Month: March 2015

Allow Me to Interrupt

Apologies for not writing a post last month. And this post is going to be fairly short. I’ve discovered I’m not much of a blogger (I should have guessed this because I was never much of a diarist either). Intramural baseball started up again and I got my first hit last week! Y’all I’m pretty sure I didn’t get one hit last semester. But we were practicing after the week and for some reason my brain thought it was a good idea to catch a ball with my bare hand. Ya know, like in A League of Their Own? Yeah, not very smart. And of course it’s the hand I write with. The most exciting thing that’s happened these past couple of months is acceptances going out! I can’t believe it’s been a year since I was waitlisted at UVA. I had no idea at the time if I’d be here or not. And here I am! It’s been fun talking with the prospective poetry students. I’ve loved my first year in the program and …

Mr. Right

You’ve been putting off writing this post. Admit it. You were hoping, by now, to have some idea of where you’d be going (or not) in the fall. But no such luck. You are still sitting here, waiting, with four could-be offers, four red-hot MAYBE’s, blinking on repeat in your brain. All this waiting has been good for reflection, though. You’ve come to terms with certain things—about your application, your sample…and also, with the schools you chose to apply to in the first place. You realize that the MFA application process is, in many ways, like dating. Each prospective school a crush you’re hoping will want to date you back. You know that this metaphor is, on the one hand, cheesy as hell. But it has also been incredibly helpful in deciphering WHAT it was about these schools that had you so smitten back in October…and what it is about them now, in March, that makes you mourn the loss of some, squirm at the advances of others, and imagine a choice few as possible …

Making The Right (MFA) Choice

Just more than a year ago, I was invited to – and attended – an open house at Stony Brook University’s Manhattan campus to learn more about their MFA program. Just more than a week ago, I attended their 2015 open house, but this time as a first year student. Standing there chatting with the newly admitted – although many still undecided – students, my cohort and I couldn’t help discussing how much our lives had changed in the past twelve months.

SO YOU DIDN’T GET ACCEPTED INTO AN MFA PROGRAM…

…Now what? You’re probably asking yourself: What is the value of my life if I can’t even get into a single MFA program? Why did I spend all that money on a hopeless dream? How will I transform the world and influence future generations if my words can’t even connect with admissions committees? How relevant is my work if I don’t have an MFA to back up what I’m saying? How will I continue facing my boss and coworkers past April 15? No matter how delusional these questions sound, they are all valid. Only we know how much we want this degree, this opportunity, this sense of validation. We believe our work will flourish in this Midwestern city. Or that the faculty from this low-res program are the reason I exist. Or that my characters live in New York; I should, therefore, live in New York. Whatever your reasons for applying to MFA programs—and let’s hope most of them revolve around your desire to grow as a writer—it’s never good to feel like your work isn’t …

MFA Challenges

Whew. Y’all I have survived the first two quarters of my MFA Years. I have to make it through Spring quarter and then from mid-June to October I am on one hella long summer break before I begin my second (and likely, final) year. So, what keeps me up at night? ***WARNING: WHINING AHEAD***: Being on a budget: I had a big girl job and walked away from a comfortable living to pursue my MFA. It breaks my heart every time I have to check the price tag on something before I throw it in my grocery cart. We aren’t talking about designer jeans people, we’re talking about “Do I buy chicken this week or wait and hope there’s a mega sale on thighs next week?” The first 6 months being on a tight budget was cute. I felt a sense of satisfaction each time I came in under budget. But now, I want nothing more than to sidle up to the bar of my favorite restaurant order an appetizer, an entree, an dessert and …

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Jordi Alonso

What did you do to get through the post application period? Applications (mostly due in January and February) happened right in the middle of the busiest weeks of my semester at Kenyon, as the senior creative project that would let me graduate with this lovely clause appended to my English Major: with an emphasis in creative writing was due at the end of February. When I wasn’t spreading out groups of poems on my floor, and doubting if graduating with an English major (with or without emphases) was a good idea––I had just discovered comparative literature studies––there was a substantial amount of Netflix (Parks and Rec, as many films about writers as I could find, and the occasional Shakespeare adaptation) and a decent amount of Merlot. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? To have faith in my abilities as a poet. I had done all I could to make my application perfect. My letters of recommendation came from three well-known poets whose work I love and who were familiar with my …

I’m Waitlisted, Now What?

Let them know you’re still interested Shoot off a quick email to the program—thank them, tell them you’re honored and excited to be in consideration, etc, etc. It’s always a good idea to let them know you’re interested in staying on the list. Ask them how the waitlist works More specifically, ask if they can give you more detail about where you are on the list. Some programs will explicitly say in the waitlist letter that they can’t give you any more information beyond what they’ve already provided. In this case, there’s little point in asking. But it might still be appropriate to ask them how long it usually takes for waitlisters to hear back. This is especially helpful if you have other programs banging down your door and you need to give them a timeline. Ask to speak with current students If you get in off the waitlist there’s a possibility you’ll have to make a last-minute decision. Getting answers from current students early on will allow you to weigh your potential decision(s) much sooner than the April 15th …

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Caitlin Neely

For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? I was finishing up my last semester of undergrad so my classwork helped distract me. Also, Netflix, lots of Netflix. I actually was terrible at getting through the post application period. I was constantly checking my phone and email. Draft was both helpful and unhelpful—some joy but also lots of anxiety and fear. What’s the best piece of advice you received about applying? To submit the poetry I loved and was interested in. At one point I was considering including a couple of longer, narrative poems in my sample. Most of my poems were short and lyrical and centered around nature. I was worried my sample didn’t have enough “range” and was too narrow in terms of style and aesthetic. Right before one of my applications was due, I was still debating on whether or not to keep them. …

An Inside Look With Chloe Clark, Iowa State University ’16

What is it like living in Ames? How far does your stipend go there living wise? Ames is a great town. It has a small and friendly city feel, something I appreciate after having lived in a larger city for my undergrad. Because of this feeling, though, it’s easy to be surprised by the food and local music scene—which seem like they belong in a larger city. There is a huge focus on sustainable living, particularly in terms of agriculture, and so there is a great farmer’s market, co-op, and several breweries. The campus, itself, is gorgeous (and is routinely mentioned on lists of the most beautiful campuses in the country) with a slew of art pieces and museums located throughout and a gigantic garden (which has an indoor butterfly house). If you’re not as charmed by the small city feel, a much larger city (Des Moines) is only about a half hour away as well. The stipend from ISU is one of the most generous around and the living costs in Ames are some of …

Patience & Doubt

This past week, I devoured Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Inoculation in three quick sittings. The book was a welcome distraction from MFA notification season; but it was also a painful wakeup call, at once inspiring and deeply humbling. “This is the kind of thing I want to create,” I found myself thinking, again and again. Something at once ruthlessly smart and lyrically stunning, navigating the space between fact and subjective experience, between motherhood and vampires and modern medicine and the nation at large, with a deftness that took my breath away. Biss’ words remind me why I wanted to write creative nonfiction in the first place. But they also remind me how long it’s been since I last flew through a book like this; of how lazy I’ve become as a deep reader, as an active researcher, in the nearly eight years since my undergraduate career. They remind me that I aspire to write sharp, intricate, resounding work—and yet have not come anywhere close to doing what it takes to get there. The stark …