Author: Lauren Westerfield

Snow Tires

Last night, my old friend from college sent me a text linking to a Reddit thread entitled, “How to move to Moscow, Idaho.” Ever the jokester, she quickly added a follow-up image of a dude in a cowboy hat and American flag shorts leaning against the wall of a liquor store, two twelve-packs at his feet. “Apparently,” she wrote, “this is Idaho.” I devoured the Reddit thread, much of which revolved around the weather, the necessity of snow tires (“don’t skimp,” warned the locals), and the relative liberality of Moscow as a “blue oasis” in this snowy Northwestern state. As of last week, such research would have felt like tempting fate. But as of Monday morning, I officially accepted an offer of admission from the University of Idaho MFA program in creative nonfiction. In other words, I’d better start shopping for snow tires. ~ The past month has been an interminable slog of waiting, drinking, watching Mad Men reruns, and devouring sea salt chocolate almonds from Trader Joe’s. Now, of course, it’s time to snap …

Mr. Right

You’ve been putting off writing this post. Admit it. You were hoping, by now, to have some idea of where you’d be going (or not) in the fall. But no such luck. You are still sitting here, waiting, with four could-be offers, four red-hot MAYBE’s, blinking on repeat in your brain. All this waiting has been good for reflection, though. You’ve come to terms with certain things—about your application, your sample…and also, with the schools you chose to apply to in the first place. You realize that the MFA application process is, in many ways, like dating. Each prospective school a crush you’re hoping will want to date you back. You know that this metaphor is, on the one hand, cheesy as hell. But it has also been incredibly helpful in deciphering WHAT it was about these schools that had you so smitten back in October…and what it is about them now, in March, that makes you mourn the loss of some, squirm at the advances of others, and imagine a choice few as possible …

Patience & Doubt

This past week, I devoured Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Inoculation in three quick sittings. The book was a welcome distraction from MFA notification season; but it was also a painful wakeup call, at once inspiring and deeply humbling. “This is the kind of thing I want to create,” I found myself thinking, again and again. Something at once ruthlessly smart and lyrically stunning, navigating the space between fact and subjective experience, between motherhood and vampires and modern medicine and the nation at large, with a deftness that took my breath away. Biss’ words remind me why I wanted to write creative nonfiction in the first place. But they also remind me how long it’s been since I last flew through a book like this; of how lazy I’ve become as a deep reader, as an active researcher, in the nearly eight years since my undergraduate career. They remind me that I aspire to write sharp, intricate, resounding work—and yet have not come anywhere close to doing what it takes to get there. The stark …

The Waiting Game

It seems fitting, since my last post went up on the eve of the Full Moon, to check back in with my January goals and to-do lists today–the day after the New Moon. I should preface this by saying that I’m no hardcore astrologer. Not even close. But I do think there’s something comforting about the patterns, the signifiers, the very literal ebb and flow that moves us like clockwork from one month to the next; and at a time like this, when life is so very full and also so very much on the cusp of big change, I find myself a little more inclined to factor in things like moons and signs, intentions and Mercurial wanderings. So here we are: January 21, 2015. Yesterday was a Super Moon, the New Moon in Aquarius; and today, Mercury goes retrograde (thank you, Mystic Mamma, for the update). I confess: I’ve become something of a Mystic Mamma junkie. Not that I read every single thing posted to this particular astrology blog…but I DO keep coming back …

Grace

You could call this “the grace period.” January. The New Year, the clean slate. For me, January has been the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The point where, at last, I’d have all my materials submitted, all my online status updates blinking “Under Review” in perfect unison. This month is supposed to be my respite, my freedom—a time to read, to start new essays, to work on submissions, to catch up on things like cleaning out the closet and going to yoga and good old fashioned sleep. A sweet break in the madness before notification calls kick-off at the end of the month. I want to seize this time. But it’s also hard not to put undue pressure on myself, on this month. You see, I’ve done this all before—and I know the crazy that sets in once those admissions calls and emails start coming in. I know what it feels like to jump in my skin, heart racing, with each ring of the telephone, each “New Mail” notification in my inbox. …

The Thick of It

Image: Wouter Kiel It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I’m sitting at LAX getting ready to fly out to New Orleans. We’re off to spend the holiday with my boyfriend’s family in Baton Rouge. The airport is crowded. It feels too early to be out among people, fighting for a spot in line at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. My eyes are gritty, and I can tell that no amount of caffeine is going to cut it when it comes to really, truly waking up. But on some level, all this shuffle and bustle is a welcome change. Over the last few days, I’ve been living in a perpetual fog of writing sample edits, application submission checklists, SOP proofreading marathons and what I hope and pray aren’t too many LOR reminder emails. In airports and shopping malls across America, it’s the start of the holiday season. But for MFA applicants, it’s something else too: it’s deadline season, and we’re heading for the thick of it. For me, the first deadline falls on December 1. …

Just Keep Writing

I launched my MFA dreams two years ago, starry-eyed and oblivious. At the time, I had three finished essays to my name (and I use the term “finished” very, very loosely). I figured, “I’ve taken a writing class or two; I have a few pieces that have gotten some positive feedback; I don’t have the SLIGHTEST clue where I’m going with any of it or what I want to write next, but I’ll do an MFA and figure it out when I get there.” Not surprisingly, things didn’t go according to plan. I mean, it wasn’t the WORST idea I’d ever come up with–and before the days of hyper-competitive MFA admissions, it might have been perfectly fine. But it also spoke to my inexperience, not just as an MFA applicant in-the-know, but as a writer with a dedicated approach to production and craft.