All posts filed under: Guest post

Writing from the Outskirts

Image: matryosha I grew up in the town of Tujunga, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, nestled right up against the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s about 30 minutes by car from Downtown Los Angeles and about hour from the airport. Between Tujunga and the San Fernando Valley lies a series of hills called the Verdugo Mountains. It’s about as secluded as you can get and still be in Los Angeles, though it doesn’t feel like the city of surfers and starlets. No, if someone drugged and abandoned you there, you’d awaken thinking you’d landed in east Texas. There isn’t much going on. Along Foothill Blvd, the main drag, you’ll find some fast food chains and grocery stores, a dozen auto body shops, a run of boarded up storefronts, and a trio of biker bars, one of which opens at 6am.  There used to be an enormous K-Mart, but that’s gone. We got a Starbucks about ten years ago. That was big. There’s a small library but no bookstores. The closest one is in Glendale, about …

Elation (And Everything That Came After)

Image: Wonderlane In my introductory post, I called this entire MFA process my first pancake. It was supposed to be the try that didn’t end in success, my testing of the waters. Except I got into two of my top choices and wait-listed at another two. Clearly I was happy, right? Not exactly. Although I did experience great joy when I got those wonderful phone calls and emails, it quickly turned into overwhelming grief. Because I had psyched myself up for disappointment, I didn’t know how to take my acceptances. I had planned ways to make my 2017 applications better and drafted a new list of schools to apply to. Starting school now means I will never apply to Michigan, Wisconsin, Austin or many of the other schools people rave about. I will never know if a SOP that reflected more of my personality would have won more programs over. I will never need to send out the stack of transcripts I have sealed in a box marked “for 2017 applications.” I will never use my dogeared, well-worn …

Next Year

by Lara Prescott It’s mid-February and you haven’t seen an acceptance yet. You’re checking Facebook ten (OK, twenty) times a day for word on acceptances. You’ve resorted to Googling people who’ve gotten in so you can compare your work to theirs. You’ve succumbed to Grad Café rumors. On the day you get rejected from Michigan, you lock yourself out of the house and have to walk barefoot in your pajamas down an iced-over sidewalk in a town you hate to fetch a locksmith. It can’t get any worse. But it does. March brings a smattering of more rejections and you call your mother to tell her that you’re just not good enough. She feels your pain, and tells you so, but wonders why you’d want to go back to school in your 30s in the first place, which she doesn’t tell you. In April, you get accepted to a school you can’t afford. It feels good for a minute. Then you do the math. On the day you receive your final rejection—from a school that misspells …

Literal Accessibility

Image: haru__q There are six steps in front of my apartment building. They are made of marble and get slick when it rains or snows. I never forget that they are there. Before my car accident—before I became disabled—I didn’t pay too much attention to such things. Now I am always keenly aware of what lies ahead of me. For someone whose thoughts should revolve around words, I am constantly thinking of numbers; I calculate the distance from A to Z, whether one flight of stairs will be less painful than a thousand steps to the elevator, whether I can afford a cab to go the five blocks because I’m especially achey that day. And, ever since I decided to apply to MFA programs, I’ve thought about learning my way a whole new campus. Iowa’s program is located at Dey House, a two-story former residence converted for use by the Writers’ Workshop. On the Iowa website, it states that disabled students would only have access to the main floor. Columbia’s MFA program is held in …

Don’t Speak

Image credit: Miki Yoshihito I don’t talk. At least not in class. I am the person in the back corner of the classroom diligently taking notes who always knows what’s going on but doesn’t say a word. And I’m more than comfortable in that role. I like that role, especially since coming back to school. From that first day about two years ago on I got it in my head that I was behind the rest of my classmates somehow in education and ability. Listening to the discussions around me was my way of catching up to them. Plus, I’ve always been a better writer than speaker. I knew I could show my knowledge through the papers and essays assigned. I was more than fine trading in class participation grade for not embarrassing myself in front of everyone. Back in January, before the start of my final semester of undergrad, I made it a goal of mine to speak more, to participate more, to not just be the girl in the back of the room …

The Inevitable Stumblings of Beginnings

Image: finchlake2000 The reality of it already (somehow! how!?) being November was the catalyst for writing this small testimony, think piece, whatever you’d like to call it. In other words, my first semester in an MFA program is a blur—one great, big, ginormous blur that’s stretched and yanked and shouted at and taught me things I thought I’d already learned—but actually hadn’t. Not the right way, at least. I came to my program with all of the excitement and uncertainty and the strange partially-pompous-partially-humble mind-state that us writers seem to have an affinity for convincing ourselves into. I’m sure everyone before me and after me has felt and will feel this similar peculiarity, too. And that whole “imposter” syndrome you hear about? Yeah—that’s really real. There are days when I’m nearly convinced I was let into my program by accident. There are also days I’m so damn grateful to be here—usually after a high-energy, bright-spots-of-flushed-cheeks-and-points-being-made discussion in my workshop where there’s this amiable discord, the sharing of ideas, completely done for the sake of a story, …

Shakarean Hutchinson Introduction (Applicant ’16)

Image: Andrew Taylor I finished my first application today (December 8th) with the mailing of my writing sample. I expected to feel something when the USPS worker took the envelope from me—happiness, relief, nervousness. Instead I felt what can only be described as meh. A 5 on a scale of 10. Baked but lightly salted crackers. Water. And not the icy cold water you drink after being out in the hot sun for hours on end either. Just plain, room temperature, straight from the tap water. *** I didn’t know anything about MFA programs until about three years ago while reading the bio of a random writer who had a short story published in an online journal I enjoyed. And even after doing a casual Google search on MFA programs I didn’t give it all that much thought. My future plans included getting an advanced degree in…something (hadn’t decided at the time), become a professor, and spend the rest of my life teaching and paying off student loans. And should I write a story or …