Month: February 2017

How to make your MFA decision

Image: Vimal Kumar Maybe you’re still waiting to hear back from MFA programs or you already know you’ve been accepted to one or more. Either way, come April, if you are in the lucky position of being able to choose where you attend graduate school next fall, here are suggestions from some of our first year contributors on how to choose the program that is right for you. Contributors: Molly Montgomery, Craig Knox, Devin Koch, Jess Silfa, and Carlos Chism What is the most important factor to consider when making the decision? Molly Montgomery: I think the biggest factor when you’re making your decision is your personal goals. Of the programs you were accepted to you, which do you think will help you reach your goals as a writer? And if you have other aspirations, such as a desire to improve your teaching skills or to gain professional or editorial experience, will the program also help you achieve those goals? When you are comparing offers, it’s easy to only look at the funding, but you also …

How to Actively Wait…list

[Photo cred: teo_ladodicivideo] Up until March 17th, the signs were not looking good for me to get into grad school. It was my second round of applications and I had been rejected by eight different programs already. My creative writing spirits were low. On that fateful day last winter, I was waitlisted at Indiana University. While being waitlisted was encouraging, it wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was to distinguish myself. What didn’t the selection committee know about me? I sent a hardcopy (and electronic copy) of a letter updating both the director of the program and the director of admissions on my writing life since submitting my application (projects I was working on, recent publications, and creative writing mentorship I had undertaken) as well as my continued interest in IU. I didn’t hear back from them but I confirmed receipt of delivery with IU’s program coordinator. You’ll see from my previous post on choosing a diverse program that I had also sent in an application to the University of Miami. That winter, I had …

In Defense of Actioned Poetics

While it is important to interrogate our motives and impacts when we write, to dismiss any act of writing, but especially poetry, as irrelevant involves both misguided utilitarianism and overgeneralization. Acts of political resistance begin with the imagination. In order to create a more just and equitable world, we must have an idea of how that world may look. Once we have an idea, we must be able to communicate it. Inarguably, revolutionary ideas have been communicated in language throughout history.

So You’re Waiting to Hear Back from MFA Programs: Post Application Advice With Devin Koch

Image credit: Moyan Brenn For the next two months we’ll be asking some of our first year contributors to talk about the post application period and how they dealt with it last year. What did you do to get through the post application period? That anxiousness you get after you’ve sent your applications in is always present. You’re waiting to see if you will be potentially moving across the country. That kind of news is huge! The key to surviving is diverting that anxiousness by keeping busy. I was lucky enough to be working full-time after I was done with my applications. I was one of those people who constantly checked the MFA Draft and Gradcafe. I got so obsessive that I ended up leaving the Draft and then requesting to get back in (multiple times). To those admins on the page, I’m truly sorry! For the post application period, I did mainly stress-free things: I read books, worked at my job, watched reality TV and spent time with friends. It was definitely my escape. What’s the best …

Butterfly at the Museum of Natural History. Photo Credit: Jess Silfa

On (Necessary) Self Care

When I was six years old, I started seeing a therapist. There were many reasons why I was in Doctor Davis’ care—an overactive imagination, inappropriate concern for World War III, existential dread—but the majority of our sessions revolved around relaxation. He and I played this game where we would try to relax as much as possible, calling out the names of the body parts as we felt them loosen and unwind: my neck is now relaxed, my shoulders are now relaxed, now my arms. I would never get past my knees before blurting out something like, “What if Russia invades us?” And then to lighten the mood: “Do you know how hard it is to learn Russian?” Twenty-five years later I still have trouble getting myself to relax (and surprisingly I’m still worried about Russia). I didn’t change who I was when I entered the MFA. My life didn’t get magically amazing; my insecurities didn’t disappear; my neurochemistry didn’t become more typical. But that’s me. The truth is even if you’re not mentally ill, grad school is …

What I Want to Remember from AWP

At AWP last week, I felt fortunate for the opportunity, yet overwhelmed about “making the most of it” and also, walking around D.C., I felt like an imposter. People wore business suits and bluetooths and walked with purpose, while I felt dazed and hungry and underdressed, and if that isn’t a metaphor for adulthood (at least early adulthood), I don’t know what is. AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) is the largest literary conference in North America. This year, over 12,000 people took part: ranging from graduate students to publishers to poets to memoirists to teachers to editors. Each day offered dozens of panels on a variety of topics. Here are some of the ones I attended: “What Journalists Can Teach Literary Writers,” “Writing from the Wound,” “Success, Failure, and The Green-Eyed Monster: Thriving in a Competitive Environment,” “The Craft of Empathy,” and “Writing Neighborhoods: (Re)Creating the Places We Live.” I think too often we feel inspired and motivated at these types of conferences, but when we return to our lives, we remember laundry, grocery …

I WENT TO AWP IN D.C AND I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY SINKING… POST

We shall overcome by embracing our other, by radically empathizing with what we believe to be our opposite.

The Only Cover Letter Template You’ll Ever Need

Once, in undergrad, I submitted a story I wrote for my sophomore workshop to n + 1 and got a positive response, an interest in putting the thing in their next online issue if I could only revise it enough. I couldn’t revise it enough, because I was secretly the newest of writers, and anyway, I was busy working a job and an internship while carrying a full-time undergraduate course load and also raising a small child. Eventually, the editor who had expressed an interest stopped being as interested and moved to The New Yorker instead, and I published the thing in the print issue of a far less well-known magazine. It happens. That story was not my mature work, it was written before I’d had a good long sit-down-and-think about the politics of my art and my person, and I’m sort of (read: very) relieved it doesn’t exist on the internet. So there’s that. But at AWP this past week, I went up and retold the story to the current n + 1 staffpersons …

Second Time’s The Charm

“Rejection is the most common thing a writer can experience. When it comes to writing, rejection is the rule, not the exception. If you cannot handle rejection, don’t be a writer.”  –Roxane Gay In the last eight months, I’ve been awarded a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship and a Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA) fellowship, had my first short story published, another story accepted for publication, and was admitted to a fully-funded MFA creative writing program. Before you vomit, I want to tell you that I share this not to make anyone hate me, but because I did not receive any of these accolades the first time I applied for them. To be even clearer: I was rejected a lot before I heard one “yes” to my writing. My new joke is that I never get anything the first time I apply, so I always save all my applications and prepare to apply again. Around this time last year, I was lying in my bed late at night, eating McDonald’s apple pies …

On Snow and Fiction

Image: Nick Ford When I travel north from the South, the South in the winter, the South that is grey-and-brown bleary and blurred with a sleepy, grungy sort of winter, the snow is captivating. The similes have all been written: snow like glitter, snow like a blanket, soft snow, white as snow, pure and sparkling. And it is enchanting, it is, this soft, unadulterated substance that dusts the earth. Over winter break, we drove the 14 hours north (from my school, in South Carolina, to home in Chicago). We slowly progressed towards the cold. I let myself be enchanted by the snow this year. It’s been a while. As we neared the Chicago suburbs, I pressed my face against the glass of my passenger seat window. I giggled involuntarily at the scene. It is magical, mystical, and that, I think, is in the soft covering. The suppression, the gentle blanketing. Overnight, in a few hours of tufts drifting down, the world is clean and new. It’s pure and sublime. It’s not us. While watching the …