Month: November 2016

Thesis: The Paperwork Semester

As I review document after document in my final – paperwork – semester of my MFA, I’ve been thinking back on all that it took to get here to this final stretch towards graduation.

Oh, Bigoted New World

Image: Sebastien Wiertz On the night of the election, I didn’t want to watch the election results roll in alone, so I went to a viewing held by a group English graduate students. Although I didn’t know the people at the gathering very well—most of them I had never met before and the few that I did know I met in the past couple months—I felt a strong sense of camaraderie with them that night. We watched with disbelief as what we had thought was impossible manifested before our eyes in the climbing electoral college numbers. We were all stunned, drinking wine and eating chips as if that was somehow going to make us feel a little better. We had to take breaks, because standing outside in the chilly air eased the feelings of claustrophobia and panic that were colonizing our bodies. I’m lucky in that I’m not going to be as affected as many of my friends and colleagues by the outcome of this election. I’m mixed race, but I look white. I’m an …

An Imperfect Guide to Balancing Work and the MFA

Image: Farid Iqbal Ibrahim My decision to pursue my MFA in creative writing was an easy one. I was working full-time and making use of my bachelor’s degree, but it felt like some key aspect of my life was missing. My creative writing skills had stagnated and I hadn’t written anything new in months. The low residency model was an obvious choice, since it would allow me to continue to work full-time while earning my MFA. I’m still glad that I made this decision, but I must admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for what was to come. I did learn that working and going to grad school online is doable, though, and I’d like to share my experience. When I started my first class of the low residency MFA program at Mississippi University for Women back in June, I was starry eyed. I worked my full-time job by day and contributed to my one online class by night and on weekends. I got an A in the class, solidifying my belief that this MFA …

School’s In For Summer

It speaks to the newness of comics in academia that my MFA program is only four years old, with this summer being only its second graduating class. You’d be hard pressed to find any comics graduate programs created further than five years ago. It’s this nascent quality I found most appealing and why I chose to pursue comics instead of a more established field of creative writing. There’s no established canon of comics, no prevailing school of thought, no ivory tower. Everyone is still figuring out what to teach, how to teach, and there’s a willingness to experiment with curriculum and structure that I didn’t really see looking at other fields of study. The unconventional structure of my program is a testament to that alacrity. It’s low residency, with the classes all happening in the summer and the fall and spring terms carried out online. This past July, I kicked off my first year of grad school in San Francisco, and will be back there again for the next two Julys. San Francisco. A city …

How to Be a Black Boy in an MFA Program in Mississippi in (Trump’s America) The America You Have Always Known

“I won’t get started./history is what it is. It knows what it did”- Danez Smith I hate hot takes, and have tried to avoid the firing from the hip school of analysis for the length of this slow panic attack we have called a year. I am aware enough to know it’s not a hot take if it is something you have always known, I am aware enough to know it is history whether it kills you or not. “ “The apocalypse, then,” per Berger, “is the End, or resembles the end, or explains the end.”– Junot Diaz If this is how I am to view the apocalypse then I have to concede the setting is painfully domestic, I’m in my professor’s house observing another kind of history, of Brown people watching change with all the doors locked, all the lights on. The air outside is like the air inside; tense with the dull roar of Autumn giving way to the time that must be Winter. It gets cold at night in Mississippi when the …

Seeking POC: How to Choose MFA Programs

Image: Mike Cerrillo In my first creative writing workshop, a young white man wrote a stereotypical story about the experience of a young, white man who went to Lima on his study abroad trip and met a wife beating Peruvian man who scared the narrator into buying a pocket knife to carry around with him in the city for protection. Imagine my eyes rolling back into my brain. We workshopped his story focusing on “craft” until the only other Latino person in the class brought up the story’s race problems: “This piece reenacts the stereotype of violent Latino men.” I agreed and between the two of us, we pointed out Latino related issues including improper Spanish translations, weak characters, and an assumption of white readership. After a few minutes, our old white man professor said, “I think it’s cute that you guys want to discuss race in this story. But this is a problem of craft. This story isn’t working because it’s just not good. The race stuff is secondary to that.” In four sentences, …

An Inside Look With Kate Peterson, Eastern Washington University ’14

What was it like living in Cheney? How far does your stipend go there living wise? EWU’s main campus is in Cheney, so this is where the undergraduate classes are held (and where TAs teach classes) but the MFA program is housed on the satellite campus in Spokane. Almost all of the MFA candidates choose to live in Spokane since this is where all of our classes are held, and also where all of the internship and program/faculty offices are located. So, there have been some folks in the program who prefer the small-town feel of Cheney over Spokane, but most people live in Spokane and drive or take the free bus to Cheney (about a twenty five minute ride) when they teach. Spokane is a very livable city. When I came to the program I was just returning to the states after working abroad as an au pair, so I didn’t have a lot of money saved. I took out a small loan even though I had tuition remission and a stipend, because I …

Writing as Healing

When I applied to nearly a dozen fully funded or mostly funded MFA programs last winter and spring, the only expectation I had was that something unexpected would happen. I tried to not fantasize about New England winters, California freeways or whatever the hell it is people do in Virginia college towns. I hoped one of those scenarios would be my life, but I didn’t want to lock myself into needing an MFA from one particular program or one particular place. I knew my odds, but more than anything it felt like the right time to chase this MFA dream. Wherever I ended up, I would get that chance. As it turned out, something unexpected did happen. I received an acceptance from Rutgers-Camden, one of the two programs I applied to in my home state of New Jersey. So I traded my fantasies for familiarity. It wasn’t exactly the school in my backyard: Camden is just outside Philadelphia, a part of New Jersey that is new to me. The Rutgers-Camden MFA program offered so many elements that excite me: the …

I Like My Classes. So Why Am I So Bad In Them?

Image: Chris Two months here in Ithaca and I’m learning a few things about myself. One, I relied way too much on working air conditioning and heat. Two, it is entirely possible to get around without a car, although not all that enjoyable. Three, I’m just really bad in an academic environment.

Eye of the Storm

Image: Colin Well, hello, everyone! I do apologize for the delay in my posts; the start of my MFA career has unfortunately coincided with the worst month or two of my life. So that’s been good. I’ll try to keep this part to a minimum (though as seriously I work on manuscripts for the first time in 4 years, I’ve been reminded of just how wordy a writer I am). Just as my boyfriend and I got our things unpacked in our new place in Orlando, a repair guy from our leasing company managed to burst a bathroom pipe and flooded half the house. When it was clear that the leasing company had no intention of fixing the damage, we had to make plans to move over the course of October. October is, of course, mid-term season and the small business I work for happens to do costume rentals so it happened to be a busy season there, too. So needless to say I’ve been exhausted! On top of all that, my 20-year-old cat passed …