All posts tagged: the south

On Balancing Your “MFA Life” with Your Personal Life (Or At Least Trying To Do So)

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my second year for a few months now. The delay hasn’t come from a lack of ideas, but in part from the difficulty of deciding what I should say, what would be the most useful. The other factor, of course, is that my workload has been significantly heavier this year than it was my first year. I’m taking three classes (“Hypoxic Workshop” again, “Uses of History,” and “The Personal Essay”), whereas most second year MFA students at Alabama take only two (I don’t regret my decision, but….). I’m also teaching two classes (English 101: Freshman Composition), which takes up far more time and mental energy than my position as a TA for a lecture class last year. Because I have so much to do, it often feels like time spent “working” should be spent on reading and researching and writing for classes and lesson planning and grading and responding to students’ e-mails, and any time beyond that should be spent actively unwinding, socializing or watching TV or …

Julian Randall Introduction (University of Mississippi ’19)

We Ain’t Even ‘posed to Be (Here): The Brown Boy Considers Mississippi On His First Day Image: Visit Mississippi I swore we would not begin in history, but I am a remixer of promises where it suits me which is a pretty way of saying that I knew that was a lie when I swore it to myself. It is a morning in the thick suck of August in a future I would have called a lie less than a year ago, not just a lie but a bold lie. That I might at the end of the indisputably hardest thus far year of my life be an MFA candidate, Black as I am, Brown as I am? Unlikely. That I might do so in Mississippi was something for which dialogue around the South had never truly prepared me. Where my family and the concept and reality of South have historically met is always a matter of flight. I am what some might call African American and I call Black on my father’s side. 136 …

Alexandra McLaughlin Introduction (Georgia College & State University ’19)

On my first morning in Milledgeville, Georgia, I woke up to my sister saying, “Zig, don’t freak out, but I just saw a cockroach in the bathroom.” I’d decided to apply for MFA programs ten months earlier. It was October of my senior year of undergrad and I already felt anxious about what would come next. I’d heard countless stories about the difficulty of post-grad life—how hard it is to make friends, how isolated and lost you feel without the structure and rhythm of college. I decided a) I didn’t want to live in Minnesota forever and b) I wanted to find some sort of post-grad community. Then I discovered many MFA programs offer a creative nonfiction track, and it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. In college, I’d vacillated between a love for journalism and a love for creative writing. Creative nonfiction seemed to blend the two. If I could get into a fully-funded program, I’d have two or three years to develop my craft while getting paid to do so. I …

End of Semester Reflections on Moving to Alabama and Publishing a Novel

It’s early June, about a month since I intended to write this post. My initial thought was to write something about the first year of the MFA in review, but the idea of covering so much ground was enough for me to leave the blogging for tomorrow and catch up on Veep and Silicon Valley instead. Rather, I decided to reflect on two major points that have proven to be important learning experiences this year: moving to Alabama and publishing my debut novel. 1) I moved to Tuscaloosa, AL and I have mixed feelings about it. Part of the growing process for me has been learning to manage my expectations.   Okay, so the fact that I have mixed feelings about living in Alabama should come as no surprise (don’t we all have mixed feelings on everything to some degree?) On the one hand, I really like the MFA program at Alabama. The classes are interesting (for instance, so far I’ve taken courses on Comedy, Detective Fiction, and Fabulism, just to name a few). The …

So What Should I Do Over Summer?

With notes about final projects, workshop deadlines, and annotated bibliographies scattered across the month of April on my Google Calendar, the end of the first year of my MFA program at Alabama is well within sight. Many of you reading this may also be consumed with making a decision on an MFA program by the April 15 deadline or the prospect of applying for MFA programs against next year.   The vast majority of MFA programs are at least 2 to 3 years long, however, and with summer breaks often lasting for several months, the decision of what to do with that time can be almost as significant and rewarding as the MFA itself (both financially and creatively).   One of the first big questions to ask yourself when thinking about summer plans is about location. Where do you want to be over summer? Do you plan to stick around wherever your MFA program is located or to go elsewhere? What financial opportunities are available if you plan to stick around? What creative opportunities are …

On Those Blue Feelings

It’s been a gray day, not cold compared to the Midwest or the East Coast but chilly for Tuscaloosa, with the temperature in the mid-40s. And the truth is that it’s been a hard few weeks. Writing-wise, things are fine. My fiction workshop went well and I’ve recently had a couple pieces picked up by literary journals. I’ve planned out the stories I want to complete this semester and I’ve started the very earliest of brainstorms for my next novel. But I’ve been lonely, and I want to talk about that loneliness. I think it’s important, because we’re not just writers. We’re human beings, and sometimes we have hard feelings, and it can be even harder to talk about them. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why sometimes I cherish my alone time and sometimes I don’t at all, and I’ve been interested in why the alone time I had in Los Angeles didn’t feel nearly as lonely as the alone time I have here. There’s a practical concern here too, since I’m a …

One Semester Down

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a few weeks, staying at my dad’s house. Even though technically I now live in Tuscaloosa, L.A. still feels like my actual “home.” This makes sense, given that I’ve only spent a few months in Tuscaloosa, and I wonder if at some point it will start to feel more like home than Los Angeles, or if graduate school will simply be a time of transience, not firmly anchored in one place or another. In about a week and a half, I’ll be back in Tuscaloosa, and while I’m looking forward to starting up next semester, I’m also reluctant to let go of Los Angeles’s familiarity, the sense of relaxation and peace that accompanies sleeping in, reading all day, seeing friends I’ve known for over a decade, and eating all the best Japanese food. In reflecting on my first semester, I’m glad that I chose to attend Alabama. One of the greatest gifts that the program at Alabama offers is time, and at this point, I can’t imagine being …