Year: 2014

November

This month I finished my pedagogy course. As I’ve stated previously, we began this class online over the summer so that we’d be better grounded in our teaching when we began. Once we got here, we continued meeting weekly for 1 ½ hours (rather than the standard 3 hours). Each class opened with a discussion of how our teaching was going, what was working and what wasn’t, and we were able to give each other feedback and advice. Then we would discuss our week’s readings and explore how they applied to the classroom. The class is taught by Sarah Stanley, who oversees writing instruction at Alaska-Fairbanks. She is brilliant when it comes to rhetoric and theory, and is incredibly supportive in our teaching efforts. Her assignments are well suited to professional development. For instance, our final project was a roundtable discussion open to the public on the various ideas we studied over the course of the semester. My group discussed the relationship between the composition classroom and the notion of global citizenship, while the other …

Crafting a Beautiful Statement of Purpose

My own Statement of Purpose for my MFA applications was groomed better than my own hair, and it was all structured around a conversation with one of my undergrad professors. “Gillian,” my professor told me, “The SOP does not solely determine if you’re accepted to a program or not—we put far more emphasis on the writing sample and the letters of rec. The SOP is used to determine if the candidate is a jerk.” I thought about this for days. How could I write a strong SOP that told the world that I wasn’t a jerk? What did I want my SOP to stand for? (Also, what did I stand for?)

Connective Tissues

Writers are strange in that they reverberate off one another. We are all types of whales and it is influence and drama and jealousy and love and admiration that keep our worlds going round. In this way, language becomes cyclical in motion. And it’s something I haven’t given much thought to, until taking classes here at Columbia. Sure the beginning my undergraduate experience was a mess but growing through the years not only made me a better procrastinator, but a better academic and critic. Ok fine, I’m a terrible procrastinator on occasions like now but that’s not the point! Reading the western (white) cannon over and over again bored me to the point of returning back to biochemistry. But the class readings didn’t end there. It was only when I immersed myself in poetry that I finally “got it.” The “it” I’m referring to is community, is continuity, is inspiration through life and death.

The Thick of It

Image: Wouter Kiel It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I’m sitting at LAX getting ready to fly out to New Orleans. We’re off to spend the holiday with my boyfriend’s family in Baton Rouge. The airport is crowded. It feels too early to be out among people, fighting for a spot in line at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. My eyes are gritty, and I can tell that no amount of caffeine is going to cut it when it comes to really, truly waking up. But on some level, all this shuffle and bustle is a welcome change. Over the last few days, I’ve been living in a perpetual fog of writing sample edits, application submission checklists, SOP proofreading marathons and what I hope and pray aren’t too many LOR reminder emails. In airports and shopping malls across America, it’s the start of the holiday season. But for MFA applicants, it’s something else too: it’s deadline season, and we’re heading for the thick of it. For me, the first deadline falls on December 1. …

A Week In The Life of an MFA Student

This month, I thought I’d share a glimpse at what a typical week looks like for me as a full-time MFA student. This does not take into account the other regular tasks that we all have – paying bills, eating, being with our friends and loved ones, etc. Nor does it account for working because the freelancing I was doing up until the 3rd week of October was supposed to have finished in early September, so it wasn’t supposed to be there anyway. 

Chapters, Papers, and Grading (Oh My!)

When I started thinking about writing my November blog post, it felt unreal. (And I’m not just using that adjective because I’ve been reading The Waste Land. Nope. Okay, maybe a little…) Folks, I am almost finished with my first semester at the University of Kentucky. I’m almost 25% finished with my MFA program (I think in fractions and percentages a lot, don’t know why). I’ve lived in Lexington for nearly four months, and my goodness, what a great four months it has been! I’ve had the chance to speak and work with established writers, whether they are on faculty–Gurney Norman, Manuel Gonzales, Hannah Pittard–or just visiting campus, like yesterday’s Q&A lunch with Denise Giardina. I’ve gotten to know a diverse and friendly cohort. I’ve drafted half of a novel in workshop this semester, and the more I write, the more I love the story and the characters.

Fully Funded Programs List

We recently added a new page to our website that lists fully funded MFA and MA programs. We define a fully funded program as one that provides both tuition remission and a stipend to all currently enrolled students. Check it out, and let us know if there are programs that are missing from the list!

October

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.

From Week 6 to Week 10: Bending Genre

The above picture is one I snapped a few weeks ago while biking around downtown Flagstaff. Yes, biking, something I’ve only recently been able to do on the daily for the first time in just about 10 years. Before I moved out west, I was super dependent on my car. I needed it for everything. I needed it to get me just about everywhere. It stressed me out to no end having to deal with inevitable car repair bills and wondering how I was supposed to get to work to make the money to fix it. Don’t get me started on rush hour traffic and road rage. But biking downtown, I was able to go at my own pace. I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. I could just go where I wanted for as long as I wanted and appreciate all the beauty around me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another moment in life when I can just do that to no consequence.