All posts tagged: short stories

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 …

Navigating the MFA Application Process: An Interview With A.A. Malina

Image: Pierre Wolfer How many programs did you apply to? How did you narrow your list down? I applied to seven MFA programs. I narrowed them down based on price and reputation. I looked for schools that weren’t very expensive, but would still give me a decent education. I made a spreadsheet comparing prose, cons, deadlines, and application fees. It also helped me keep track of which ones I’d submitted fees to, where I’d been accepted, etc. How did you approach your sample? Did you submit the same one to every program? For my sample, I simply compiled several stories that I’ve written. I used all of the stories that I’m most proud of having written, because I couldn’t imagine coming up with something new for the application. All of the pieces I used had been heavily workshopped by my undergrad classmates and writing peers, and heavily revised, far prior to me even deciding to go to grad school. I made the decision to go when I was already very close to all of the …

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 …