Month: September 2015

A Summer With the Prose Poem

Image: Jain Basil Aliyas The first day of the Prose Poem class I was dismayed. My professor wanted us to write haiku. It was a moment before I could process what she was saying. Hai-who? Hai-What? No. No not that. It can’t be that. I write fiction and free verse poetry. Not that stuff.  She wasn’t joking. She led the class on a walk around campus for them to gain material. I, being stubborn, decided to stay in the classroom, which she said I could if I could vividly recall something that would help with my haiku. I thought about the rooftop party I had attended the day before while overlooking Prospect Park. Of course, I could recall something from that for my haiku. I took out my phone and began to look at the pictures of the party. I wrote haiku. Albeit, terrible examples of what I considered haiku. But when she returned with the class I had something written down. At the end of the Monday class, the assignment was to return to class …

“Papers, please.”

Image: Ignacio B. Peña Edinburgh has a pretty straightforward application process. Every form of communication is done online, including the submission of past qualifications and transcripts. There are no application fees, and I wasn’t asked for any GRE results. Aside from my past academic history, the whole application process seems to be judged on the strength of two writing pieces, a statement of intent, and two letters of recommendation from people who were familiar with my capacity for creative work and criticism. To be completely truthful, I didn’t agonize over any part of my submission material at the time that I applied. I was lucky enough to have one story that had already been published, and a second one that had been spent under a considerable amount of scrutiny. As for my statement of intent, I wrote it in an evening with a head full of fire, convinced that I needed to leave everything that was happening in my life behind, driving me full speed toward a year of writing, whether I was accepted by …

An Inside Look With Emily Maloney, University of Pittsburgh ’15

Image: Jaime Dillen-Seibel What was it like living in Pittsburgh? How far did your stipend go there living wise? Pittsburgh is an interesting place. For me, it was a difficult place to live (though they’re working on it, it’s still a highly polluted city, and I developed asthma from living there—but somehow it doesn’t bother most other people), but it seems like many of my classmates loved it and felt like it was a good environment for artists. It’s cheap to live there and there are a variety of ways in which you can get involved in the city and its various grassroots programs. I joined a ceramics co-op and got a lot out of it. A number of people from the program have become Teaching Artists with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and/or through the Pittsburgh public schools; others have interned at Creative Nonfiction (which is headquartered in Pittsburgh’s East End). There are also a variety of ways to get real experience and  have the opportunity to publish through places like Pittsburgh Magazine (a …

Year Two: Two Weeks In

And so it begins – Year Two of my MFA – with homework piled sky-high. I’ve been describing it to people like this: Year One was like learning how to plan a fabulous, fun-filled, memorable vacation. Year Two appears to be more like learning how to build your own airplane. From scratch. With your bare hands. As I write this (and yes, procrastinate on homework for a while) I am thinking about all of the assignments due before my next class meetings. The list looks something like this:

https://pixabay.com/en/troll-doll-toy-figurine-culture-18240/

It’s Not Just About Me: Initial Reflections on an MFA Workshop

Image: Pixabay Having been a creative writing student in undergrad, by the time I arrived at the first workshop of my MFA studies at Washington University in St. Louis, I should have felt confident that I knew what to expect. Over the years, I had developed a system for writing feedback letters; I had long practiced keeping my mouth shut and my face set like stone when my own piece was up for discussion. And I knew that no matter what was said or how it was said, I wasn’t supposed to take comments personally. But I was still terrified. Just like every other first day of school, I woke up that first morning with a stomach ache. Maybe you’ve heard that workshop is a terrifying ordeal. In my experience, it can be. I’ve had classmates who just really likes to stab and twist. Worse: sometimes, I feel myself turning into that classmate. I’ll be the first to admit that when I feel threatened or embarrassed, I can turn into a purple people eater. I know a few of my strengths—I’m …

Kristine Sloan Introduction (University of Wyoming ’17)

On the last day of my job, my supervisor and I exchanged a difficult goodbye. I had come to see my supervisor as something of a guardian-mentor figure since he is also a poet. During my last month of work, he and I had a handful of conversations about craft and literary culture as it stands today. He’s recommended some amazing writers to me; spoke bluntly on the history of rigged writing contests; he even workshopped a poem of mine. Before our final farewell, he told me I should keep in touch with him, told me I wrote well and had potential. Of all the goodbyes, this one hit me the hardest. I had to come to really admire and respect him, and the only thing forcing me to say goodbye was my not-so-committal choice to leave Baltimore for an MFA program. The next morning, I awoke to a strange feeling in my chest. At first, I thought it was anxiety. After a moment, I realized it was not anxiety, but longing. It was easy …

First Days in Alabama

This past weekend marked my three-week anniversary in Tuscaloosa, and thus far, being in an MFA program has felt like a much better version of college. Or at least, more like the version of college I’d imagined growing up. Seven years ago, when I arrived as a freshman at Brown University, I was going through one of the worst periods of my life. My mother had died three weeks before after a long and arduous battle with ovarian cancer, and in leaving Los Angeles to move to Rhode Island, I had left behind any semblance of a social support system. For the first several years, college was lonely and isolating. It was hard. People constantly asked what my parents did (when you’re a new kid in college, that’s what people talk about, that and your dorm, where you’re from, and what major you’ve picked). When I told the truth, I could see their faces shrinking away and imploding on themselves. I had brought up one of the top taboo topics in our society—death—and I often …