All posts filed under: Third year

Epilogue: Three Months After the MFA

So here I am. Three months after graduating from an MFA program in Creative Writing. What am I doing with my life? What are my hopes and dreams? What am I wearing?…Wait, what? Why are you asking what I’m wearing? If any of you read my last post some, oh, seven months ago, you’ll know that I was already thinking about PhD programs/jobs/etc. then The truth is, this has been the most challenging realm of my life to navigate, but I think it’s also important to share, because for every person who graduates from an MFA program and lands their ideal job or gets into their number one PhD program directly after the MFA, there are probably hundreds of others who don’t. Here’s my story. I knew I wanted to live in my hometown of Los Angeles after graduating. I applied to two PhD programs–the Creative Writing PhD at USC and the Literature PhD with a focus on Speculative Fiction at UC Riverside–and was rejected from both of them. While the idea of doing a …

How Not to Follow Up

Hey, writers, let’s talk submissions again! It’s been a while. I’ve previously written about what cover letters should look like, what stories you should probably not show litmags, other stories you should probably not show litmags, etc. I’d like to add to this a list of behavior you should never ever indulge in when following up on a submission, from the no-bullshit perspective of someone who spends a lot of time reading slush. If I reject you, please don’t write me back with some snide remark about how I’d like your work if only I were smarter or nicer. Why would you do this? All you have accomplished is that now you are on my permanent blacklist, and if I’m having a really annoying day, I will forward your mean email to your MFA program director or whichever magazine most recently published your work. Stop. Accept that you didn’t get in this time. I don’t get into places all the time. It happens. Please do not wait TWO DAYS and then email me to ask …

Don’t Work Your Way Up, Actually

Why take yourself out of the running for the thing you really want?

What Should I Do After the MFA? The Employment Edition

This is a fun game. Right now it may not feel like a fun game, but I’m calling it that, as six months from now, I’ll be able to look back at this post, at this moment when I have no idea what’s going to happen in my future, and I’ll be able to say “Ah-ha! I have an answer!” Even if that answer is only temporary. Even if that answer isn’t ideal. Even if that answer is unemployment and staying at my dad’s house (fingers crossed for a different result). Such is the nature of the MFA in Creative Writing–it doesn’t offer the relatively clear path of pre-professional graduate programs like law school or medical school, and that can be both freeing and somewhat overwhelming. My hope, though, is that the abundance of choice means something will pan out after I finish my last semester this spring. Here are my constraints: I want to live in Los Angeles (where I’m originally from) and I want whatever I’m doing to somehow involve writing, teaching, or …

Being in a Fully Funded MFA Is Not the Same as Earning a Living Wage

I’m planning to write a reflective post at the end of this semester on what it’s been like to be a third-year MFA student. (Busy! More details to come!) In the meantime, I wanted to address something that’s been on my mind. To be clear, I don’t know of any fully-funded MFA’s that include an explicit statement on their website that you can also live on said funding. But, I will say that when applying to MFA programs, I suppose there was a naïve assumption on my part that I would be able to more or less live on my stipend, especially if I wasn’t going to a program in a large, expensive city like New York or Boston. Even in the very highest tier of funded programs, graduate students are usually making just over $20,000 a year before taxes (some programs in this tier of funding include Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, the Michener Center, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis). More commonly, fully funded programs offer something around …

Let’s Find You Some Help

You should show your actual writing to as many people as possible, getting all the advice you can wrangle out of them, before you spend hundreds of dollars applying for grad school. In this article I list specific venues for you to get critiques from other people. 

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 …

Concerning Your Creative Thesis …

Note: This blog entry talks primarily about a creative thesis. Dear MFA Student, Congratulations on getting in/your impending graduation! It’s been a long application process/one to three years of study. No matter where you are on your magical journey of poverty and eye exhaustion from reading assignments, I am going to tell you all about the thesis. Yes, the thesis. The last hurdle in obtaining your magical nugget of a degree. For new students, the thesis is a mystical dragon living far away in a misty mountain they’ve only heard about in stories. For near-to graduating students, that dragon has arrived, is now burning down Lake-town, and you are not the one with the magical dragon-killing arrow. You’re feeling more like the fat guy who gets the dead monster corpse dropped on him. So first: Don’t panic. In its heart of hearts, the dragon that is your thesis is actually your beautiful baby in disguise. It’s just got an evil spell of guidelines and deadlines cast upon it. The thesis, if you are doing a …

On Finishing my MFA

Image: waferboard In September 2012, I embarked upon a creative writing MFA at Stony Brook, Southampton. This was my first return to academic environs since my completion of an MA in sociology in 2010. In the intervening years, I taught briefly. I also attempted to write on my own. The idea appealed to me romantically—sitting down each day at my desk, a diary open in front of me, and just writing, writing, writing. Ever since my childhood, I have been an inveterate consumer of notebooks, always eager to finish one as soon as I bought it. I was, as yet, unfamiliar with the idea of revision, happy to believe that the words I had just penned would make their way unassailed to the printed page. Writing on your own is harder than it sounds, much harder. It is difficult to stick to a routine when you are your own master. It is so easy to give up and say that you have no idea what to write, that you are suffering from a mental block. …

An Inside Look With Hannah Reed, Louisiana State University ’15

Hannah Reed is in her final year of the MFA program at Louisiana State University, where she edits the New Delta Review.  Prior to entering the program, Hannah served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, where she worked with youth and their families in the southern Andes. What is it like living in Baton Rouge? How far does your stipend go there living wise?