All posts tagged: life

On Grief, Publishing Your First Novel and Turning 30

I turn 30 this weekend! (I’m hoping the exclamation mark makes it less of a terrifying new phase of life) When I started the MFA Years I thought I’d blog a lot more; after years of writing fiction around the day job, I was finally headed to grad school and the full time writing life. I would have so much time! And so many things to say about the publication journey! If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that that hasn’t, um, been quite the case. Turns out there’s a strange law of productivity that dictates the more time you have, the less productive you are. Back in 2016, I was still working in finance, writing fiction in the wee hours of the morning, editing at night, planning a wedding, applying to 13 graduate programs and somehow managing to stay on top of life admin (tax returns, remortgaging our flat, organising family visits etc). Today, a mere email asking me for a single scanned document can send my day into a downward procrastination spiral (I will spare …

On Goal Setting

When we were young, Pops’ promised my older brother and me that we’d go somewhere new as a family every year—if we had the money. With enough savings we could take a trip to the motherland (the Philippines) or a trip to Canada; maybe we’d even go across America in an RV. We thought we could go anywhere Pops would dream up, and we ate every word of it—but there was never enough money to do any of these things or the time. There was always another overtime shift available to help pay off an overdue medical bill or credit card payment. We spent money as fast as we tried saving it. There was never enough of anything. That’s part of the beauty of growing up in the working, immigrant, poor: you’re always hopeful for shit to get better—if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that dream for a better existence, once. All we thought about was money, work, and ways to make money in the future so we could live like the …

Mark Galarrita Introduction (University of Alabama ’17)

Within the basement of the three-bedroom house that I rent in Tuscaloosa, there is a portal to hell. This particular hole belongs to Mikhail, the devil that has called Alabama his home for over a thousand years.


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

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….

4 Steps for Grad School Self-Care

Heading into my first semester of grad school, the biggest phrase I heard was “self-care.” Likewise, I had the TA opportunity of a lifetime and was given the honor of working with a freshman class, which involved as much life coaching/chatting about adulting as it did grappling with the course work. While everyone and every program are different, here’s a few thoughts/tips about getting through that semester intact. Sleep Sleep enough. We’re here to do big deep thinking. Know your magic number for sleep and do all you can to honor it. Sleep makes everything else go better. Eat Well Grad School’s intense. Figure out the pre-made foods/substances that you can grab and go and that will keep you going. My top three are: Peanut Butter, Protein Bars, and Hardboiled Eggs. Everyone has different dietary restrictions, but I found it immensely helpful to know what I could emergency pack to have food throughout the day even if I didn’t have a chance to leave the studio. While on food, bulk cook and know your breakfast. …

Can we stay in the now please?

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

November is a bitch.

Crisp, cold, light, first snow dandruff the mountains, autumn’s last leaves swirl and the swoosh swoosh swoosh of traipsing leaf piles brings back childhood. White swans migrate into the duck pond. Will they survive the coming winter? Do ducks ever feel cold? They dive deep and paddle. Where do the turtles go in this cold? Mystery. All leaves down by nightfall. Albuquerque’s beauty occasionally strikes a stunning uppercut. This month has been a bitch. Hitler elected. Leonard died. Fidel. Mose Allison. Capecoense—a whole futebol team gone in a blink. The Grim Reaper has been clearing house all year. Bowie. Prince. Muhammad Ali. For me, November in northern climes has always been the cruelest month. I can’t finish anything. I feel everything is worthless. Doubt is rife. Anxiety high. Binge-drinking like there’s no tomorrow, every time I log on to anything all I see is shit shit shit. I’m afraid and don’t know what to do. The bad men are winning, do they always? I’ve been in the US for 14 months on this MFA. Beliefs …

Writing as Healing

When I applied to nearly a dozen fully funded or mostly funded MFA programs last winter and spring, the only expectation I had was that something unexpected would happen. I tried to not fantasize about New England winters, California freeways or whatever the hell it is people do in Virginia college towns. I hoped one of those scenarios would be my life, but I didn’t want to lock myself into needing an MFA from one particular program or one particular place. I knew my odds, but more than anything it felt like the right time to chase this MFA dream. Wherever I ended up, I would get that chance. As it turned out, something unexpected did happen. I received an acceptance from Rutgers-Camden, one of the two programs I applied to in my home state of New Jersey. So I traded my fantasies for familiarity. It wasn’t exactly the school in my backyard: Camden is just outside Philadelphia, a part of New Jersey that is new to me. The Rutgers-Camden MFA program offered so many elements that excite me: the …

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 …