All posts tagged: grad school

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Craig Knox

Image: Nate Steiner For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? I was working at a dead-end job when I applied to MFA programs, and the applications were my respite from a toxic workplace. I didn’t stress about my applications too much and I tried not to think about when I would hear back. I just got lost in the words and in the obsession with getting my voice on the page. I was really proud of my writing by the end of the application period. Once I submitted all of my applications, I felt adrift. So I tried to find light in the darkness as much as I could. I like to cook, so I did that a lot. I took the dog for long walks on my lunch breaks and when I got home from work. Most importantly, I continued reading and revising …

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 …

Oh, Bigoted New World

Image: Sebastien Wiertz On the night of the election, I didn’t want to watch the election results roll in alone, so I went to a viewing held by a group English graduate students. Although I didn’t know the people at the gathering very well—most of them I had never met before and the few that I did know I met in the past couple months—I felt a strong sense of camaraderie with them that night. We watched with disbelief as what we had thought was impossible manifested before our eyes in the climbing electoral college numbers. We were all stunned, drinking wine and eating chips as if that was somehow going to make us feel a little better. We had to take breaks, because standing outside in the chilly air eased the feelings of claustrophobia and panic that were colonizing our bodies. I’m lucky in that I’m not going to be as affected as many of my friends and colleagues by the outcome of this election. I’m mixed race, but I look white. I’m an …

A Few Adjustments

Image: Molly Montgomery Last week in my writing workshop, my fiction professor drew a triangle on a whiteboard, which she sectioned off into levels, to represent a pyramid. On the bottom level, she wrote: clarity, meaning and sense. On the next level up, she placed character, dialogue, and setting, then further up, point of view and voice. She explained each level in turn, topping off the pyramid with symbol and theme. Often, she told us, novice writers find their intended message for the story and write from the top down, but that’s not how good storytelling works. You need to construct the story from the bottom up, and let the complexity of symbolism and thematic motifs develop organically from the foundations of your language, your characters, and your plot. Perhaps this seems like an obvious statement, but for me, it was a new way of thinking about writing. Writing has always been instinctive to me. In college, I took creative writing workshops and I thought about the craft of writing, but in those courses we …

Lessons Learned After Year One

This time last year, when I already held the knowledge that I would be moving out here to Wyoming, I had already mapped out thematic threads and research leads for my to-be book project. I knew where I was going with my writing, so there would be no need to veer off course. This path I had set out for myself seems to me now to reflect two tendencies/impulses of mine that are, on the surface, contradictory: my desire to be exacting and my desire to wander. While I like listing out everything I need to account for and plan accordingly, these plans almost always reflect an unrealistic optimism. I’d like to think of this habit as both a strategy to organize myself, but also as a kind of daydreaming. I like to plot out sky-high possibilities as if it were all actually possible, even if it’s almost never quite within my reach, at least within the initially-charted conditions. As you might guess, this kind of planning has its pros and cons. In the instance …

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Week One: Laziness and Me

Image: Tom Gill For my first semester, I opted not to take any writing workshops. I wanted to get back to the basics – language, sentences structure, form. I’m taking three classes:  Intro to Graduate Writing, Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay, and Forms of Fiction: The Short Story. Next week, I’ll tell you a little bit more about each, in addition to how I’m making ends meet, and attempting to be a full-time daughter, girlfriend, and friend. But, right now, I want to tell you about what I’ve learned. After one week of classes, I’ve learned two things: I do not have a writing process, and I have never given much thought to the process of writing, and I am more concerned with what writing is doing for me, as opposed to what it’s doing for the reader. These facts make me a terrible writer. The reason I do not have a writing process is because, for a while, writing came naturally to me. Characters, stories, and scenes came so easily I could barely contain …