All posts tagged: creative writing

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 …

Want to learn how to write? Become an autodidact

Image: The Dark Veil If you’re familiar with the pros and cons of MFA programs in general, you’ve probably heard this advice before: an advanced degree in Creative Writing is not necessary for you to become a writer, but it can definitely help by giving you the time and validation you need to build confidence in your writing. I’ve now completed two terms of my M.A. in Creative Writing program (two quarters actually, but because there’s no summer term there are only three quarters in one school year– I’m guessing whoever invented that system didn’t major in math), and I have enough experience at this program to confirm that advice, but also to qualify it. In an MFA or MA Program, you will be treated seriously as a writer, and you will have more time than you otherwise would to write, especially if you’re coming back to school from the working world. However, if you are in a program that funds you via teaching assistantships or other university positions, you’re also going to have a …

How to make your MFA decision

Image: Vimal Kumar Maybe you’re still waiting to hear back from MFA programs or you already know you’ve been accepted to one or more. Either way, come April, if you are in the lucky position of being able to choose where you attend graduate school next fall, here are suggestions from some of our first year contributors on how to choose the program that is right for you. Contributors: Molly Montgomery, Craig Knox, Devin Koch, Jess Silfa, and Carlos Chism What is the most important factor to consider when making the decision? Molly Montgomery: I think the biggest factor when you’re making your decision is your personal goals. Of the programs you were accepted to you, which do you think will help you reach your goals as a writer? And if you have other aspirations, such as a desire to improve your teaching skills or to gain professional or editorial experience, will the program also help you achieve those goals? When you are comparing offers, it’s easy to only look at the funding, but you also …

What is Your Message of Hope?

Image By: Martin “Interrogate yourself. Everyday. What is your message of hope?” – Ocean Vuong My first semester in pursuing my MFA, I got the privilege to hear Ocean Vuong, an exceptional poet, who visited Virginia Tech and delivered a craft talk the following day. He had a soft-spoken voice when he talked but when he read his work, there was a strong sense of passion and intensity. His craft talk covered the idea of how powerful language is, especially in regards to how fluid language is. It is connected to one’s culture and history. It is a way to connect with the ones around you. Language is ever changing, with new slang being introduced and how words/acronyms can change meaning. For instance, we all know what Lol means, but now it holds more abilities. These days people use it in texts as if it’s filler or a means of trying to lighten the mood. Lol I just bombed the test. When you take the Lol out it has a completely different meaning, where there …

Read, Write, Ruminate, Repeat

Image: Lynn Friedman In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, whenever Alice stumbles upon a bottle labeled “Drink Me” or “Eat Me,” she ingests them with the naïveté of a child who consumes everything in her path, unaware of how they may change her in ways she doesn’t expect. I was much like Alice as a child, only instead of consuming strange substances, I devoured books. Books had a magnetic pull for me, as if each cover said “Read Me” and I couldn’t resist. That’s why I started writing, after all: I wanted to recreate that sensation of irresistibility in the stories I made up to keep myself entertained. So it seems fitting then, in graduate school, to come full circle and reread books that I treasured as a child. This quarter I’m a TA for a class called Children’s Literature, and while I don’t have any teaching responsibilities for the course (instead I have grading and administrative duties), I still am reading all of the books for the course and attending the lectures. …

Just Keep Writing…

  Image: Andrew Hefter Have you ever heard the phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?” Well, according to that definition, maybe I’m more than a bit insane. After all, I’ve been writing fiction since I was at least twelve (one of my first short stories was about a leopard named Jeopardy who didn’t care for danger in the least), and now I’m twice that age, and I haven’t published a book or had an enormous amount of success. Yet, here I am, in a graduate program for creative writing, staring at a blank page and willing the words to form in my brain so that I can harvest them. Part of me wants to know, will this pay off? Will I someday finish a book and publish it and, if I do, will people even read it? But for the moment, I just have to push away those concerns and focus on sounding out this one word on the page and deciding whether it sounds better …

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 …