2014, Archives, November 2014, The MFA Years


Forgive me for being a couple of days late. I had fully intended to post on the 31st. But I hosted a Halloween party, and of course, hosting a party always takes more time and work than you plan for. It was a great party, though, most of my cohort along with a couple of random others. And then yesterday, I was just sacked out in my pajamas all day because I was worn out from hosting. And then last night I got a surprise invitation from a friend to the campus Diwali celebration. The event was sold out, so I was quite happy that I ended up being able to go. It was a fantastic time, and I’ll be sure to go next year.

So let’s get at what I want to talk about. Let’s talk my nonfiction workshop.

Daryl Farmer runs workshop differently. It’s not a case of simply being thrown to the lions on the first day. We spent the first month writing short works with a prompt. This wasn’t really to teach us anything, but they definitely challenged us. These exercises gave Dr. Farmer the chance to learn more about each student’s writing so that he’d be better able to help us the rest of the semester. And this first month also helped us to build a sense of community amongst the students, so that we didn’t get the backbiting that characterizes some workshops.

Now we’re more settled into a routine. The first hour, we have a craft talk about an essay we read from an anthology. Then we workshop two or three of us. There are 13 students in the class. Larger workshops are the norm for a cross-genre program, so this means we will each only have two pieces workshopped by the whole class. At the end of class, we break into pre-assigned groups to workshop revisions of the pieces we previously workshopped with the whole class.

I had my first piece workshopped this past Wednesday. It was an invaluable experience. It’s great to work with writers who are really good at what they do, and who have a sincere interest in you as both a person and as a writer.

I had a great month overall. The first weekend of October was 24-Hour Comics Day, hosted by The Comic Shop near downtown Fairbanks, one of the best comic-book stores anywhere (as determined by none other than Scott McCloud). I really enjoyed meeting and networking with other comic artists. We had over 30 artists drawing at the event (a point of pride, since Anchorage only had like 4), and, of course, I came out with a new comic.

This event was a proof of one of the great things about Fairbanks – the creative community in general, and the literary community in particular, are much larger and more active than you would expect for a town its size. Some of this has to do with the university, some has to do with the independent, can-do culture of Alaska. But one thing I do know: This is exactly where I want to be writing for the coming years.

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