Author: Sarah Francois

Goodbye to the MFA Program, Not to Writing

Image: Kevin O’Mara   I am graduating in less than a month from my MFA program. I am awestruck that the two years are over. I’ve met so many lively characters and have been mentored in my writing. All I can say now is I will take what I need and leave the rest.  What does that even mean? It means I integrated into my mental scripts some extra things: doubt about whether what I’m writing is realistic or will be well received. Things like that I will leave behind. Learning that my stories are worth telling, that I will take with me. I have to say I am leaving my MFA program with a heavy suitcase full of positive life-affirming skills. I learned skills that go beyond writing; I learned skills that make me a better listener and a better person. I was hospitalized twice during my MFA years. I learned through those experiences I was determined to finish. I also learned I was a harder worker than I gave myself credit for. I showed up …

A Summer With the Prose Poem

Image: Jain Basil Aliyas The first day of the Prose Poem class I was dismayed. My professor wanted us to write haiku. It was a moment before I could process what she was saying. Hai-who? Hai-What? No. No not that. It can’t be that. I write fiction and free verse poetry. Not that stuff.  She wasn’t joking. She led the class on a walk around campus for them to gain material. I, being stubborn, decided to stay in the classroom, which she said I could if I could vividly recall something that would help with my haiku. I thought about the rooftop party I had attended the day before while overlooking Prospect Park. Of course, I could recall something from that for my haiku. I took out my phone and began to look at the pictures of the party. I wrote haiku. Albeit, terrible examples of what I considered haiku. But when she returned with the class I had something written down. At the end of the Monday class, the assignment was to return to class …

The MFA Vs. Everyone Not a Straight, White Male

I am a black woman. I consider myself lucky that I chose a program that houses other black women, making me not the token for the first time in my experience of higher education. I chose a program that even has black men, and other types of people of color in it. I chose a program that has people in it who fight for the voices of marginalized populations as their daily bread, in and out of what they do for writing or for work. However, even paradise (which I consider my program to be) has its flaws. I came to the program brimming with enthusiasm, and ready to write. My first fiction workshop made me self-conscious. I was the only black woman in that class. I, coming from a predominantly white institution for undergrad, have been known to carry the weight of race. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to submit something for workshop that was urban or street fiction. I felt that gritty urban fiction was something my peers expected me to be …

Dear Future MFA

I am finishing up the first year of my MFA and I will say it has been the most rewarding year of my life. I learned a ton about myself, writing, reading and the nature of grades. I will begin by talking about the self. There is absolutely no way you are going to get through the first year without writing something deeply personal. There’s only so much writing you can do before you pull the covers on yourself. You begin to discuss your addictions, or your family or your sexuality even in fictional work. There’s no way around it. The only way out is through. Crank out those semi-autobiographical works and do not resist. When you are done writing them, you’ll stop writing them. You might find that your work is a variation on a theme. Don’t worry about it. Marguerite Duras wrote about the same thing for years and no one said anything. I also learned that workshop is very arbitrary. You will get conflicting feedback from your peers. You will anger and maybe …