Author: Carlos Alonso Chism

April Showers Bring ANXIETY

Image: 陳 冠宇 Springtime can be confusing. The weather is friendlier, the world unfurls from its winter slumber, birds sing in the tree outside your window, etc. But this time of year also brings tax returns, looming seminar papers, and summer work struggles. For those who have braved the tumultuous MFA application process over the past few months, there are three likely mindsets at this point in the year: Sadness at knowing they won’t be sitting in a graduate workshop in the fall Pulling their hair out (with excitement/anxiety!) trying to decide between offers, or Pulling their hair out (with excitement!) figuring out living situation and moving details for August. Each position comes with its own anxieties and challenges. Each can invite a sense of futility and/or imposter syndrome. I’ve been the sad applicant, the anxiously-comparing-stipends-applicant, and the oh-my-god-I’m-moving-in-four-months applicant. I am also now a graduate student in a creative writing program, and now realize that perhaps a slice of this perspective would have placed my anxieties and worries in a more helpful context. I hope reading this …

Writing Process as Writing Problem

Image: darkday Earlier this week I sat in my professor’s office discussing the revision made to my second story submission. It had been somewhat substantial: I’d completely rewritten the beginning three times and composed several additional scenes I was 99% sure weren’t going to make it into the final story, all in order to better understand the main character. I asked my professor some questions about proceeding with another revision and if they were in line with the vision I had for the story. She asked what, exactly, was my vision for the story. After I elaborated, she told me something I simultaneously knew I needed to hear, but also totally did not want to hear. She said she liked the idea, but the portrayal I’d been gunning for over the last few drafts still wasn’t anywhere in the story. As we talked through what was in the current draft and she offered strategies for writing towards my vision, it slowly dawned on me that I’d have to rewrite 70, 80, 90 percent of the …

Time to Write: An MFA Myth

Unfortunately, most of us can’t dedicate more than a small portion of our time to writing. We fit it into a larger schedule that usually involves working long hours, taking care of kids, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a social life. The vast majority of writers practicing their craft outside of academia have to work within these restraints, which help fuel one of the great myths of MFA programs: they give you a large amount of time to write, if only for two years or so. This line of thinking also posits that having a lot of time to write is crucial to developing craft. This isn’t always the case. While there are certainly studio programs out there focused only on the workshop, many of the programs in the US require students to take literature and/or composition courses, along with departmental duties like teaching first-year comp or working in the writing center. The time spent doing work for these other classes and extra duties adds up, and while there is certainly time to focus on creative writing, it’s …

Carlos Alonso Chism Introduction (University of Maryland ’18)

Image: N’charallah Jasper During my college application process at the end of high school I felt starved of choice. While my friends were figuring out what they were looking for in a school and visiting several universities, I knew I would wind up at the local Penn State campus. My mother taught there, allowing me to attend with a 75% tuition discount. It would have been financially foolish to go anywhere else. It seemed as if everyone else were at a buffet, tasting different foods and figuring out what they liked and didn’t like. This was probably the reason I spent a large amount of time researching creative writing MFA programs. I read articles in major magazines, looked at several programs’ web pages, and scoured obscure forum threads. All of this fueled my romantic notions of a writerly life—making a living by writing books, and occasionally teaching. I wanted get my MFA directly after college, and savored the idea parsing out the differences between programs as much as the idea of attending a program. I …