All posts filed under: Post MFA

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Image: Beat Tschanz Every summer hundreds of newly accepted MFA students box up their books, gas up their cars, and make the trek to programs across the country. It’s a sort of crisscross dance with writers zipping off to places they’ve never been before, or, have only briefly visited. More often than not, things work out—we endure the foreign weather and different accents; the local charm either grows on us or becomes grist for mill. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, things don’t go as planned and a change is in order. In my case, I had received tuition remission, but no stipend. I was working full-time for minimum wage in an expensive city, which in many ways defeated the whole purpose: more time to hone my craft and build a community. That fall, I applied to another round of schools and received an acceptance phone call outside the door to that week’s fiction workshop. No one else knew, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly awkward. But transferring shouldn’t be the faux …

An Inside Look With Kate Peterson, Eastern Washington University ’14

What was it like living in Cheney? How far does your stipend go there living wise? EWU’s main campus is in Cheney, so this is where the undergraduate classes are held (and where TAs teach classes) but the MFA program is housed on the satellite campus in Spokane. Almost all of the MFA candidates choose to live in Spokane since this is where all of our classes are held, and also where all of the internship and program/faculty offices are located. So, there have been some folks in the program who prefer the small-town feel of Cheney over Spokane, but most people live in Spokane and drive or take the free bus to Cheney (about a twenty five minute ride) when they teach. Spokane is a very livable city. When I came to the program I was just returning to the states after working abroad as an au pair, so I didn’t have a lot of money saved. I took out a small loan even though I had tuition remission and a stipend, because I …

An Inside Look With Kenny Stoneman, Kingston University ’15

Image: Barnyz A note from Kenny: There didn’t seem to be a natural place to mention it, but I attended the MFA program at Kingston University – London from September 2014 – September 2015.  Because I only finished the first year, I received an MA, rather than the full MFA.  Most schools in the UK work that way – the MA is the first year, while the MFA is the second. What was it like living in London? How did you navigate the cost of living there? Lesson #1 about living in London: it’s expensive. There is absolutely no way around that fact, although I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to very many people. Be prepared to budget, and also be ready for exorbitant prices on just about everything. But there are a few things most Americans won’t realize about London until they get there. For thing, if you’re on a student visa, you are legally not allowed to work more than 20 hrs/wk, so unless you’re independently wealthy, you will need student loans to support yourself. I …

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 …

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 …

An Inside Look With Chelsea Biondolillo, University of Wyoming ’13

Image: Jimmy Emerson What was it like living in Laramie? How far does your stipend go there living wise? Living in Laramie was conducive to writing, which is to say that there’s not a whole lot else to do during many of the long winter nights. It gets cold there, -25 and more, and the wind is such a constant, you might find the natural volume of your voice ratcheting up a notch. Winter makes summer all the more amazing however, and you will cram a lot of living into your (partially funded) summer break between years 1 & 2. Throughout the year there is a minimum of nightlife and an abundance of nearby outdoor adventures (rock climbing, camping, hiking, caving, river kayaking, birding, wildlife watching or hunting, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing–plus you can rent almost any gear (except guns, of course) from the school’s outdoor program, including hiking boots–though I’d recommend you bring some with you). The town was much more pleasant toward students generally than many other college towns I’ve lived in. I was …

An Inside Look With Emily Maloney, University of Pittsburgh ’15

Image: Jaime Dillen-Seibel What was it like living in Pittsburgh? How far did your stipend go there living wise? Pittsburgh is an interesting place. For me, it was a difficult place to live (though they’re working on it, it’s still a highly polluted city, and I developed asthma from living there—but somehow it doesn’t bother most other people), but it seems like many of my classmates loved it and felt like it was a good environment for artists. It’s cheap to live there and there are a variety of ways in which you can get involved in the city and its various grassroots programs. I joined a ceramics co-op and got a lot out of it. A number of people from the program have become Teaching Artists with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and/or through the Pittsburgh public schools; others have interned at Creative Nonfiction (which is headquartered in Pittsburgh’s East End). There are also a variety of ways to get real experience and  have the opportunity to publish through places like Pittsburgh Magazine (a …