All posts tagged: first year

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. …

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

“I Think You Have More to Offer As An Author.”

This sentiment was said to me twice regarding my first assignment for my workshop class. I decided to make a comic deconstructing the Dirty Harry/Judge Dredd type of protagonist in Hollywood action movies and ’90s superhero comics: violent, brutal enforcers of authoritarianism and fascism masquerading as relatable anti-heroes. I was trying to critique the manipulation of sympathy in these stories by way of revealing these characters to be the kind of unsavory maniacs they would be in real life. The first time, it was said by my professor who utterly failed to understand what my story was doing. But I admit that my execution fell short in the first draft and she was trying to be encouraging, after a fashion. It was a backhanded compliment, but still a compliment, so I took it in stride. I heard this phrase again after a round of revisions, but from one of my  classmates. This time, it was less compliment and more backhand. He didn’t like reading a story with such a cynical tone and unsympathetic protagonist, saying …

Wrapping Up.

Image: GMDS by meg This year, I learned that I am a writer. It is the most important of the lessons I’ve learned. See, I didn’t write for the past two weeks. I ducked out of Missouri the day after my last paper was due and I have been driving around my beloved Florida since then, visiting family and friends (not all and not enough) and hoping that the AC in Rudy, my dear hatchback, wouldn’t succumb to the relentlessness of the Fort Myers sun. I. didn’t. write. I felt that I had no words left—that I had been wrung out. My wonderings have woven themselves into various essays over the past year, my similes have been exhausted, and my perspective was beginning to falter. I wanted to let my mind breathe these two weeks and recharge by the ocean. Well. Words came back, but they come back in droves, with no direction. In my head, I heard them shriek when I knew that they should whisper; others mumbled when they should have projected clearly. …

Achievement Unlocked: An MFA Year in Review

I’ve struggled with how to approach what should be a fairly straightforward overview post of my first year in an MFA program. I considered starting with an anecdote that would be both amusing and slightly self-deprecating, because if writers are good at anything other than, well, writing, it’s self-deprecation. I considered starting completely off-topic—say, my love for biscuits—and turning the whole post into a convoluted but apt metaphor for writing. Neither approach felt quite right. I started over from scratch so many times, each attempt more frustrating than the last, until I began to realize that my inability to hold the arc of my first-year narrative in my writer’s eye was a symptom of an issue I have dealt with all year (for many years, actually): my battle with plot, organization, and continuity. Though “plot” is usually relegated to fiction writers, nonfiction writers—especially narrative nonfiction writers—have to work with it as well to some extent. The difference is, of course, that we essayists avail ourselves to a different set of key words, so to speak. …

Imposter

Image: Whisper – Cuchotement by Frédérique Voisin-Demery Imposterrrrr. The whisper escapes from my medicine cabinet as I reach for my toothbrush. Imposterrrrr. It snakes around the mugs in my cupboard as I grab my favorite. Imposterrrrr. It is what I hear from my closet at night. It wafts in through the wall vents riding on the heat. It resounds through the hallways after I leave a class having not spoken. On walks home, the whispers fight against my jacket like the cold. They try to hold my hand through my gloves. I can hear them over my headphones, through the noise of the wind. At my apartment, the words manage to sneak in past the front door as I drop my bag on the linoleum entrance. They vanish into dark corners and into the nooks with doors, ready to spill out at me when I need a fresh towel. I crack a beer and a book and I know the words are behind me, pulsing and throbbing. I fall asleep on the couch, lights on, …

One Semester Down

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a few weeks, staying at my dad’s house. Even though technically I now live in Tuscaloosa, L.A. still feels like my actual “home.” This makes sense, given that I’ve only spent a few months in Tuscaloosa, and I wonder if at some point it will start to feel more like home than Los Angeles, or if graduate school will simply be a time of transience, not firmly anchored in one place or another. In about a week and a half, I’ll be back in Tuscaloosa, and while I’m looking forward to starting up next semester, I’m also reluctant to let go of Los Angeles’s familiarity, the sense of relaxation and peace that accompanies sleeping in, reading all day, seeing friends I’ve known for over a decade, and eating all the best Japanese food. In reflecting on my first semester, I’m glad that I chose to attend Alabama. One of the greatest gifts that the program at Alabama offers is time, and at this point, I can’t imagine being …