Author: Ignacio B. Peña

Wrapping Up: It’s A Start

Image: Ignacio B. Peña I wish I had more time. Invariably, this is the one consistent thought that creeps into my thoughts, time and time again. It always comes at the end of things: deadlines, holidays, relationships, courses. Times in a city you’re about to leave. I left Wellington this time last year, ready to move on and begin a new journey as a writer. But it wasn’t until I was sitting on that plane, as it started to move and the white houses set in lush green hills began to drift behind me, the plane rushing along the runway and lifting into the air, that I felt suddenly and horribly sick. As the plane took off I thought: I’m not ready to leave. At the time I thought that maybe it was some too-late epiphany dawning on me, that I was making a mistake leaving a city that had become home for me over the course of those few years; a realization in itself that hadn’t come until long after I had made the …

The Dissertation

Image: Ignacio B. Peña I’ve got two posts left (including this one) before my regular(ish) contribution to The MFA Years comes to a close. Before I write my wrap-up next month at the end of my course, I wanted to take some time to talk about the last few months as it relates to my experience approaching my summer dissertation, and everything that that entails. First, a brief overview. Over the course of this summer, the fiction students are required to write a creative dissertation project that spans a word count of 15,000 – 20,000 words. This can be achieved in any way the student sees fit, be it one complete novella, a collection of short stories or flash fiction, or the continuation of a novel-in-progress. I decided I wanted to write a self-contained novella. Undoubtedly the foremost reason for having taken this year to pursue a Masters was so that I can develop my craft as a writer of fiction; and in this respect, I feel that my time in Edinburgh has been invaluable. …

I’m working on it.

Image: Ignacio B. Peña I’m done, yaay!! Wait, I’m done? That can’t be right. Okay so I’m not done-done. I still have a little under four months to start and finish a creative dissertation project (i.e. a novella), and then I’m done. But as for the taught portion of the Creative Writing program here at the University of Edinburgh, I’ve attended all of my classes, workshops, and seminars; I’ve read the last of the required novels of the course; I’ve handed in my final literature essay and creative portfolio for the term. The “structured” portion of the course is now behind me. From here, I am left to my own devices. And while I feel currently stalled in figuring out the story that feels right for the novella I will be dedicated to over the next few months (I’m working on it), I’ve been left with a lot of time to reflect on the the course itself and what it is I set out to do in the first place, and what my future as …

Generosity in the Workshop

  Image: Ignacio B. Peña In the last few weeks I have been reminded of one of the most important lessons when approaching our fiction workshops: it is crucial never to forget to be generous to your fellow writers. When I began the creative writing course here in Edinburgh, we met in a big room where all the masters students, fiction and poetry, were given the rundown by the lecturers of the program; and at one point our course director (pretty sure it was our course director) said something along the lines that “the workshop is the centerpiece of why we are here.” And so while our course is essentially divided into thirds each week (one day for our writing workshop, one day for our lit class, one day for our fiction seminars), we are here to write, and so each day is structured with a focus to what we produce for our workshops, with an aim to better our writing. At this stage in the academic year, we’ve crossed the halfway mark in our …

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 …

46,397 words

Image by Ignacio B. Peña I have now handed in my creative portfolio, which officially marked the end of my first term as a writing postgrad student. Last week became a mental pressure cooker of revising and rewriting and now that I printed, stapled, and handed in two hard copies of my creative portfolio, I felt like wasting a little bit of time; I started going through everything I had written since arriving in Scotland and pasted them all into an empty Word document just to get a sense of how much I’ve written. The total comes to 46, 397 words. It’s not an exact science since I’m not obsessed enough to go through every social media post or message in that time, but that breaks down to: 14,542 words of fiction (latest versions on everything) 6,306 words written in response to novels read for my literature class 3,998 words written for my final literature essay 8,005 words written between all my posts for this site (not including this post) 13,546 words written in e-mails …

The MSc and The Expiration Date

Image: Ignacio B. Peña I think it’s safe to say that a large number of people go through their lives and at some point (at many points) stop to ask themselves a very common question: “What the hell am I doing with my life?” It’s a question I find myself asking a lot these days, and I think it’s a fair one to ask. Every graduate student I know made the decision to pursue post-graduate degrees for many different reasons. However, pursuing a masters or a PhD is a big decision, and it’s not one that should be made lightly. It’s expensive and, if you’re disrupting a career like I am, it’s potentially life-changing. While my situation may perhaps speak more to the prospective grad student leaving a career behind as opposed to the fresh-faced 21 year-old transitioning from their undergrad, the questions are still the same. What is it exactly that you want to do? Why? I know that there exists the “career academic.” I don’t feel I can adequately speak for someone who …