All posts filed under: First year contributor

Salutations & Pre-MFA Nerves

  Hello, dear MFA applicants, candidates, and curious others. By some lovely miracle, I’ll be joining the poetry cohort at the University of Virginia next week. I want to use this first post to reflect on my fears about beginning the program—to write them down before they are either confirmed or dispelled. Of course, I’m still dazed with delight about UVA. I feel like I’ve won the cosmic lottery, or gotten a late Hogwarts letter. I got into three different types of programs (Philosophy PhD programs and Divinity Schools) but the University of Virginia MFA is the one I pined over. They also notified last, so I had plenty of time to get my hopes up, then get blue about my inevitable rejection, then find myself looking up rentals in Charlottesville, then remind myself of the odds, and secretly hold feelings of inadequacy when friends got into incredible programs, and on, and on, and on. The feeling of being accepted was amazing—it almost hurt to feel so suddenly drained of worry and filled with wonder. …

First Year MFA Survival Guide

Photo Credit: Brenna Daughtery It’s the middle of summer and time is flashing before our very eyes. Let me the one to tell you that someone can constantly beat you over the head about how precious and short your time is during your MFA experience. Even after your entire first year you can still be blown away by this very fact. And yet, after being attending workshops and classes you can feel like you’re still at the tip of the iceberg in regards to the literary community as to what it has to offer. It’s a growing/learning process. When reflecting on my year, I have compiled a survival list that can be paired with the many other survival lists that will help those who are approaching their first year at an MFA program. It’s a crazy, but exciting literary world out there (almost as crazy as a zombie infested world). You can never have too many tips and trips to keep your body afloat. Read/Reread Past MFA Years Blog Posts Why? Or should I say, …

It’s gonna be…oh wait, May’s over!

Photo Credit: Photos Public Domain Well, clearly time got the better of me this year. And now I am met with the task of summing up months of the MFA experience in a single blog post. Here goes! Compared to the fall, the spring semester was pretty calm from a personal standpoint – no houses were flooded, no childhood pets died on me, mid-term assignments did not coincide with working at a costume shop at Halloween time (though there was another move involved – we moved the store right before finals, so that was wonderful timing.) I managed to explore Orlando some more (well, really just the thrift stores between Sanford and Orlando and also spent a lot of time tracking down the Beyond Burger and my favorite Philly beer, Victory Kirsch Gose, at stores in Altamonte Springs.) Oh, and I saw my two favorite musicians/humans in the world, Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde (the Pretenders), play together at the Amway Center. One of my courses had us taking friend trips in the area and …

Finding My Discomfort Zone

Image: Trung Bui Viet In my first class on creative nonfiction this past April, I sat down in the workshop, excited, a little nervous, but fundamentally reassured by one thought: I wasn’t going to be any good at the class anyway, so I didn’t have to worry too much about mastering the finer points of the memoir or essay. I was taking nonfiction because in my MA program, we are required to take one class outside of our genre. Since I’m a fiction writer, that meant choosing between poetry and nonfiction.  When I was in undergrad, I took one fateful poetry workshop. It was actually my first workshop experience. I wasn’t much of a poet, or at least I didn’t consider myself to be one, but it was easier to get accepted into a poetry workshop than a fiction workshop, so I took the chance to be in it when it was offered, knowing that I wasn’t going to be the star of the class. I brought in my painful clichéd breakup poems every week and …

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

A New Beginning

If you’re reading this post on this blog, it’s because you have some level of investment (financial, emotional or both) in the MFA degree. When I applied to write for this site last year, I fully expected to recount a year chock full of nothing but reading & ‘riting, the first such year in my life. However, that’s not what happened. Life (& death) reared its ugly head. Over the past year, my MFA was a mere background note. To be honest, I’m lucky it was even that. Not every MFA program would allow you to enroll in August after you turned them down months earlier. Not every program would let you attend classes part-time. But Rutgers-Camden is not like every other MFA program. If you’re reading this while considering your own applications or while you are in the midst of your own MFA year(s), I urge you: please make sure your program cares about whatever issues might potentially affect your life while you pursue this degree. Nothing is more important, not even funding. I say that as someone who needed his MFA degree to be …

In Sickness and In Health

In a perfect world the MFA is straightforward: you go to class, you do your writing, and you teach or work on a literary magazine. When I started at Brooklyn, everything else in my life settled into place, whether it conformed to my busy life or went on temporary hold until I finished my degree. Grad school became my excuse for canceled plans, overdue emails, forgotten birthdays. It was easy to forget to take care of myself too. Aches and pains got pushed aside until the drafts were revised and the papers were graded. But then came the kind of symptoms that I couldn’t ignore. The pain was just discomfort at first. It wasn’t like the swift blow from a fist, but a gradual pulling and squeezing in my lower abdomen. When the pain intensified, I sat in front of my doctor and mapped across my body where it hurt. She patted my shoulder and told me the symptoms were likely stress. “Get yourself some glitter,” she said, “and relax until we get test results …