All posts filed under: Second year contributor

Becoming the Killjoy: Confronting Academic Spaces

Finishing up my final semester at University of Wyoming’s MFA felt tumultuous, though I suppose it couldn’t have ended any other way. Many faculty seemed to be leaving UW amidst the school’s large-scale budgeting overhaul due to the collapse of Wyoming’s coal industry last year, nothing new for the state considering its legacy of booms and busts. A new drama was rising afresh within the program as students learned of the manner in which beloved faculty member, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, had been terminated. Further, this was all happening against the backdrop of macro and micro struggles. Each week was some new round of messy political theatre, and meanwhile my friends and I were going through own crises, doing what we could to find moments together to fight through the gloom. After my thesis defense, one of my committee members gave me a letter that contained everything I needed to hear at the end of this stricken road. Even now, I’m holding the letter, reading through it again and finding myself wrecked with the sharp joy of …

What Is a Mentor, Exactly?

On Father’s Day, a former creative writing professor of mine from college (let’s call him B) wrote a long and eloquent post about his thankfulness not only for his father but also for a dear mentor of his. This mentor had been B’s professor when he was an undergraduate many years ago. He had given B advice and guidance when B was rejected from graduate school, had continued to read B’s stories after B had had said mentor for workshop, and had introduced B to his literary agent. I acknowledge that this was a Facebook post and thus I certainly don’t know the full context of this mentorship. What I do know is that when I read that post, I felt a little jealous, although it was hard to parse out the exact nature of that jealousy. B’s post made me wonder, how common is it for writers to have mentors in this day and age, and what is the nature of those mentorships? How do different people interpret the idea of mentorship? On the …

On All the Rejections

The second year of the MFA is wrapping up and I generally feel good–about the program, about the progress of my writing, about potential prospects after the MFA (I have one more year left), and about the summer ahead of me. This semester, I’ve started writing a second novel about mysterious deaths and scientists and Los Alamos and time travel, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’ve decided to work on my book of satirical short stories about Los Angeles for my thesis, and I’m contemplating applying to PhD programs around the Los Angeles area, where I plan to move after finishing the MFA, as well as other teaching/writing/nonprofit jobs. I suppose what’s odd to me is that on one level, everything is going swimmingly. I’m on course to finish strong drafts of a novel and a collection of short stories at the end of three years of an MFA. I’m getting positive feedback and generative feedback and I’m secure in my abilities as a writer in addition to acknowledging the areas in …

Cross-Genre Work

Image: Bruce Guenter I’m afraid I’ve been stepping out on fiction. I’ve been out with Poetry twice, two lovely workshops. Non-fiction, also twice, sorry. Screenwriting broke my heart and dumped me to the curb (once). Now Playwriting. Halfway through my fourth term, when I need to propose a dissertation and stick by her through thick and thin, sickness and health, and pray she doesn’t laugh in my face. I’m surreptitiously measuring ring fingers. Poetry’s fingers are fast and oily and constantly moving. Non-fiction’s ring finger is stout and strong and loyal. Drama’s digits are gripping. Screenwriting is off the list. Fiction’s fingers are so familiar I feel they are my own. Last term, I took a screenwriting course with a professor with an impressive list of IMDB credits. A hell of a comic, full of life and inspiration, he would stand on the table at least once a week and yell ridiculous prompts. The classroom felt like a TV writer’s room for a real Netflix series. We pitched ideas and shot them down. There were …

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 …

Vigilance with Attention, please.

I take my class to a writing workshop with Jimmy Santiago Baca in The Student Union Ballroom. Last Friday, campus closed early due to a visit from a right-wing racist and provocateur who will say anything for money….

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, …

Can we stay in the now please?

I find I do exactly the opposite of what I write.

Contractual Community: Minority Students’ Place in the Creative Writing Program

Image: Conal Gallagher A lot has happened since the events of last semester as detailed here. I thought about what it might look like for me to give an update on promises given, what has improved, what hasn’t. And yet, I feel like it’d be unnecessary, in a sense, to give another somewhat in-depth barometric of things overall. A problem had been pointed out, namely the program’s inadequate approach, specifically under the helm of the current director, Jeff Lockwood, to address issues uniquely relevant to minority students. A call had been made and had been heard. Anymore expended emotional and intellectual energies, other than acting for the sake of my own survival if necessary, would be undue labor on my part, at least in my view. Then, there’s simply the matter of our program’s change in directors starting next year, from Jeff Lockwood to Brad Watson. So rather than go in that direction, I thought I would discuss a topic endemic to the creative writing program generally: problems with the notion of “community.” (Although, if …