Author: Sarah Abbott

Ready for Summer: Wrapping Up Year One

Goodness, it’s been a long time since I posted! All the way back in February, surrounded by snowstorms, high electric bills, and chocolate hangovers from buying Valentine’s Day candy on sale. (Oh, that was just me? Whoops.) Now it’s the end of April and the end of my first year as an MFA student. As soon as the figurative bell rings tomorrow to let me out of sociology, I’ll be halfway through the program. How strange–I’m still surprised sometimes to see Lexington, KY on my Facebook profile, like “when did that happen?” At the same time, so much has changed over the past two months. I’ve been workshopped three times since my January post, when I last talked about my workshop with Manuel Gonzales, and he is a brilliant workshop leader. (More on that later.) I’ve shoveled lots and lots of snow. I’ve traveled around southeastern Kentucky with my Sociology of Appalachia class as part of participatory research, doing oral histories and hearing some truly wonderful stories in truly beautiful places. I hung out with …

Snow and Fire

Recently I shoveled a foot of snow off my car with my cat’s litter dustpan. Well, mostly–I’m 5’3″, so when I was finished, my Kia still had a fin in the middle of its roof that I couldn’t reach. What’s funny, sort of, is that my mother had said the day before Snowmageddon hit Kentucky that I might want to pick up a snow shovel, and I said “oh, I’m sure it will melt before I need to go anywhere.” Right. So there I was 48 hours later, excavating my car with a dustpan and trying not to scratch the white car underneath the white snow. My jeans were tucked into my tennis shoes to keep the snow off my bare skin for the hours it took to get my car cleared. For that whole week, from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, I made sure my faucets were dripping, gave Mom permission to say “I told you so,” and wrote. Though I was in serious need of human interaction by Friday, it was an invaluable week. …

Let’s Break Things: New Year, New Workshop

Last night, I had my first workshop of the semester. Manuel Gonzales is teaching this time around. Because our class didn’t meet until so late in January (most classes started on the 14th), we spent half an hour introducing ourselves and our work, then jumped straight into two focused hours of workshop. An upbeat atmosphere, but no nonsense either. And let me tell you, I am really excited about this semester. Manuel has been communicating with us since November about his workshop philosophy and how the class would be organized. Since we started two weeks late, essentially, he also gave us some reading to do over winter break. We read five books: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee, I Am Not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, and Open City by Teju Cole. All of these were to be read by the first day of class. We also have a packet of essays and short stories to read by the …

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Sarah Abbott

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? I signed up to take a self-defense class. It was my last semester of undergrad, so it was an “easy” credit hour, but it conveniently allowed me to punch and kick things every time the waiting got to be too much, or when I got another rejection from a dream school. The physical activity helped clear my mind and press reset. Staying busy with other things, as hard as it may be, is much more useful than researching when your schools notified over the last ten years or checking Draft for the millionth time. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? I was lucky enough to have several great mentors. They all independently told me not to pay for an MFA. Fully funded or bust. I know this is standard advice, but the fact …

Chapters, Papers, and Grading (Oh My!)

When I started thinking about writing my November blog post, it felt unreal. (And I’m not just using that adjective because I’ve been reading The Waste Land. Nope. Okay, maybe a little…) Folks, I am almost finished with my first semester at the University of Kentucky. I’m almost 25% finished with my MFA program (I think in fractions and percentages a lot, don’t know why). I’ve lived in Lexington for nearly four months, and my goodness, what a great four months it has been! I’ve had the chance to speak and work with established writers, whether they are on faculty–Gurney Norman, Manuel Gonzales, Hannah Pittard–or just visiting campus, like yesterday’s Q&A lunch with Denise Giardina. I’ve gotten to know a diverse and friendly cohort. I’ve drafted half of a novel in workshop this semester, and the more I write, the more I love the story and the characters.

Scaling Midterm Mountain

William T. Young Library Yesterday in class, my modernist poetry professor glanced down at the reading he’d assigned for this weekend (Eliot) and raised his eyebrows. “Well, that’s quite a lot, isn’t it?” He shrugged and smiled. “You turned in your papers already, I suppose, so you have nothing else to do.” We all laughed very hard, including him. The seminar combines PhD, MFA, and MA students–most people are TAs and take at least two classes. This particular class was so popular during registration that we sometimes have to scrounge for an extra chair if everyone is in attendance. We also generally have pretty amazing discussions that can last 15-20 minutes past the end of class, because everyone has something to say. In undergrad, I was used to being one of the only people in the room who always wanted to talk about stories and poems. Here, I’m surrounded by people who love the same things, whether their niche is scholarly or creative writing. Many of them are smarter and more well-read than I am, …

Routines and Broken Things

If bad luck comes in threes, I’ll be glad to see the end of September. Between Car Scare Tuesday (what is this mystery light that’s suddenly blinking on my dash, and why will no one let me over so I can stop the car?), Internet Fail Friday (what do you mean, there are no appointments for two weeks?), and Laptop Crash Monday (why why why did I not use an external hard drive, please have mercy on all my non-backed-up drafts and pictures of getting lost in Romania), it has been an interesting week and a half. Particularly for my grad-student-sized savings account. Still, everything that does not involve me touching machinery and technology feels like it’s clicking into place. All the different compartments of life in Lexington: writing, homeworking, socializing, grading, church-ing, cooking for myself for the first time.