Author: Lauren J Sharkey

Things I learned

Image: Chris Ford For the most part, my first semester at Stony Brook Southampton is over. After careful consideration, I’ve got to admit I learned more than I had given myself, or the program, credit for. But the most important thing I’ve learned is something I have to constantly remind myself of: this is a personal journey. There’s tons of bull shit in this world, and MFA programs are no exception. Who gets funding and who doesn’t, who cares and who slacks off, who writes like they mean it. I let myself get wrapped up in it. And the truth is, I was the only one who suffered for it. You’re not at an MFA program to write better than the person sitting next to you. You’re not at an MFA program to decide who should get funding and who should take out loans. You’re not at an MFA program to bitch about all the injustices of administrative bull shit. You’re at an MFA program to learn how to be the best writer you can …

Taking my voice back

Image: Antonio Bovino My first week of classes feels so long ago, I wonder if it ever happened. But the chilly autumn wind and rushing leaves confirm time has come to pass. Yet I am still the same as I was. I guess I thought being here would change me – that somehow, a truth would reveal itself and alter my entire way of thinking. I thought being in an MFA program would switch on a lightbulb in my head – that I’d suddenly have all the answers. Truth is, being here has just provided me with better guides. Throughout the application process, I felt like I was losing myself and my voice. Somewhere along the line, my submission piece stopped being my story, and just became a story. Before I came to Stony Brook Southampton, I went to work, ate dinner with my family, saw my boyfriend. Many nights, I’d lay in bed thinking, “Is this all there is? Will it be this way forever?” I still have many of the same worries today …

Haters Gonna Hate

Image: Victoria Nevland I have a lot of regrets when it comes to my MFA application process – I shot too high, didn’t save enough money, changed that one word. Another big regret is all the fucks I gave about everyone else. What bothers me now is that I’m still not done giving fucks. Post-submission, I got sucked into the vortex of MFA Draft and GradCafe. Together, they make quite the cocktail – equal parts doubt, paranoia, and panic. As people began receiving decisions from schools I was still waiting to hear back from, I heard that voice, I don’t know what you were thinking, Lauren.  I mean, did you honestly expect this to work out? And instead of flipping the bird to that voice, I surrendered to it. * I didn’t write post-submission. I was so afraid that I opted not to take any workshops my first semester. Despite the fact that I had actually been accepted to an MFA program, I couldn’t let myself get too comfortable. They were bound to recognize their mistake, and I …

Thursday Lunch

Image credit: Lauren Rushing Katie and I met at the cash wrap of Barnes and Noble #2216 somewhere between fucking up and getting shit together. She had a septum ring, black box-dye on her hair, and a star tattooed on each arm. Silence filled the first two hours of our shift. In later years, she’d tell me that she thought I was a “real Asian”, and wasn’t sure if I spoke English. Following a customer tantrum, I rolled my eyes and sighed, “God I fucking hate people.” The connection was undeniable. We took drives to the Long Beach boardwalk, blasting the best of 90’s pop with the windows down. Most nights we wound up in my basement, talking over Disney movies and microwave popcorn. We shared secrets and made plans. * I can’t remember the last time I saw Katie. If I had to guess, it was probably about five or six years ago. Most of my friendships operate this way. I tell myself all sorts of things – it’s work, it’s school…we’re going in different directions. But I …

Week Five: Return to Zero

Image: Aikawa Ke I wish I could tell you my feelings of insecurity and worry have gone away. That I’ve come to learn that I not only belong here, but was accepted to Stony Brook Southampton. While the notion of belonging is getting better now that I’ve made a few friends, I still have trouble accepting my acceptance. For me, being in an MFA program feels like going to the gym.  I am convinced everyone is looking at me – judging how much I lift, wondering why I don’t increase the resistance on the treadmill, snickering at my Old Navy compression pants. But no one is actually looking at me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten into a routine. I write two hours a day, every day. Thursdays are for homework. I go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and cook on Sundays.  Evenings are for reading. Last week, the routine went to shit. A requirement of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton is the Intro to Graduate Writing Course. If you asked me about …

Week Two: Back to Basics

Image: Nilufer Gadgieva When I applied to MFA programs, the last thing I expected to be doing was diagramming sentences. More than that, though, the absolute last thing I expected was to love it. For my first semester of graduate school, I decided not to take any workshops. Currently, my class schedule consists of “Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay” with Neal Gabler, “Forms of Fiction: The Short Story” with SM, and “Introduction to Graduate Writing” with, essentially, the entire Creative Writing faculty. “Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay” is on Mondays from 5:20pm to 8pm. There, we talk about what the essay is, how it operates, what its goal as a piece is. We discuss structure, motive, form, craft. The class is designed to not only make you think about what an essay is, but what nonfiction really is. Can you be honest while telling a lie? What is truth? How much do you let your reader know? What am I trying to say? “Forms of Fiction: The Short Story” is Tuesdays from 5:20pm to 8:10pm. This is probably the …

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Week One: Laziness and Me

Image: Tom Gill For my first semester, I opted not to take any writing workshops. I wanted to get back to the basics – language, sentences structure, form. I’m taking three classes:  Intro to Graduate Writing, Forms of Non-fiction: The Essay, and Forms of Fiction: The Short Story. Next week, I’ll tell you a little bit more about each, in addition to how I’m making ends meet, and attempting to be a full-time daughter, girlfriend, and friend. But, right now, I want to tell you about what I’ve learned. After one week of classes, I’ve learned two things: I do not have a writing process, and I have never given much thought to the process of writing, and I am more concerned with what writing is doing for me, as opposed to what it’s doing for the reader. These facts make me a terrible writer. The reason I do not have a writing process is because, for a while, writing came naturally to me. Characters, stories, and scenes came so easily I could barely contain …

Gabler’s Law

Image: Christian Gonzalez A lot has changed in the weeks since my last post. When I was offered a place at Stony Brook Southampton, it came without funding. So, I immediately began looking for work and was excited when I was hired by the Office of Student Life at Southampton. Over the past few weeks, the department I work for has been going through a massive staff change. By the middle of July, I was the last professional staff member standing. I’d only been working for two months, had no formal training, and was suddenly in charge of making sure Southampton didn’t burn to the ground. I found myself in charge of a staff of five, with another staff of six arriving shortly. The residents in the residence halls were in full panic waiting for fall room assignments to post. I’d previously had two supervisors with whom I shared the duty phone – a professional staff member cell phone that our staff would call in case of emergency. When you are “on duty” and have …

Dealing with Doubt

Image: Romain Toornier  My first day of classes is in twenty-three days and all I can think about is not going. I have this vision of raising my hand after attendance is taken and saying, “Excuse me, Professor, you didn’t call my name.” He’ll scan the list one more time, shake his head, and tell me to go to the main office down the hall, on the right. I’ll slide my notebook back into my bag and try not to focus on those watching me leave the classroom. I’ll explain my situation to a woman behind the front desk, and wait anxiously as she types away on her keyboard. And then I’ll see it—the “oh shit” face – and know something is wrong. She won’t even excuse herself to me—she’ll just speed into the office behind her, point to me, and nod her head. “I’m so sorry, Ms. Sharkey,” she’ll say, “but you’re actually not a student here at Stony Brook Southampton. There was an error and I’m afraid you weren’t actually accepted into the MFA …

Lauren J Sharkey Introduction (Stony Brook Southampton ’16)

Image:  Noukka Signe I’ve never liked the word “writer.” I guess that’s why I always give people my job title when they ask what I do. Doing this allows me to avoid those stereotypical questions—so what do you write about? But what do you really do? Isn’t it a bad time to go into print? That’s not the reason I avoid the word though. The real reason is because calling myself a writer somehow feels like a huge lie. My parents, like many parents, wanted me to go to college. They wanted me to have job security, meet a nice man, and select just the right shade of Egg Shell for my gender-neutral nursery. They did not want a child in “the arts.”  I suppose it’s not uncommon. After all, creatives aren’t really known for their job stability. So, I went to college. I got a job, met a nice guy, and (after three wonderful years) found myself wanting all these things. I traded novels for wedding magazines. I lost myself in Pinterest and Etsy—trying to figure …