All posts filed under: Second year contributor

On All the Rejections

The second year of the MFA is wrapping up and I generally feel good–about the program, about the progress of my writing, about potential prospects after the MFA (I have one more year left), and about the summer ahead of me. This semester, I’ve started writing a second novel about mysterious deaths and scientists and Los Alamos and time travel, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’ve decided to work on my book of satirical short stories about Los Angeles for my thesis, and I’m contemplating applying to PhD programs around the Los Angeles area, where I plan to move after finishing the MFA, as well as other teaching/writing/nonprofit jobs. I suppose what’s odd to me is that on one level, everything is going swimmingly. I’m on course to finish strong drafts of a novel and a collection of short stories at the end of three years of an MFA. I’m getting positive feedback and generative feedback and I’m secure in my abilities as a writer in addition to acknowledging the areas in …

Cross-Genre Work

Image: Bruce Guenter I’m afraid I’ve been stepping out on fiction. I’ve been out with Poetry twice, two lovely workshops. Non-fiction, also twice, sorry. Screenwriting broke my heart and dumped me to the curb (once). Now Playwriting. Halfway through my fourth term, when I need to propose a dissertation and stick by her through thick and thin, sickness and health, and pray she doesn’t laugh in my face. I’m surreptitiously measuring ring fingers. Poetry’s fingers are fast and oily and constantly moving. Non-fiction’s ring finger is stout and strong and loyal. Drama’s digits are gripping. Screenwriting is off the list. Fiction’s fingers are so familiar I feel they are my own. Last term, I took a screenwriting course with a professor with an impressive list of IMDB credits. A hell of a comic, full of life and inspiration, he would stand on the table at least once a week and yell ridiculous prompts. The classroom felt like a TV writer’s room for a real Netflix series. We pitched ideas and shot them down. There were …

The Only Cover Letter Template You’ll Ever Need

Once, in undergrad, I submitted a story I wrote for my sophomore workshop to n + 1 and got a positive response, an interest in putting the thing in their next online issue if I could only revise it enough. I couldn’t revise it enough, because I was secretly the newest of writers, and anyway, I was busy working a job and an internship while carrying a full-time undergraduate course load and also raising a small child. Eventually, the editor who had expressed an interest stopped being as interested and moved to The New Yorker instead, and I published the thing in the print issue of a far less well-known magazine. It happens. That story was not my mature work, it was written before I’d had a good long sit-down-and-think about the politics of my art and my person, and I’m sort of (read: very) relieved it doesn’t exist on the internet. So there’s that. But at AWP this past week, I went up and retold the story to the current n + 1 staffpersons …

The Novel Workshop

On Tuesday, we had our first meeting of “The Novel Workshop,” a two-semester class intended for graduate students to write, as you may have guessed, a novel! I’m in a unique position in that I have written a novel before, but I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—every novel is different, and I’ve heard many an author mention the challenge of writing a second novel after the first, to make novel-writing a practice rather than a single endeavor. I’m excited for the workshop. As far as I know, workshops designated specifically to writing a novel rather than short fiction are somewhat unusual among MFA programs. And I know what makes me most nervous about the workshop is probably a net positive—I tend to be someone writes sporadically, who does not keep to a schedule, who produces a lot but in intermittent starts and spurts. But the expectations of this workshop won’t allow for such. We are to produce 40,000 words by the end of our semester. My first novel was short, …

How to Report

image courtesy of Adil113 on Flickr I am fairly public on the internet about giving MFA-related advice, and people send me emails. I am fairly gossipy, and so I hear a lot of depressing details about everybody’s program rapists, their abusive faculty members, etc. Of course, many people choose not to report their program rapist or abusive faculty member because the personal consequences of doing so are too great. Reporting would anger an administrator who controls further funding, for example, or cause an already out-of-control classmate to escalate. Maybe other faculty members do not believe their colleague is “that sort of person,” and will no longer feel inclined to meet with any student who registers an official complaint. Indeed, bullying and other harmful behaviors within graduate programs poses unique challenges: think of a typical sick workplace, and then take away all the safeguards. Grad students are at such a crucial juncture in their academic careers. The field is so competitive, the stakes so high, the scraps we are fighting over so few. Departments or programs, …