Author: Martina Clark

Summer In The Rear View Mirror

Image: State Library and Archives of Florida I’m old, so that title reminds me of the Don Henley song Boys of Summer and the line “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” In my case, however, it would be The Books of Summer…the ones I didn’t quite get to and the ones I ran with. When the spring semester was winding up, I started making all sorts of summer plans for the classic literature I would read and the craft books I would analyze and the outlines of my memoir that I would pin to the wall next to my computer. But then I got a consultancy for work related to my last professional life (public health) and found myself in West Africa for a couple of weeks and, in the end, the only substantial writing I did over the summer was in generating work reports. Now, they were pretty darn good reports, I will say, but I’m also certain they’ll never make the New York Times Bestsellers list. If anyone ever reads them …

School’s Out For Summer: End of Year One

This semester has been a long one, but it has finally come to a close. Indeed, this semester really was longer because we spilled over the official end of the semester, only by a day, but we were all fatigued and ready for it to end. This was a snowier winter than some so we missed several days of class because of “snow days,” something I’d never experienced before as a Californian. But there you have it, at long last, we’re done. With the end of this semester also comes the end of my first year of my MFA and I’m not quite sure yet how that makes me feel. Clearly I feel both a sense of accomplishment and relief, but also a bit empty or perhaps just unsure. Although I’m looking forward to the three-month summer break ahead, I am also finding myself slightly at odds as to what will happen this time next year when I will either be finished or at least nearly finished with my degree. What then? I suppose what …

The Workshop – My April Confession

Mid-way through my second semester of my MFA I have to admit that I really don’t enjoy the  process we call “workshop.” I never have and now suspect that I never will. That doesn’t mean I don’t value it, or see that it is worth enduring. And I will not deny that I most certainly learn something each time, but I don’t enjoy it. And after a quick survey of my cohort, it seems nobody else much enjoys it either. If you haven’t yet had the first hand experience of “workshop” in a creative writing setting, basically, this is what happens; a group of other writers read your piece and then give you feedback both verbally, through group discussion, and also as written feedback, noted on a copy of your piece. Some of the feedback is great and very helpful. But some of it is not and that is the part that is frustrating. What it tells me, time after time, is that not everyone is my reader. Some people will hate a passage that …

Making The Right (MFA) Choice

Just more than a year ago, I was invited to – and attended – an open house at Stony Brook University’s Manhattan campus to learn more about their MFA program. Just more than a week ago, I attended their 2015 open house, but this time as a first year student. Standing there chatting with the newly admitted – although many still undecided – students, my cohort and I couldn’t help discussing how much our lives had changed in the past twelve months.

February = Fiction Envy

Following three snow days, two false starts and a traveling teacher, I finally completed my first full week of classes for my second semester of my MFA at Stony Brook Manhattan. Overall, things are going well but I’m definitely developing a form of Fiction Envy. But first, a quick highlight of my classes this spring term. The class I’d feared most, the only mandatory class for my program, is turning out to be far more interesting and rewarding than I’d anticipated. I think I was resistant because the goal of the class is to teach us about the history of creative writing and skirts along the edges of literature and more traditional English studies. The latter two are areas where I am very poorly educated so I was afraid I’d fall short, but rather I’m finding that the class is simply giving me a chance to understand the differences and learn as I go along. So far, so good. On Tuesdays, I have a humor class with Patty Marx – yes, that Patty Marx from The New …

Semester Two Starts with Snow Days

This semester started with a blizzard. Or, at least the threat of a blizzard that was serious enough for classes to be canceled. In the end, those of us living in NYC were spared the brunt of the storm but classes were still cancelled on Monday and Tuesday. My colleagues at the Southampton Stony Brook campus also had classes cancelled Wednesday due to snow clean up. Strange way to start the semester – snowed in or shoveling out – but there you have it. Over the break I spent a few weeks visiting family and, truth be told, I didn’t write a word for weeks. Didn’t even open my laptop for nearly three of the six weeks off. And it felt good. I think I needed to have the break and just focus on people I hadn’t seen in far too long. Now that I’m home, however, I’m finding it harder than I’d expected to get back into the swing of things. Most certainly my writing mind will take over again once we’ve started classes …

Semester 1: Reflections

As the end of the year approaches, I find myself looking back on my first semester at Stony Brook University. What strikes me most is how much I enjoyed it. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t, but I know of several other MFA students who have experienced moments of questioning their decision to pursue the degree. And understandably so, it is a big undertaking. But, for me, it still feels like both the right choice and possibly the most luxurious gift I’ve ever afforded myself. In undergrad, I was an okay student: not the best, not the worst. I excelled in the classes I loved and just got by in the ones I didn’t. I’m sure I learned something from each experience, but I didn’t always want to be there. I was also half the age I am now and not very focused, working at least two jobs at any given point, on top of a full course load. I also spent a lot more time socializing than I do these days. A lot. …

A Week In The Life of an MFA Student

This month, I thought I’d share a glimpse at what a typical week looks like for me as a full-time MFA student. This does not take into account the other regular tasks that we all have – paying bills, eating, being with our friends and loved ones, etc. Nor does it account for working because the freelancing I was doing up until the 3rd week of October was supposed to have finished in early September, so it wasn’t supposed to be there anyway. 

Midway Through Semester 1… So Many Questions!

What does the little “a” do, and why is the big “A” always yelling? These would be my first questions, I joked frequently when asked exactly what was I hoping to learn at 50 by starting an MFA. Half way through my first semester, I have abandoned these two questions (because, between us, I already knew the answers,) but now have a million more.

Three Weeks In: Finding My Rhythm Again As A Student.

Following a 25-year summer break, I now find myself back in school full-time. Three weeks in to my MFA at Stony Brook University, I am slowly beginning to find the rhythm of being a student again. One thing for certain, this isn’t even vaguely reminiscent of my undergrad years. I was a full-time student then, as now, but apparently the definitions have changed. Within the first three weeks, I’ve already submitted over 50 pages of writing, read a book and a quarter, several essays and done at least half a dozen in-class writing assignments. Granted, that’s what I’d signed up for, but I hadn’t quite realized how quickly it would consume my life. That said, I continue to pinch myself when my teachers share insights or quote literature or give us other glimpses into the elusive “writer’s life.”