate Pooja, who uses frosting to write your name in pretty cursive letters. The other from your friend Scarlett, who brings the triple-layer cake to nonfiction workshop, and asks for a list of birthdays so she can do the same for everyone else. Does it mean gathering for Channing Tatum movie nights and Grey’s Anatomy nights, where you take turns bringing red wine, popcorn, pizza, sour gummy worms, and brownies? Does it mean exploring the cities that surround you? Does it mean experiencing southern hospitality firsthand in Macon—where, in the …

Alexandra McLaughlin Introduction (Georgia College & State University ’19)

On my first morning in Milledgeville, Georgia, I woke up to my sister saying, “Zig, don’t freak out, but I just saw a cockroach in the bathroom.” I’d decided to apply for MFA programs ten months earlier. It was October of my senior year of undergrad and I already felt anxious about what would come next. I’d heard countless stories about the difficulty of post-grad life—how hard it is to make friends, how isolated and lost you feel without the structure and rhythm of college. I decided a) I didn’t want to live in Minnesota forever and b) I wanted to find some sort of post-grad community. Then I discovered many MFA programs offer a creative nonfiction track, and it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. In college, I’d vacillated between a love for journalism and a love for creative writing. Creative nonfiction seemed to blend the two. If I could get into a fully-funded program, I’d have two or three years to develop my craft while getting paid to do so. I …