All posts tagged: race

Contractual Community: Minority Students’ Place in the Creative Writing Program

Image: Conal Gallagher A lot has happened since the events of last semester as detailed here. I thought about what it might look like for me to give an update on promises given, what has improved, what hasn’t. And yet, I feel like it’d be unnecessary, in a sense, to give another somewhat in-depth barometric of things overall. A problem had been pointed out, namely the program’s inadequate approach, specifically under the helm of the current director, Jeff Lockwood, to address issues uniquely relevant to minority students. A call had been made and had been heard. Anymore expended emotional and intellectual energies, other than acting for the sake of my own survival if necessary, would be undue labor on my part, at least in my view. Then, there’s simply the matter of our program’s change in directors starting next year, from Jeff Lockwood to Brad Watson. So rather than go in that direction, I thought I would discuss a topic endemic to the creative writing program generally: problems with the notion of “community.” (Although, if …

Seeking POC: How to Choose MFA Programs

Image: Mike Cerrillo In my first creative writing workshop, a young white man wrote a stereotypical story about the experience of a young, white man who went to Lima on his study abroad trip and met a wife beating Peruvian man who scared the narrator into buying a pocket knife to carry around with him in the city for protection. Imagine my eyes rolling back into my brain. We workshopped his story focusing on “craft” until the only other Latino person in the class brought up the story’s race problems: “This piece reenacts the stereotype of violent Latino men.” I agreed and between the two of us, we pointed out Latino related issues including improper Spanish translations, weak characters, and an assumption of white readership. After a few minutes, our old white man professor said, “I think it’s cute that you guys want to discuss race in this story. But this is a problem of craft. This story isn’t working because it’s just not good. The race stuff is secondary to that.” In four sentences, …

The Dissertation

Image: Ignacio B. Peña I’ve got two posts left (including this one) before my regular(ish) contribution to The MFA Years comes to a close. Before I write my wrap-up next month at the end of my course, I wanted to take some time to talk about the last few months as it relates to my experience approaching my summer dissertation, and everything that that entails. First, a brief overview. Over the course of this summer, the fiction students are required to write a creative dissertation project that spans a word count of 15,000 – 20,000 words. This can be achieved in any way the student sees fit, be it one complete novella, a collection of short stories or flash fiction, or the continuation of a novel-in-progress. I decided I wanted to write a self-contained novella. Undoubtedly the foremost reason for having taken this year to pursue a Masters was so that I can develop my craft as a writer of fiction; and in this respect, I feel that my time in Edinburgh has been invaluable. …

Challenging the Whiteness of MFA Programs: A Year in Confrontations at UW

Image: Rene Mensen 1: UW vs. POC Last weekend, our program held its annual recruitment weekend, which means that a bunch of acceptees were flown out here to Laramie, on our program’s dime, in order to see for themselves what the town and program are all about. It was lovely meeting the few prospective students that I did, and I’m eager to hear, once acceptances are all squared away, who will be our new incoming cohort for next year. In some ways, I’m sure these potential newcomers received a fair impression of what life is like in the program as well as in the town. In other ways, not quite. (Of course, I didn’t attempt to catalog exhaustive testimonies on this, so forgive me, members of my cohort, if this assertion feels inaccurate.) Bubbling beneath the falsely serene surface of the University of Wyoming’s MFA program is a tension, common to most MFAs, between its minority students and the “apolitical” culture that, while in and of itself is not a crime or aggression, usually results …