Month: January 2017

What is Your Message of Hope?

Image By: Martin “Interrogate yourself. Everyday. What is your message of hope?” – Ocean Vuong My first semester in pursuing my MFA, I got the privilege to hear Ocean Vuong, an exceptional poet, who visited Virginia Tech and delivered a craft talk the following day. He had a soft-spoken voice when he talked but when he read his work, there was a strong sense of passion and intensity. His craft talk covered the idea of how powerful language is, especially in regards to how fluid language is. It is connected to one’s culture and history. It is a way to connect with the ones around you. Language is ever changing, with new slang being introduced and how words/acronyms can change meaning. For instance, we all know what Lol means, but now it holds more abilities. These days people use it in texts as if it’s filler or a means of trying to lighten the mood. Lol I just bombed the test. When you take the Lol out it has a completely different meaning, where there …

Writing As “Other” And Why You Have To Tell Your Stories

photo credit: via NPR Code Switch (Images.com/Corbis) I am not your perfect liberal. Sometimes I accidentally mess up gender pronouns, and I watch television shows that sustain the patriarchy (The Bachelor is such a juicy mess this season). Sometimes I date self-obsessed men who fuck with my self-esteem, and I take way-too-long to delete their phone numbers. Every day, I hang out with educated people in the small liberal circles at my university. I don’t spend enough time volunteering in the communities that are like the one I came from. I’m a masters student now. I went to a fancy college. I write things and they get published sometimes. To many folks, I’m living a version of the American Dream. But what am I currently doing to help the people who grew up like me? To let them know that I hear them? That I am still here for us? Nobody in my family voted for Trump. I come from poor people. Poor brown people. Immigrants. My father cannot legally vote. Of course, I always …

Learning to Read (Again)

As a child, I felt like I belonged in The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown more than I belonged in my own life. Reading became less about fantasy and more about escape as a teenager. My portals were contemporary fiction which allowed me to imagine a world outside my troubled narrow slice of New Jersey. Books remained my companions as a young adult while I bounced between unsatisfying jobs and relationships. My knowledge of the classics was pitiful, but Nick Hornby, Adam Davies and Augusten Burroughs wrote words that kept a spark of hope flickering intermittently in my brain even in the darkest of times. Once I got through those turbulent years, I became serious about school. Reading, writing, and poetry in particular, became joys in my life. On some days, moments spent reading Kay Ryan or Terrance Hayes or Li Bai and responding with my own bad poems were my only joys. I expelled words out of head and onto the paper with extreme force. As I finished my associate degree after four arduous years …

4 Steps for Grad School Self-Care

Heading into my first semester of grad school, the biggest phrase I heard was “self-care.” Likewise, I had the TA opportunity of a lifetime and was given the honor of working with a freshman class, which involved as much life coaching/chatting about adulting as it did grappling with the course work. While everyone and every program are different, here’s a few thoughts/tips about getting through that semester intact. Sleep Sleep enough. We’re here to do big deep thinking. Know your magic number for sleep and do all you can to honor it. Sleep makes everything else go better. Eat Well Grad School’s intense. Figure out the pre-made foods/substances that you can grab and go and that will keep you going. My top three are: Peanut Butter, Protein Bars, and Hardboiled Eggs. Everyone has different dietary restrictions, but I found it immensely helpful to know what I could emergency pack to have food throughout the day even if I didn’t have a chance to leave the studio. While on food, bulk cook and know your breakfast. …

The Novel Workshop

On Tuesday, we had our first meeting of “The Novel Workshop,” a two-semester class intended for graduate students to write, as you may have guessed, a novel! I’m in a unique position in that I have written a novel before, but I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—every novel is different, and I’ve heard many an author mention the challenge of writing a second novel after the first, to make novel-writing a practice rather than a single endeavor. I’m excited for the workshop. As far as I know, workshops designated specifically to writing a novel rather than short fiction are somewhat unusual among MFA programs. And I know what makes me most nervous about the workshop is probably a net positive—I tend to be someone writes sporadically, who does not keep to a schedule, who produces a lot but in intermittent starts and spurts. But the expectations of this workshop won’t allow for such. We are to produce 40,000 words by the end of our semester. My first novel was short, …

Read, Write, Ruminate, Repeat

Image: Lynn Friedman In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, whenever Alice stumbles upon a bottle labeled “Drink Me” or “Eat Me,” she ingests them with the naïveté of a child who consumes everything in her path, unaware of how they may change her in ways she doesn’t expect. I was much like Alice as a child, only instead of consuming strange substances, I devoured books. Books had a magnetic pull for me, as if each cover said “Read Me” and I couldn’t resist. That’s why I started writing, after all: I wanted to recreate that sensation of irresistibility in the stories I made up to keep myself entertained. So it seems fitting then, in graduate school, to come full circle and reread books that I treasured as a child. This quarter I’m a TA for a class called Children’s Literature, and while I don’t have any teaching responsibilities for the course (instead I have grading and administrative duties), I still am reading all of the books for the course and attending the lectures. …

Write Like You’re Still A Kid

photo credit: Picasso’s Le Rêve (The Dream), 1932 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso When I was growing up, I wrote through everything. What I mean is, back then, I wrote through all of my childhood fears, disappointments, and shame. I wrote all of the time, despite any sadness; I wrote in bed, at school in the courtyard during lunch; I wrote in my living room after my family went to sleep; I wrote in tears, when my dad announced, “It’s none of your business where I’m going,” as he walked out of the door to see his new lover; I wrote sitting alone on the school bus, as I stared out the window and watched the viejitos sell giant avocados in the street. I wrote on Saturday mornings for fun, to pass time, to feel part of this world. I wrote because I was so often alone. This is how I got by. This is how I learned the joy …

2017 Notifications

Image: Beate Meier It’s our third annual notifications post! Below, you’ll find information about creative writing acceptance, rejection and waitlist notifications; MA and low-res programs are included. We collect this information from Gradcafe. We cannot guarantee the data is 100 percent accurate as it is user submitted and unverifiable. Please let us know if a program is still notifying applicants, or if anything is inaccurate. Where did you apply? Have you heard back from programs? Share below and good luck! ***** Updated 4/9/17 8:42 PM Programs that have notified so far according to GradCafe results. This does not necessarily mean they are done notifying. Programs are listed in alphabetical order. Adelphi University: fiction acceptance and rejection. University of Alabama: some poetry and fiction notifications. University of Alaska: creative non-fiction acceptance. American University: poetry and CNF acceptances, and a poetry rejection. University of Arizona: all notifications sent. Arizona State: fiction acceptance and poetry rejection. University of Arkansas: poetry acceptance and fiction rejections. University of Baltimore: acceptance. Bennington College: fiction acceptance. Boise State University: all notifications sent. Boston University: all notifications sent. Bowling …

Winter Break

When people ask you where you are from, practice a different answer each time.  Give the name of a region, an adjacent town, the street you last lived on.  Take each place and hold yourself against its light to see where the edges meet. In January, move the writing desk to the other side of the room.  There is no window there.  Later, you will empty the last of the boxes from August, the ones filled with ephemera: photographs, letters, slips of paper that hold memories of people and places that have never been more distant.  There, you will find the porcelain figurine that belonged to your late grandmother, the one your mother accidentally smashed, then glued back together again, and gave to you when she could no longer stand to look at it.  In this reordered room, set it in the corner of your desk. Christmas will have come and gone in this new place.  A month ago, you felt the blood of your origins ticking through your veins and wondered how this type …

Manuscript Review and Mentorships Available from The MFA Years Contributors

Image: Francisco Daum Reservoir Lit and Anthropoid Co are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to help pay for an AWP book fair table and promotional materials. Since The MFA Years has a lot of crossover between the two journals (Kenzie Allen, Minda Honey, Cady Vishniac and myself) some of our contributors have volunteered to review a few poetry and/or fiction manuscripts. Other perks include pins, broadside postcards, signed books from contributors and handwritten postcard poems. We’d appreciate any shares on social media or contributions, no matter the amount. If you’re interested, you can find more information about the Manuscript Review and Mentorship packages below. Cady Vishniac, Kenzie Allen and myself are offering our services. The Manuscript Review package is $75 and the Manuscript Critique package is $200; both are discounted. Click here to visit the Indiegogo fundraiser. Straight from the campaign page: Thanks to our sponsor, ApiaryLit, we have one Manuscript Review available, and more intensive Manuscript Mentorships. Both options include up to 20 pages of poetry, or 30 pages of prose, in-line/margin notes, a written summary evaluation, and …