All posts filed under: Second year contributor

Coral Gables Catalog

The city beautiful. The coconut tree is gone. There are fresh tree stumps everywhere. The thick glass panel of my porch door cracked during Irma. I listened to the wind pressing against it, spreading the shatter out in thick lines. With my remaining phone battery, I took photos of 3 spread tarot readings and PMed them to my friends. This is how I learned to do tarot, siphoning the small amount of electricity out of my hand. What does it mean to be in the present moment? Do you love the humidity, the way the air weighs hot and heavy? I haven’t been back to the beach yet. I live in Coral Gables, walk everywhere, past post-deco houses with backyards that open to an ocean channel. Who wouldn’t love to visit the Vizcaya Gardens, with its made-up name, its stone mermaid colossus where the ship would dock, deposit James Deering, the agricultural millionaire, its owner. The royal poinciana growing in my neighbor’s yard was stripped of its orange leaves and I don’t know if they’ll …

Strategizing for Second Year

Image: Shemsu.Hor The countdown has begun. After a summer of traveling in Europe, teaching ESL classes, seeing the utterly inspirational musical Hamilton, and generally avoiding writing despite my desire to get ahead, I’ve started my fall classes and I finally have the motivation to do what I came to grad school for: write. I’m in my second and final year of my MA in creative writing at UC Davis, which means between now and May I need to write a thesis. I’ve decided to make my thesis a collection of short stories. Compartmentalizing my thesis into smaller, doable tasks— writing one story at a time— will do wonders for my mental health. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping. When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a senior thesis for my English degree. It was an academic paper that ended up being 90 pages long and not very good, even though I worked on it for a whole year straight. My entire senior year I felt this looming sense of dread hovering over me, like …

Blog of a Power-Hungry, Controlling TA

Thanks to my primary school teacher parents, I entered my MFA program with teaching experience. In middle school, I began volunteering and tutoring in classrooms and libraries across the U.S. and I kept that up throughout college. As an undergrad, I spent two summers abroad teaching and writing about my experiences in the Volta Region of Ghana and the Shanghai region of China. Despite all that, I was nervous when I stepped into my classroom on the first day of the semester. I was a newly minted first year MFA student and suddenly, I was leading a group of students as someone “knowledgeable” in my field. Looking out over those fifteen students who were staring blankly back at me, I was grateful for my week of pre-teaching pedagogy training when my professor asked, “What will your first words to your students be when you walk into your classroom? What impression do you want to make?” The semester put me through the wringer. Between difficult personal relationships, Trump’s election, and trying to establish a rigorous writing …

Becoming the Killjoy: Confronting Academic Spaces

Finishing up my final semester at University of Wyoming’s MFA felt tumultuous, though I suppose it couldn’t have ended any other way. Many faculty seemed to be leaving UW amidst the school’s large-scale budgeting overhaul due to the collapse of Wyoming’s coal industry last year, nothing new for the state considering its legacy of booms and busts. A new drama was rising afresh within the program as students learned of the manner in which beloved faculty member, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, had been terminated. Further, this was all happening against the backdrop of macro and micro struggles. Each week was some new round of messy political theatre, and meanwhile my friends and I were going through own crises, doing what we could to find moments together to fight through the gloom. After my thesis defense, one of my committee members gave me a letter that contained everything I needed to hear at the end of this stricken road. Even now, I’m holding the letter, reading through it again and finding myself wrecked with the sharp joy of …

What Is a Mentor, Exactly?

On Father’s Day, a former creative writing professor of mine from college (let’s call him B) wrote a long and eloquent post about his thankfulness not only for his father but also for a dear mentor of his. This mentor had been B’s professor when he was an undergraduate many years ago. He had given B advice and guidance when B was rejected from graduate school, had continued to read B’s stories after B had had said mentor for workshop, and had introduced B to his literary agent. I acknowledge that this was a Facebook post and thus I certainly don’t know the full context of this mentorship. What I do know is that when I read that post, I felt a little jealous, although it was hard to parse out the exact nature of that jealousy. B’s post made me wonder, how common is it for writers to have mentors in this day and age, and what is the nature of those mentorships? How do different people interpret the idea of mentorship? On the …

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 …