All posts filed under: Second year

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 …

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 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, …

Contractual Community: Minority Students’ Place in the Creative Writing Program

Image: Conal Gallagher A lot has happened since the events of last semester as detailed here. I thought about what it might look like for me to give an update on promises given, what has improved, what hasn’t. And yet, I feel like it’d be unnecessary, in a sense, to give another somewhat in-depth barometric of things overall. A problem had been pointed out, namely the program’s inadequate approach, specifically under the helm of the current director, Jeff Lockwood, to address issues uniquely relevant to minority students. A call had been made and had been heard. Anymore expended emotional and intellectual energies, other than acting for the sake of my own survival if necessary, would be undue labor on my part, at least in my view. Then, there’s simply the matter of our program’s change in directors starting next year, from Jeff Lockwood to Brad Watson. So rather than go in that direction, I thought I would discuss a topic endemic to the creative writing program generally: problems with the notion of “community.” (Although, if …

November is a bitch.

Crisp, cold, light, first snow dandruff the mountains, autumn’s last leaves swirl and the swoosh swoosh swoosh of traipsing leaf piles brings back childhood. White swans migrate into the duck pond. Will they survive the coming winter? Do ducks ever feel cold? They dive deep and paddle. Where do the turtles go in this cold? Mystery. All leaves down by nightfall. Albuquerque’s beauty occasionally strikes a stunning uppercut. This month has been a bitch. Hitler elected. Leonard died. Fidel. Mose Allison. Capecoense—a whole futebol team gone in a blink. The Grim Reaper has been clearing house all year. Bowie. Prince. Muhammad Ali. For me, November in northern climes has always been the cruelest month. I can’t finish anything. I feel everything is worthless. Doubt is rife. Anxiety high. Binge-drinking like there’s no tomorrow, every time I log on to anything all I see is shit shit shit. I’m afraid and don’t know what to do. The bad men are winning, do they always? I’ve been in the US for 14 months on this MFA. Beliefs …

Autumn Approaches Albuquerque (Cada día Cuenta)

From the List-server into my inbox: Greetings all, We are nearing the midpoint already … 2nd Half begins 10/17, right after the end of Fall Break on the 13th and 14th! Approaching Autumn in Albuquerque and the end of a third semester in a six semester degree, tick tock goes the outer clock and wow much has changed. Basically, I’m out of workshop-landia, I can take more if I want, and there are dissertation hours and optional independent studies, but I’m focused on getting my literature (James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence) and professional development credits (Grant and Proposal Writing and Job Seeking) out of the way so the third year can be write write, and done so right. Do I know what my dissertation will be? Of course, he slaps his knee guffawingly, of course, I know, who doesn’t? I have a thousand ideas and can only marry one. Isn’t life just a simple process of narrowing choices? So what have I learned by coming back? I’ve taken over as Fiction Editor at The Blue Mesa Review …