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Salutations & Pre-MFA Nerves

  Hello, dear MFA applicants, candidates, and curious others. By some lovely miracle, I’ll be joining the poetry cohort at the University of Virginia next week. I want to use this first post to reflect on my fears about beginning the program—to write them down before they are either confirmed or dispelled. Of course, I’m still dazed with delight about UVA. I feel like I’ve won the cosmic lottery, or gotten a late Hogwarts letter. I got into three different types of programs (Philosophy PhD programs and Divinity Schools) but the University of Virginia MFA is the one I pined over. They also notified last, so I had plenty of time to get my hopes up, then get blue about my inevitable rejection, then find myself looking up rentals in Charlottesville, then remind myself of the odds, and secretly hold feelings of inadequacy when friends got into incredible programs, and on, and on, and on. The feeling of being accepted was amazing—it almost hurt to feel so suddenly drained of worry and filled with wonder. …

First Year MFA Survival Guide

Photo Credit: Brenna Daughtery It’s the middle of summer and time is flashing before our very eyes. Let me the one to tell you that someone can constantly beat you over the head about how precious and short your time is during your MFA experience. Even after your entire first year you can still be blown away by this very fact. And yet, after being attending workshops and classes you can feel like you’re still at the tip of the iceberg in regards to the literary community as to what it has to offer. It’s a growing/learning process. When reflecting on my year, I have compiled a survival list that can be paired with the many other survival lists that will help those who are approaching their first year at an MFA program. It’s a crazy, but exciting literary world out there (almost as crazy as a zombie infested world). You can never have too many tips and trips to keep your body afloat. Read/Reread Past MFA Years Blog Posts Why? Or should I say, …

Finding My Discomfort Zone

Image: Trung Bui Viet In my first class on creative nonfiction this past April, I sat down in the workshop, excited, a little nervous, but fundamentally reassured by one thought: I wasn’t going to be any good at the class anyway, so I didn’t have to worry too much about mastering the finer points of the memoir or essay. I was taking nonfiction because in my MA program, we are required to take one class outside of our genre. Since I’m a fiction writer, that meant choosing between poetry and nonfiction.  When I was in undergrad, I took one fateful poetry workshop. It was actually my first workshop experience. I wasn’t much of a poet, or at least I didn’t consider myself to be one, but it was easier to get accepted into a poetry workshop than a fiction workshop, so I took the chance to be in it when it was offered, knowing that I wasn’t going to be the star of the class. I brought in my painful clichéd breakup poems every week and …

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 …

Grad School Offers: Making a Major Life Decision in Nine Hours

[Featured image: Uditha Wickramanayaka] So you got into two (or more) awesome MFA programs… Congrats! Now, if your situation is anything like mine, you’re freaking out. On the morning of April 15th, while I was getting dressed for work, I received a phone call from a Miami area code. My previous conversations with the director about being waitlisted gave me high hopes for the call, but I was too nervous to pick up. Instead, I watched my phone vibrating on the bed. After a minute, I had a voicemail. The director of Miami had called to say she was thrilled to offer me a spot in next year’s cohort. During the previous week, Indiana University had offered me a spot and told me that, for funding purposes, they needed a decision by the end of that day. In order to send my signed copy of the acceptance, I had to make a decision by 6 pm before I left my office. I had no idea what to do with myself. Between 9 am and 6 …

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 …

How to Actively Wait…list

[Photo cred: teo_ladodicivideo] Up until March 17th, the signs were not looking good for me to get into grad school. It was my second round of applications and I had been rejected by eight different programs already. My creative writing spirits were low. On that fateful day last winter, I was waitlisted at Indiana University. While being waitlisted was encouraging, it wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was to distinguish myself. What didn’t the selection committee know about me? I sent a hardcopy (and electronic copy) of a letter updating both the director of the program and the director of admissions on my writing life since submitting my application (projects I was working on, recent publications, and creative writing mentorship I had undertaken) as well as my continued interest in IU. I didn’t hear back from them but I confirmed receipt of delivery with IU’s program coordinator. You’ll see from my previous post on choosing a diverse program that I had also sent in an application to the University of Miami. That winter, I had …