2015, Archives, January 2015, The MFA Years


Image: Ian James Grant

So, obviously, it’s not December. But, until 6 p.m., when my Forms of Nonfiction class begins, I’m technically on winter break. So I’ll use the scare quotes to indicate that my December was extended into winter break.

I want to use this post to wrap up a few loose ends from this past semester, things I didn’t get the chance to tell or forgot to tell. As I look over my previous posts, I see that I never did tell how my housing situation worked out. When applying for graduate-student housing at the University of Alaska, you sign up for your three top choices, in terms of size, rent, roommate status, etc. This puts you on the three waiting lists. Because some apartment situations are more desirable than others, some lists move faster than others. My name came up for a one-bedroom apartment by myself. It’s one of the more expensive options, but that also meant this list moved faster. I’m not organized enough to handle an efficiency, and I prefer not sharing my space. So I’ve been in a one-bedroom, and I really like it. It’s bigger than my old apartment in Minneapolis, and the building, which is nothing but grad students, is very quiet. Also, it’s a great space to host a party, as I found out when I threw a Halloween costume party for my cohort and a couple of other folks.

My department suffered a loss in November when my classmate Ann Lewis succumbed to cancer. She was working on her M.A. Ann had moved to Fairbanks ten years ago to take a job as manager of the Barnes & Noble. There, she became well known for her support of the local literary community, particularly through the events she hosted at the store. Her Harry Potter events were legendary. But she got to a point where she wanted to advance in her education, so she began an M.A. in English at Fairbanks. Ann had a special interest in studying the connections between canon and contemporary literature, especially in young-adult fiction. She and I worked together in the writing center on Sundays. I miss her quiet humor and her dedication. She is sorely missed by all here.

This past semester reminds me of the old Peace Corps slogan: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” I’ve never worked as hard as a student. I became an expert at speed-reading. And I taught my first composition course. I wrote a lot, and my writing improved over the course of the semester. I feel like I have internalized my workshop, so that when I write, I better pick up on the habits my classmates noticed and work to correct them more efficiently.  It was a huge balancing act, but I survived.

Winter break was very much needed. Some of my classmates went home over break, but I stayed here and rested. I logged many hours on Star Trek Online, DC Universe Online, and Netflix. I also continued writing, mostly revising my workshop pieces to get them ready for submission. And I got a start on my reading list for comps next year.

And then, tonight, it begins again with Forms. Tomorrow I teach again. My Monday classes–critical theory and a comparative-lit course in Oceanic literature–are delayed for Martin Luther King Day, which is probably just as well, since I can ease back into the school routine more gradually. I very much needed the break, but I’m ready to begin again.

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