Author: Lauren J Sharkey

Things I learned

Image: Chris Ford For the most part, my first semester at Stony Brook Southampton is over. After careful consideration, I’ve got to admit I learned more than I had given myself, or the program, credit for. But the most important thing I’ve learned is something I have to constantly remind myself of: this is a personal journey. There’s tons of bull shit in this world, and MFA programs are no exception. Who gets funding and who doesn’t, who cares and who slacks off, who writes like they mean it. I let myself get wrapped up in it. And the truth is, I was the only one who suffered for it. You’re not at an MFA program to write better than the person sitting next to you. You’re not at an MFA program to decide who should get funding and who should take out loans. You’re not at an MFA program to bitch about all the injustices of administrative bull shit. You’re at an MFA program to learn how to be the best writer you can …

Taking my voice back

Image: Antonio Bovino My first week of classes feels so long ago, I wonder if it ever happened. But the chilly autumn wind and rushing leaves confirm time has come to pass. Yet I am still the same as I was. I guess I thought being here would change me – that somehow, a truth would reveal itself and alter my entire way of thinking. I thought being in an MFA program would switch on a lightbulb in my head – that I’d suddenly have all the answers. Truth is, being here has just provided me with better guides. Throughout the application process, I felt like I was losing myself and my voice. Somewhere along the line, my submission piece stopped being my story, and just became a story. Before I came to Stony Brook Southampton, I went to work, ate dinner with my family, saw my boyfriend. Many nights, I’d lay in bed thinking, “Is this all there is? Will it be this way forever?” I still have many of the same worries today …

Haters Gonna Hate

Image: Victoria Nevland I have a lot of regrets when it comes to my MFA application process – I shot too high, didn’t save enough money, changed that one word. Another big regret is all the fucks I gave about everyone else. What bothers me now is that I’m still not done giving fucks. Post-submission, I got sucked into the vortex of MFA Draft and GradCafe. Together, they make quite the cocktail – equal parts doubt, paranoia, and panic. As people began receiving decisions from schools I was still waiting to hear back from, I heard that voice, I don’t know what you were thinking, Lauren.  I mean, did you honestly expect this to work out? And instead of flipping the bird to that voice, I surrendered to it. * I didn’t write post-submission. I was so afraid that I opted not to take any workshops my first semester. Despite the fact that I had actually been accepted to an MFA program, I couldn’t let myself get too comfortable. They were bound to recognize their mistake, and I …

Thursday Lunch

Image credit: Lauren Rushing Katie and I met at the cash wrap of Barnes and Noble #2216 somewhere between fucking up and getting shit together. She had a septum ring, black box-dye on her hair, and a star tattooed on each arm. Silence filled the first two hours of our shift. In later years, she’d tell me that she thought I was a “real Asian”, and wasn’t sure if I spoke English. Following a customer tantrum, I rolled my eyes and sighed, “God I fucking hate people.” The connection was undeniable. We took drives to the Long Beach boardwalk, blasting the best of 90’s pop with the windows down. Most nights we wound up in my basement, talking over Disney movies and microwave popcorn. We shared secrets and made plans. * I can’t remember the last time I saw Katie. If I had to guess, it was probably about five or six years ago. Most of my friendships operate this way. I tell myself all sorts of things – it’s work, it’s school…we’re going in different directions. But I …

Week Five: Return to Zero

Image: Aikawa Ke I wish I could tell you my feelings of insecurity and worry have gone away. That I’ve come to learn that I not only belong here, but was accepted to Stony Brook Southampton. While the notion of belonging is getting better now that I’ve made a few friends, I still have trouble accepting my acceptance. For me, being in an MFA program feels like going to the gym.  I am convinced everyone is looking at me – judging how much I lift, wondering why I don’t increase the resistance on the treadmill, snickering at my Old Navy compression pants. But no one is actually looking at me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten into a routine. I write two hours a day, every day. Thursdays are for homework. I go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and cook on Sundays.  Evenings are for reading. Last week, the routine went to shit. A requirement of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton is the Intro to Graduate Writing Course. If you asked me about …

Week Two: Back to Basics

Image: Nilufer Gadgieva When I applied to MFA programs, the last thing I expected to be doing was diagramming sentences. More than that, though, the absolute last thing I expected was to love it. For my first semester of graduate school, I decided not to take any workshops. Currently, my class schedule consists of “Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay” with Neal Gabler, “Forms of Fiction: The Short Story” with SM, and “Introduction to Graduate Writing” with, essentially, the entire Creative Writing faculty. “Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay” is on Mondays from 5:20pm to 8pm. There, we talk about what the essay is, how it operates, what its goal as a piece is. We discuss structure, motive, form, craft. The class is designed to not only make you think about what an essay is, but what nonfiction really is. Can you be honest while telling a lie? What is truth? How much do you let your reader know? What am I trying to say? “Forms of Fiction: The Short Story” is Tuesdays from 5:20pm to 8:10pm. This is probably the …

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Week One: Laziness and Me

Image: Tom Gill For my first semester, I opted not to take any writing workshops. I wanted to get back to the basics – language, sentences structure, form. I’m taking three classes:  Intro to Graduate Writing, Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay, and Forms of Fiction: The Short Story. Next week, I’ll tell you a little bit more about each, in addition to how I’m making ends meet, and attempting to be a full-time daughter, girlfriend, and friend. But, right now, I want to tell you about what I’ve learned. After one week of classes, I’ve learned two things: I do not have a writing process, and I have never given much thought to the process of writing, and I am more concerned with what writing is doing for me, as opposed to what it’s doing for the reader. These facts make me a terrible writer. The reason I do not have a writing process is because, for a while, writing came naturally to me. Characters, stories, and scenes came so easily I could barely contain …