Year: 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year… To Work

Happy Holidays, everyone!  This season marks a lot of things, the observances of many religious and secular celebrations, cold weather and for many a break from work and school. For some this time of year is happy and filled with family, and friends. Unfortunately for others this is a tough and sad time. I sincerely wish for everyone that they are able to get whatever it is they need now and over the next few months as we brave the cold and dark inside and outside while we wait for the warm light of spring. One thing we all have in common is that a new year is coming. No matter what we thought of 2016 it is coming to a close for better or for worse. While it is important to take stock, celebrate, and have rest and relaxation it is equally if not more important to prepare for a brand new year. Folks are talking about resolutions, and while I’m not a fan of the concept of ‘New Year, New Me’ for many …

Writing Process as Writing Problem

Image: darkday Earlier this week I sat in my professor’s office discussing the revision made to my second story submission. It had been somewhat substantial: I’d completely rewritten the beginning three times and composed several additional scenes I was 99% sure weren’t going to make it into the final story, all in order to better understand the main character. I asked my professor some questions about proceeding with another revision and if they were in line with the vision I had for the story. She asked what, exactly, was my vision for the story. After I elaborated, she told me something I simultaneously knew I needed to hear, but also totally did not want to hear. She said she liked the idea, but the portrayal I’d been gunning for over the last few drafts still wasn’t anywhere in the story. As we talked through what was in the current draft and she offered strategies for writing towards my vision, it slowly dawned on me that I’d have to rewrite 70, 80, 90 percent of the …

The MFA, Money, & Diversity (or lack thereof)

Image: http://401kcalculator.org This post is about diversity BUT I think it’s useful to anyone negotiating money after receiving acceptances: Most MFA programs lack diversity. It ain’t a secret; going to school for three years to write stories and/or poetry is probably the bougiest thing you could ever do (besides paying for fluff-n-fold, which I low-key did sometimes when I had a full-time job). If you’re from an underrepresented community (ie. a POC or a first-generation college graduate), many graduate programs have additional fellowships available to you. Before I started my MFA program, I was working in college admissions at a private school in California. Almost immediately, I noticed a pattern that was killing me: After being admitted to the school, the students who asked for (or demanded) additional funding were almost never the POC or low-income students. Often, when a low-income student didn’t receive enough funding, they’d either choose to go into debt, or they’d choose not to attend the school at all. But, of course, the students who asked for more funding from the college …

5 Frequently Asked Application Questions Answered By Current MFA Candidates

Photo Credit: Alfred Stieglitz, “The Steerage”  It’s mid-December, which means it’s high tide in application season. A year ago, we were exactly where you are now. We spent our free time navigating unintuitively designed web portals for universities, editing our statements of purpose to be personal for each program, and tallying all the money we spent on application fees. We all shouldered the nauseating uncertainty of it all, wondering if we were acting in vain. Somehow, we all managed to be admitted. So maybe we knew a little bit more about applications than we thought. This month, myself and 3 other first year MFA candidates decided to get together to reflect on how we got here. So, we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked application questions. Though we don’t always agree, we hope that our insight will provide some perspective to this year’s MFA contenders. These questions were answered by Stephanie Lane Sutton (Poetry, University of Miami), Carlos Alonso Chism (Fiction, University of Maryland), Craig Knox (Poetry, Rutgers-Camden), and Shakarean Hutchinson (Fiction, Cornell).  How …

Staggering Along

A year ago around this time, I had just submitted my first few MFA applications and was grappling with the same stew of emotions that most of us crazy enough to pursue an MFA degree feel during application season: excitement, anxiety, fear and so much self-doubt. The MFA felt like the appropriate next move in my life, but first I had to get in somewhere. I knew if I sent my best writing, I’d have a puncher’s chance at an acceptance or two. I spent hours on my applications, but something still felt off with the first few. My statement of purpose wasn’t really me. The portfolios I submitted had my best work overall, but some of it was a few years old and didn’t reflect what I was thinking and writing about now. But working through that was critical. As I submitted my last few applications in late January, my portfolio and statements of purpose morphed. I became confident enough in my work that I felt I would get accepted somewhere, even with long …

November is a bitch.

Crisp, cold, light, first snow dandruff the mountains, autumn’s last leaves swirl and the swoosh swoosh swoosh of traipsing leaf piles brings back childhood. White swans migrate into the duck pond. Will they survive the coming winter? Do ducks ever feel cold? They dive deep and paddle. Where do the turtles go in this cold? Mystery. All leaves down by nightfall. Albuquerque’s beauty occasionally strikes a stunning uppercut. This month has been a bitch. Hitler elected. Leonard died. Fidel. Mose Allison. Capecoense—a whole futebol team gone in a blink. The Grim Reaper has been clearing house all year. Bowie. Prince. Muhammad Ali. For me, November in northern climes has always been the cruelest month. I can’t finish anything. I feel everything is worthless. Doubt is rife. Anxiety high. Binge-drinking like there’s no tomorrow, every time I log on to anything all I see is shit shit shit. I’m afraid and don’t know what to do. The bad men are winning, do they always? I’ve been in the US for 14 months on this MFA. Beliefs …

The Chair Approach To Change

This morning at 6 A.M. I validated a 50,000 word rough draft of a fiction manuscript for National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo). While I am proud of myself thousands if not millions people around the world write 50,000 words or more in the month of November. My ‘winning’ this contest is not the reason for this post. After I won and posted about it to my facebook page, I got a question in my inbox about how one writes a book. Well after I made clear that I wrote a draft that would need a lot of editing and rewrites, and care before it could be called a book. We talked about passion and how passion is important but what makes writing is sitting butt in seat and DOING it. This month has been hard and busy, November usually is. Birthdays, holidays, politics, other deadlines, anxiety, bouts of depression. Life happens at full throttle. This month in particular has been incredibly difficult emotionally and mentally. As a young black woman writer wading through everything that is …

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 …