All posts tagged: MFA

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 …

April Showers Bring ANXIETY

Image: 陳 冠宇 Springtime can be confusing. The weather is friendlier, the world unfurls from its winter slumber, birds sing in the tree outside your window, etc. But this time of year also brings tax returns, looming seminar papers, and summer work struggles. For those who have braved the tumultuous MFA application process over the past few months, there are three likely mindsets at this point in the year: Sadness at knowing they won’t be sitting in a graduate workshop in the fall Pulling their hair out (with excitement/anxiety!) trying to decide between offers, or Pulling their hair out (with excitement!) figuring out living situation and moving details for August. Each position comes with its own anxieties and challenges. Each can invite a sense of futility and/or imposter syndrome. I’ve been the sad applicant, the anxiously-comparing-stipends-applicant, and the oh-my-god-I’m-moving-in-four-months applicant. I am also now a graduate student in a creative writing program, and now realize that perhaps a slice of this perspective would have placed my anxieties and worries in a more helpful context. I hope reading this …

An Inside Look With Robin Conley, Western State Colorado University ’15

Image: Edsel Little Note: Thank you to first year contributor J.R. Dawson for providing me with these questions! How does your residency work and how it is paced? Spalding University’s Low-Residency program offers several options students can complete while enrolled in the program. The option selected decides the time they will attend residency. Some students, like […]

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 …

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Image: Beat Tschanz Every summer hundreds of newly accepted MFA students box up their books, gas up their cars, and make the trek to programs across the country. It’s a sort of crisscross dance with writers zipping off to places they’ve never been before, or, have only briefly visited. More often than not, things work out—we endure the foreign weather and different accents; the local charm either grows on us or becomes grist for mill. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, things don’t go as planned and a change is in order. In my case, I had received tuition remission, but no stipend. I was working full-time for minimum wage in an expensive city, which in many ways defeated the whole purpose: more time to hone my craft and build a community. That fall, I applied to another round of schools and received an acceptance phone call outside the door to that week’s fiction workshop. No one else knew, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly awkward. But transferring shouldn’t be the faux …