Author: Kat Saunders

On Making the Most of AWP

There’s just over a month left of the first year of my MFA and this is the busiest time of the semester. I’ve just returned from a relaxing spring break vacation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and tomorrow I leave for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Los Angeles. This will be my third year attending. When I started my MA in 2013, I didn’t know much about networking as a writer (hey there, still don’t). Luckily, some of the PhD students in my program told me all about AWP, insisting that it’s best and biggest event for writers to attend. “A trip sounds nice,” I told my friend, Claire, as I prepared for my first AWP conference in 2014.  “It will be nice to get away and relax.” “I don’t know if it’s that kind of trip,” she said. And Claire was right. AWP certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, it’s chaotic, and it’s over in a blink of an eye. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a  current or prospective …

Back to the Grind: The Beginning of Spring Semester and Notification Season

Last weekend, Morgantown was buried under two feet of snow. Today it is 60 degrees. I’m recovering from a head cold; on Friday I sniffled, red-eyed and exhausted, through conferences with 40+ students. They’re writing personal narratives for their first project. I’m excited to read their work, to learn about their diverse lives and perspectives. I realize this may be the closest I ever come to teaching creative nonfiction, and I want to savor the time now even though I’m wondering how I’m possibly going to get through reading and responding to all of these papers, read for my lit seminar, and finish a draft of one of my own essays for workshop. Every new term starts like this–figuring out a routine that works, often not until the end of the semester. I panic, certain that I can’t get it all done and then inevitably get it all done (although not without stress and sleep-deprivation). As a writer in academia, I think of everything in terms of deadlines: Those papers must be passed back in 10 …

On Patience

One more workshop, a lit paper, and 30-something student portfolios: that’s everything that separates me from winter break. After a lazy Thanksgiving, I found it difficult to return and finish the final stretch of the semester. It was even more difficult to do without sighing heavily after every new email notification. Over winter break, I’ll see Joanna Newsom in concert. I’ll stroll through the Pittsburgh strip, watching men shuck oysters outside Wholey’s fish market. I’ll sleep in my childhood bedroom. I’ll live in sweatpants. I have a pile of books checked out from the campus library. I’ll spend my break reading, mostly books on West Virginia folklore, ghost stories, and history. After conducting some research, I’ll begin a new essay; I’ll revise some of the work I completed this semester. I’ll send pieces out to journals and wait. Earlier this year, I learned how to be patient as I waited to hear from the 10 MFA programs I applied to. A lot of that news was bad, or at least not what I wanted to …

The MFA Program You Haven’t Heard Of: Spotlighting the MFA at West Virginia University

Image: Via Tsuji Last year, when I was applying to MFA programs, I was too fragile to keep up with the constant updates in the MFA Draft Facebook group. However, I decided to join this year. I’m not sure why: to relive the agony and anguish? So I can remember how I managed to do just about everything wrong in terms of applications (this will be next month’s blog)? I think that more than anything else I was curious about where people are applying. Right now, many of the group’s members are sharing their prospective lists of schools, and I noticed that West Virginia University (WVU) is missing from many lists. WVU was always on my radar because the program has close connections to Ohio University, where I received an MA. And if you’re applying this season, I think it should be on your radar too. Here’s why: Let’s talk numbers. So many schools are reticent when it comes to money, but I’ll lay it out there: we’re all receiving full tuition waivers (except for some nasty, …

On Taking My Coffee Mug’s Advice

  Last week, I sat at my desk, a pile of student papers before me, a cursor pulsing in the blank document that needed to become an essay draft for workshop. It was 10:00 at night. I wanted to be marathon-ing The Twilight Zone. Across the room, my cat raised her head. She was sitting in my armchair, curled up on a throw, and nestled among several pillows. I am frequently jealous of my cat’s lifestyle, but never so much as I was in that moment. In my first post, I wrote about how nighttime is usually a sacred time for me, but as the midpoint of my first semester at WVU approaches, I’ve had to make some sacrifices to ensure that I stay on top of my work. Sometimes that means giving up my nights. I’ve lived here since the first week of August, and I’m still not sure what to make of Morgantown. I like the old people bars where I can have a cocktail in peace without worrying that I’ll see one …

Kat Saunders Introduction (West Virginia University ’18)

I never used to be nervous on the first night before school started—until I began teaching. Tomorrow, I know that no matter how early to the English department office I arrive, there will still be a line at the copier. And I will still have forty-five syllabi to copy. I know that when I address my new students, my voice will crack and my hands will shake. I’ll make bad jokes. I’ll ask them to share one interesting thing they did over summer break and at least half of them will inevitably say, “nothing.” Some of my new students will hate me so much on the first day that they’ll drop the class immediately after meeting me. That’s what I tell myself even though I know that most likely their continued enrollment or un-enrollment in my class has nothing to do with me. This will be my fifth semester of teaching freshman composition and the first day never gets any easier. Tonight, more than ever, I’m reminded of the importance of self-care in graduate school. …