All posts tagged: MFA

I Am Not My Personal Statement

Image: Lidyanne Aquino While I was applying to MFA poetry programs in late 2016- early 2017, I was simultaneously figuring out how to come out as non-binary. I was writing personal letters, bios, anything that described me, and they were slowly morphing into queer testimonies. I found that I was taking the application process a little too seriously, a little too defensively. I was refreshing my Gmail App almost every thirty minutes. I was butterflied, I felt, by the interrogation of personal statements and essay responses. I was trying to impress someone, and I was trying to be myself, and I didn’t believe myself. The University of Mississippi’s Derrick Harriell called me to offer me a TAship in his program. I wanted to say, “Are you sure? I’m not my personal statement.” In fact, each school that accepted me got a version of Jennie on the phone who I can’t defend. I was scared and guilty of having changed dramatically since I sent my personal statement. Yeah, sure, my resume hadn’t changed, and sure, my …

Strategizing for Second Year

Image: Shemsu.Hor The countdown has begun. After a summer of traveling in Europe, teaching ESL classes, seeing the utterly inspirational musical Hamilton, and generally avoiding writing despite my desire to get ahead, I’ve started my fall classes and I finally have the motivation to do what I came to grad school for: write. I’m in my second and final year of my MA in creative writing at UC Davis, which means between now and May I need to write a thesis. I’ve decided to make my thesis a collection of short stories. Compartmentalizing my thesis into smaller, doable tasks— writing one story at a time— will do wonders for my mental health. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping. When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a senior thesis for my English degree. It was an academic paper that ended up being 90 pages long and not very good, even though I worked on it for a whole year straight. My entire senior year I felt this looming sense of dread hovering over me, like …

Uprooting

I’m lying on my couch, an air mattress, adjusting my elbows, which every few minutes scrub a crumb—probably KIND-brand cinnamon oat cluster granola. I was accepted into the Michener Center for Writers (after being accidentally rejected) in March and moved to Austin on August 9th, floating around for a month before landing a spacious apartment close to campus. But, in Austin, unless you want to live in one of those industrial, small-town-sized apartment complexes (you know, with a pool and visitor parking that’s never open anyway) you’re getting an unfurnished spot, and now that I have a real bed and felt too lazy to deflate this mattress, which was eight dollars at Wal-Mart, I have a couch, too. I was born in Puerto Rico and raised, mostly, in Orlando, Florida. My family is pretty much all Nuyorican, and the other side is all Cuban, all living in Miami since 1966, when they won “the lottery”—which is not 300 million dollars taxed at 82% but more like a get-out-of-Cuba-free card. But that was a long time …

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 …

Lauren Mauldin Introduction (University of California Riverside)

I never considered myself to be a pool person. Something about stretching spandex over my fat rolls, and slathering my pale, Scandinavian skin in sunscreen to avoid inevitable sun shock never exactly screamed ‘relaxation’ to me. But now I spend my afternoons bobbing through aqua water, surrounded by palm trees. On my lounge chair by the edge of the pool, the pages of a memoir warm in the sun. I float, a little aimless and untethered, waiting for classes to start. I’m still surprised that I moved to Southern California. I never thought I’d have the chance to get an MFA either. It was a dream that began ten years ago, when I was an undergraduate at North Carolina State University. MFA students at NCSU taught my intro creative writing classes, and helped shape my initial journey as a writer. I idolized them, and I wanted to be part of that elite club of people that choose to put words in the forefront of their lives. When the time came for me to decide what …

Dazed and confused in the age of the MFA

Image: Mike Boening Some things you should know about me: The first time I left Miami I was 19. And I believed so then, with extreme certainty, that leaving the 305 was written in the stars for me. It was absolutely meant to be. And in retrospect, it was for good. I came back a year later with lots of great life experience under my belt: I blacked out from drinking whiskey, I blacked out from too much sangria, I made art that I was proud of at the time, and managed to overcome a depression I had been struggling with for almost two years. Some additional things you should know about me: The second time I left Miami was a month ago, and I’m still trying to figure out if it was for good. Partly because of how much I’m going to be in the hole after this, which is cause for concern, but also because I’ve just begun my graduate career at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The “MFA in …