All posts tagged: fully funded

In Search of Lost Mojo (An introduction)

Image: Adeline Oka You applied to MFA programs last winter peddling your best traits: a voracious curiosity and an insatiable lust for soul-stirring prose. A year later, after a 17-day cross-country road trip originating in South Florida, after getting settled during one of those famed blissful Pacific Northwestern summers—the apex of which was witnessing a cosmically rare solar eclipse from smack dab in the path of totality—after briefly evacuating to New York City when those dreamy days combusted into a toxic haze fueled by catastrophic wildfires, you find yourself in rural Oregon the night before fall quarter starts, shivering in your Miami clothes, frozen before a white screen. Fraud, you scream in your head. It’s not that you knowingly deceived the ad-coms; what you’re realizing is, like the photo from eight years ago you still keep on your Tinder profile, that portrait of your writer self is outdated. That version was based on who you thought you were at 24, when you first seriously considered getting an MFA upon realizing, during your first graduate program, that you didn’t just want to read …

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. …

On Making the Most of AWP

There’s just over a month left of the first year of my MFA and this is the busiest time of the semester. I’ve just returned from a relaxing spring break vacation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and tomorrow I leave for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Los Angeles. This will be my third year attending. When I started my MA in 2013, I didn’t know much about networking as a writer (hey there, still don’t). Luckily, some of the PhD students in my program told me all about AWP, insisting that it’s best and biggest event for writers to attend. “A trip sounds nice,” I told my friend, Claire, as I prepared for my first AWP conference in 2014.  “It will be nice to get away and relax.” “I don’t know if it’s that kind of trip,” she said. And Claire was right. AWP certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, it’s chaotic, and it’s over in a blink of an eye. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a  current or prospective …

MFA Application Q&A: Washington University in St. Louis (Nonfiction)

Photo Credit: Cassandra Leigh Gotto   I remember very well the stress of applying for MFA programs, both in 2012-2013 and last application season. The first time around, I stressed over factors like rankings, funding, etc. — info fairly easily gleaned from national charts and faculty pages. I ended up applying to something like ten or twelve schools. The second time around, I was more focused on applying for full-time jobs and only ended up applying to the two schools that seemed to “fit” me best, schools with small cohorts, generous support, and in locations where I’d either know someone or large enough that I could easily find a supportive community. If I didn’t get in, oh well. I didn’t have the money to apply to so many programs all over again (and really, I didn’t have it in 2012, either), and to be honest, the feeling of being rejected so many times in one season was too much. I found myself saying, “Oh, I didn’t want to go there anyway,” to make myself feel better. If I didn’t want to go …

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Meeting Alison Bechdel, WUSTL’s Visiting Hurst Professor in Nonfiction

Photo Credit: David Blank   Something that really excited me about WUSTL’s MFA program was its impressive rotation of visiting writers. In nonfiction this semester alone we hosted readings from Dinty W. Moore, who also visited one of our graduate classes; and Meghan Daum, who led a small discussion workshop prior to her talk. Hurst Visiting Professors spend even more time with us: we invite one writer per genre per semester to present a craft talk and/or reading, read student manuscripts, and meet with students one-on-one. This semester, our poets met with Claudia Rankine, and our fiction students met with Joy Williams. Being the inaugural year of nonfiction, I didn’t know who WUSTL would be able to bring in. When I found out that our Hurst was Alison Bechdel, I felt pretty embarrassed that I didn’t know who she was. As my partner put it to me, “How do you not know who Alison Bechdel is?” I blame a few things: my somewhat isolated and closeted life growing up in a little bitty farm town …

On Taking My Coffee Mug’s Advice

  Last week, I sat at my desk, a pile of student papers before me, a cursor pulsing in the blank document that needed to become an essay draft for workshop. It was 10:00 at night. I wanted to be marathon-ing The Twilight Zone. Across the room, my cat raised her head. She was sitting in my armchair, curled up on a throw, and nestled among several pillows. I am frequently jealous of my cat’s lifestyle, but never so much as I was in that moment. In my first post, I wrote about how nighttime is usually a sacred time for me, but as the midpoint of my first semester at WVU approaches, I’ve had to make some sacrifices to ensure that I stay on top of my work. Sometimes that means giving up my nights. I’ve lived here since the first week of August, and I’m still not sure what to make of Morgantown. I like the old people bars where I can have a cocktail in peace without worrying that I’ll see one …

Lydia Mulligan Introduction (Eastern Washington University ’17)

Image: Carolyn Jewel I fell in love with writing at a young age. I read voraciously in the crook of this one plum tree in our backyard. We all climbed it, but I owned it. It was my special reading nook. I walked through the stacks of the library in my hometown and felt the spines of the plastic coated books as I walked past. I fell in and out of writing throughout grade school and eventually went to college to get my writing degree (after cycling through about ten other degree choices…I’m a bad decision maker). I wrote for and edited the school literary journal, I took every creative writing class that was offered; I was in plays and musicals, all in an effort to find myself. Little did I know that wanting to find yourself is a key component to becoming an essayist. My friend Miranda and I were taking a class on the Bronte sisters. It was our last seminar class for the English literature major. Up until that point I had …