Year: 2017

What Should I Do After the MFA? The Employment Edition

This is a fun game. Right now it may not feel like a fun game, but I’m calling it that, as six months from now, I’ll be able to look back at this post, at this moment when I have no idea what’s going to happen in my future, and I’ll be able to say “Ah-ha! I have an answer!” Even if that answer is only temporary. Even if that answer isn’t ideal. Even if that answer is unemployment and staying at my dad’s house (fingers crossed for a different result). Such is the nature of the MFA in Creative Writing–it doesn’t offer the relatively clear path of pre-professional graduate programs like law school or medical school, and that can be both freeing and somewhat overwhelming. My hope, though, is that the abundance of choice means something will pan out after I finish my last semester this spring. Here are my constraints: I want to live in Los Angeles (where I’m originally from) and I want whatever I’m doing to somehow involve writing, teaching, or …

The Tax Bill and Graduate Students: What We Know as of December 2, 2017

I wish this post didn’t need to be written, but unfortunately, it’s a tumultuous time with regard to the future of funding for graduate students, including those pursuing an MFA. As many of you know, earlier this week, Republicans in the House passed a comprehensive tax bill, and last night, Republicans in the Senate passed a similar comprehensive tax bill in a 51-49 vote. The Senate and the House will now have to reconcile the differences in the two bills before creating a unified bill to pass on to President Trump, who will undoubtedly sign it into law. So how does this pertain to graduate students? Well, we’re not sure yet. The reason for this is because of a key difference between the tax bill passed by the House and that passed by the Senate. The provisions in the tax overhaul passed by the House would be detrimental for any graduate students in the United States receiving a tuition remission as part of their financial package (this is the case with most if not all …

On Goal Setting

When we were young, Pops’ promised my older brother and me that we’d go somewhere new as a family every year—if we had the money. With enough savings we could take a trip to the motherland (the Philippines) or a trip to Canada; maybe we’d even go across America in an RV. We thought we could go anywhere Pops would dream up, and we ate every word of it—but there was never enough money to do any of these things or the time. There was always another overtime shift available to help pay off an overdue medical bill or credit card payment. We spent money as fast as we tried saving it. There was never enough of anything. That’s part of the beauty of growing up in the working, immigrant, poor: you’re always hopeful for shit to get better—if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that dream for a better existence, once. All we thought about was money, work, and ways to make money in the future so we could live like the …

My MFA People Pleasing Problem

Photo Credit: Olu Eletu for Unsplash

Surviving Grad School & the “Me too” Campaign & Weinstein & Literally Everything Else

Image Credit: torbakhopper cw: sexual assault After the countless hours I spent last year on sexual assault prevention techniques and safe/consensual sex seminars, I felt confident in my victimhood. For me, fighting against the systemic powers that reinforce toxic masculinity has changed the way I see my place in it all. From being a struggling, suicidal victim of sexual assault in my undergraduate years to my time as a workshop leader in “Writing Survival,” I have gotten to know myself as someone who is healing through helping. That is, until this year, until my first semester in graduate school. At first, I was sure that most of my stress was coming from the twenty-five-page paper or the in-class discussions where I always feel like a prick, or even living so far from East Tennessee, but it became a bit more apparent over time that maybe I wasn’t only reacting to natural stressors. I found myself—and still do regularly—falling into deep depressions for weeks at a time, holding onto what little reality I could, usually in …

Your MFA is a Team Sport

Photo credit: Eric Wong, Basketball Hoop I’ve always been a highly competitive person. At five years old, I started figure skating. Adorned with pink sequins and doing my best bunny hops and swizzles to the tune of Captain Kangeroo, my mom had to teach me that it was not okay to cheer when my competitors fell down. Actually, that was generally frowned upon. A little older but still bloodthirsty, I played basketball in a youth league at my local YMCA. During the pre-game prayer, I spent more time sizing up the other team than asking Jesus for a safe game and flawless layups. Not gifted with any kind of decent dribbling skills, I relied on my height and strength to play. I gave defense my all… often to the point that I fouled out for throwing too many elbows. After the ref blew the whistle the fifth time, I gave my dad an enthusiastic thumbs up to celebrate my removal from the game while he looked at his brutish daughter with mild horror. I’ve spent …

Free Writing Sample Review for Trans*/GNC/POC Fiction Writers!

Image Credit: Bruce Guenter The below service is not affiliated with/being conducted by The MFA Years. We were asked to advertise it on our website and we’re happy to do so as it’s an incredibly generous offer! The readers are current MFA fiction students. Please read ALL of the guidelines before sending in your sample. A few current MFA students (1st year fiction writers at programs offering full-funding to all admitted students) are offering free, informal review of fiction writing samples for writers applying to MFA programs this winter.  We want to support a greater diversity of voices and perspectives in our classes and that involves making the MFA application process more accessible! What we’re offering: One of us (we are all queer and/or POC-identified) will read your sample of under 30 pages and then schedule a 40-minute phone chat with you to share our comments/discuss. We don’t have capacity to write letters of response to your piece(s) but you can ask us about specific lines/wording/whatever you want when we talk on the phone! Comments will be …

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

Photo credit: Henrique Simplicio I’ve developed a complicated relationship with deadlines. On the one hand, I’m super thankful for them. It’s not every day people ask you to write, much less read your work closely and give thoughtful feedback. Also, deadlines give me structure and keep me productive. On the other hand, getting bogged down is inevitable. Since the beginning of the semester, I’ve gone through two workshops, and I have two more deadlines within the next month. I’m pretty sure I have writer’s fatigue. What is writer’s fatigue? Is it a real thing? Well, no. I sort of made it up, but I think many writers in programs can relate. Writer’s fatigue is as its name describes; it’s getting burnt out from back-to-back deadlines. I’m an incredibly slow writer. This probably has a lot to do with perfectionism and my terrible habit of editing as I write. I’ve also become accustomed to the short-and-sweet quarter system from my undergrad and MA days. Usually, a ten-week long workshop means only one or two writing deadlines. …

Being in a Fully Funded MFA Is Not the Same as Earning a Living Wage

I’m planning to write a reflective post at the end of this semester on what it’s been like to be a third-year MFA student. (Busy! More details to come!) In the meantime, I wanted to address something that’s been on my mind. To be clear, I don’t know of any fully-funded MFA’s that include an explicit statement on their website that you can also live on said funding. But, I will say that when applying to MFA programs, I suppose there was a naïve assumption on my part that I would be able to more or less live on my stipend, especially if I wasn’t going to a program in a large, expensive city like New York or Boston. Even in the very highest tier of funded programs, graduate students are usually making just over $20,000 a year before taxes (some programs in this tier of funding include Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, the Michener Center, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis). More commonly, fully funded programs offer something around …

Greetings from HZWP

  Hello! I’m R. Cross and I’m currently in my first semester as an MFA candidate in Fiction at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at The University of Michigan. I’ve applied to MFA programs on four separate occasions (in ‘13, ‘14, ‘16, and ‘17) and attended the MFA program at Southern Illinois University for the ‘14 – ‘15 school year until state budget cuts led to a university-wide funding crisis that ended up sending me back to the application gauntlet for two more rounds (NOTE: the funding crisis at SIU has since been resolved with a state budget settlement that will make for stable funding for the program for the foreseeable future; they’ve also recently added MFA fellowships that reduce the teaching load, funded by a private donor to the program). My experience as an MFA applicant and program attendee is thus long and winding, and covers the span of five years. A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME: I’m from Columbus, Ohio. While it took me eight years of academic meandering, I eventually obtained my BA …