All posts filed under: First year contributor

Consider a Workshop or Conference This Summer

If you follow this blog frequently, you probably fall into one of three categories: Applying for an MFA this year and anxiously waiting for the results of all your application labor. Highly or hardly considering an MFA and wanted to find out if current or past candidates got the most out their experience. Currently in an MFA and looking to help out who are navigating the treacherous waters of MFA applications or are considering one. Regardless of where you are, I highly recommend thinking about a workshop, conference, and/or retreat this summer if you aren’t already. Some of these places have their applications due this month or the next (VONA, Kundiman) or in March (Clarion West, Sewanee). Like the MFA program, a workshop or conference experience can vary. When I first started to get serious about writing and wanted to know more about craft, writing lifestyles, and the business, I went to my first local writer’s conference at the time, the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. I got a feel for others in the community, learned a …

On fitting it all in

This week I start my second semester in the M.F.A. program at The University of New Orleans. My first semester was all about achieving a healthy school/work/life balance while adjusting to my new routine. Aside from a handful of all-nighters, I felt like I achieved balance for the first time in my academic career. Going into the program, I knew that I would be working two part-time jobs— a GA position and a waitress gig on the weekends. I also prioritized going to the gym three times a week, getting an ample amount of sleep, and I didn’t want my social life or relationships suffer while in school. Lofty goals for my first semester, right? But I did it. I did it!  Instead of beating myself up about not writing as much as I could have, or not taking care of myself enough (like skimping on the gym some weeks), I recognized that the goal was consistency, not perfection. I don’t work well in burnout mode. In undergrad I didn’t have a good outlet for my …

On Writing When You’d Rather Not

Reflecting on the first semester of my MFA program at UVA, I’m struck by how lovely, how dreamy it’s been. I had various worries about beginning the program, but none of them ended up being confirmed: except one, maybe, just a little bit. I worried that it would be harder to write once writing (good, successful) poems became my main responsibility. This is both true and not true: on the one hand, writing is easier because I’m doing it more often, and because it’s hard not to feel inspired when I’m surrounded by such astonishingly talented people. Most of the time, writing is what I want to do. On the other hand, the point of an MFA program is that you must write regularly, even if inspiration doesn’t arrive. You have to hand work in to a group of people you earnestly want to impress, and are not certain of impressing. I’m not always in the mood. It is different to have to do something, and that fact sometimes triggers an impulse to procrastinate. While …

What to Do in the Meantime

Photo credit: Michal Ziembicki The waiting period between now and April is pretty much the worst. I know this well. The last two years I applied, I was waitlisted at a few of my dream schools. In the ’16 cycle, I received a nice email from Syracuse saying I was on the waitlist for fiction. After a slew of rejections (I think the final count was six rejections out of eight that year), the Syracuse waitlist was like ice on a bruised ego. Of course, as you can guess, I stayed on the waitlist until I was eventually bumped off. In the ’17 cycle, the results were slightly better. The rejection count went down from six to five (progress!), and instead of one waitlist, I had two: UVA and Johns Hopkins. On April 11th, UVA sent me a very transparent email, saying there was one unsecured spot but it was unlikely I’d get it. And in a world of waitlist uncertainty, I was just as grateful for the honesty as I was disappointed. Then two …

On Goal Setting

When we were young, Pops’ promised my older brother and me that we’d go somewhere new as a family every year—if we had the money. With enough savings we could take a trip to the motherland (the Philippines) or a trip to Canada; maybe we’d even go across America in an RV. We thought we could go anywhere Pops would dream up, and we ate every word of it—but there was never enough money to do any of these things or the time. There was always another overtime shift available to help pay off an overdue medical bill or credit card payment. We spent money as fast as we tried saving it. There was never enough of anything. That’s part of the beauty of growing up in the working, immigrant, poor: you’re always hopeful for shit to get better—if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that dream for a better existence, once. All we thought about was money, work, and ways to make money in the future so we could live like the …

Filling The Tank

Image: David Wright Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this Joss Whedon quote: “The last piece of advice on that level is fill the tanks, fill the tanks, fill the tanks. Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show.” He’s talking about movies, but when I read this a couple of years ago it really resonated with me in terms of my writing practice. Back then I was in a pretty intense corporate job that involved lots of late nights, weekend work and business travel, so what I thought ‘filling the tank’ meant was making the time for creative consumption: reading books, watching movies, going to plays. It was about taking myself out of the spreadsheets and presentations that dominated my days and feeding my creative mind. Back then, all I wanted was more time to do this. 3 months into my MFA program, I have all the time I could …