All posts tagged: Nonfiction

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 …

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 …

Cross-Genre Work

Image: Bruce Guenter I’m afraid I’ve been stepping out on fiction. I’ve been out with Poetry twice, two lovely workshops. Non-fiction, also twice, sorry. Screenwriting broke my heart and dumped me to the curb (once). Now Playwriting. Halfway through my fourth term, when I need to propose a dissertation and stick by her through thick and thin, sickness and health, and pray she doesn’t laugh in my face. I’m surreptitiously measuring ring fingers. Poetry’s fingers are fast and oily and constantly moving. Non-fiction’s ring finger is stout and strong and loyal. Drama’s digits are gripping. Screenwriting is off the list. Fiction’s fingers are so familiar I feel they are my own. Last term, I took a screenwriting course with a professor with an impressive list of IMDB credits. A hell of a comic, full of life and inspiration, he would stand on the table at least once a week and yell ridiculous prompts. The classroom felt like a TV writer’s room for a real Netflix series. We pitched ideas and shot them down. There were …

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 …

First Years versus Second Years

Image: Daniel Orth In September, phones all over SoCal lit up with the same message, the bios for the new admits were up. By ourselves and in small groups, we plugged the link for our MFA program into our browsers. We held our faces close to our laptop screens to better see every freckle, smile line, and sun spot (or lack thereof) of the new recruit’s faces in the small photos next to their blurbs. We read the words they’d written about their selves in third person and wondered what they would be like IRL. As a Peer Mentor, I have more frequent contact with this year’s incoming cohort than most second years. Second years are busier than first years, because we’re taking classes, teaching classes, and trying to finish up our thesis. We have offices that we spend our spare time on campus in versus the sticky 10-chair conference table in the lobby of our department, so chance conversations are harder to encounter. I remember this same unintentional divide existing last year and not really …

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It’s Not Just About Me: Initial Reflections on an MFA Workshop

Image: Pixabay Having been a creative writing student in undergrad, by the time I arrived at the first workshop of my MFA studies at Washington University in St. Louis, I should have felt confident that I knew what to expect. Over the years, I had developed a system for writing feedback letters; I had long practiced keeping my mouth shut and my face set like stone when my own piece was up for discussion. And I knew that no matter what was said or how it was said, I wasn’t supposed to take comments personally. But I was still terrified. Just like every other first day of school, I woke up that first morning with a stomach ache. Maybe you’ve heard that workshop is a terrifying ordeal. In my experience, it can be. I’ve had classmates who just really likes to stab and twist. Worse: sometimes, I feel myself turning into that classmate. I’ll be the first to admit that when I feel threatened or embarrassed, I can turn into a purple people eater. I know a few of my strengths—I’m …

MFA Challenges

Whew. Y’all I have survived the first two quarters of my MFA Years. I have to make it through Spring quarter and then from mid-June to October I am on one hella long summer break before I begin my second (and likely, final) year. So, what keeps me up at night? ***WARNING: WHINING AHEAD***: Being on a budget: I had a big girl job and walked away from a comfortable living to pursue my MFA. It breaks my heart every time I have to check the price tag on something before I throw it in my grocery cart. We aren’t talking about designer jeans people, we’re talking about “Do I buy chicken this week or wait and hope there’s a mega sale on thighs next week?” The first 6 months being on a tight budget was cute. I felt a sense of satisfaction each time I came in under budget. But now, I want nothing more than to sidle up to the bar of my favorite restaurant order an appetizer, an entree, an dessert and …