Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union & Colleges

I know that this isn't really the right forum to discuss politics, but I was happy to hear Obama spend some time discussing colleges during his address last night. I copied that selection over at my webpage if you missed it: click here!

Would love to see your thoughts!

Exciting time at UNCG!

by Whitney Gray

This semester, by some miracle, UNCG has been given the green light to hire another poet. As a poet myself, I find this extremely exciting to have someone join our team and help enrich my education. Last semester, I worked with only one poet, as our other resident poet was on leave. This semester I'm working with two poets, and I am eager for next fall when I can work with someone new.

Working in the English department has allowed me to learn a bit about the hiring process. Right now, it's too early for me to look ahead and imagine myself applying for (real!) jobs, so I've never really thought about what it would be like to interview for a faculty position. Aside from sending resumes, dossiers and books, I knew there would also be an interview (or a series of them). I had no idea that presentations and/or readings would be required as well. We brought the poet to campus for a series of events this week, which will also include the poet visiting and conducting our workshop. MFA students were required to attend the reading and presentation this week, and it was very insightful. Not only did we get to hear the basic job interview questions (i.e. "What is your pedagogical style?"), but we heard some wonderful poetry and discussion regarding writing. I am really excited about workshop today to see how the candidate handles a classroom of strangers (and their work). Not only will the poet be working with the students in the workshop, they will have to endure a room full of faculty members and second-year poets watching the workshop. (As a side note, I have to admit I find this whole workshop equally terrifying on my end!)

Is there a discussion about job placement after your MFA is complete? What information or advice has been given to you about furthering your education and/or joining the job market? The faculty at UNCG are constantly reminding us that we should keep the post-graduation lectureships in mind because they want us to have a decent job after completing our MFA and they want to help us further our careers as writers and as professors (editors, etc.). It seems that though we aren't getting major career tips (i.e. workshops for resumes, job placement, etc.), we do have a lot of support in the form of networking and letter-writing. Writing should, of course, be a number one priority and outcome of your MFA, but jobs are part of reality. How have you been preparing yourself pedagogically (those of you interested in teaching)? What "next step" are you working toward?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plug for a new publication

Hello friends--

I hope you don't mind me stopping by to make a plug! A friend of mine will be launching a new literary magazine called Loose Change in the next couple weeks, and I know she would appreciate any good buzz we could drum up. More importantly--at least to us writers--they accept submissions on a rolling basis, and their intention is to start publishing both online editions and print editions. It's practically a newborn at this point, so funding is essential, but I'm hoping the Atlanta community will come through and support this publication. I think it would also help for them to receive submissions. Loose Change has been created by WonderRoot, a wonderful nonprofit in Atlanta, which is "committed to uniting artists and community to inspire positive social change."

Loose Change does not have a website yet, but they do have a splash page with information about how to submit or contact the staff with any questions. They accept all forms of artwork (fiction, nonfiction, lyric, sculpture, poetry, etc.). Basically, if you can publish it on the web or in hard-copy, they want it! I think this would be especially interesting for those who are interested in spoken word, as the online editions would allow you to showcase your work which may otherwise be ignored (or not accurately represented merely in print).

This publication was originally intended to only be available for Georgia residents. However, they decided it would be best to open up the submissions drive to everyone. So, if you're interested in helping a fledgling publication, as well as getting some attention yourself, I hope you'll take time to find out more about Loose Change. You can contact Cristina (cristina -at- loosechangemagazine -dot- org), the editor-in-chief, with any questions or to get the submissions forms.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Day of the Second Semester!

This break ended right when I was beginning to feel like I was going to lose my mind if school didn't start immediately. I had my Harlem Renaissance lit class today. This is my first grad level lit class (I took a lit journal editing class first semester) and I'm a little intimidated by the professor and my PhD student classmates. Hopefully that will wear off once we get into the discussions of the millions (exaggeration) of texts we're going to be reading. Seriously, last semester, I barely had any reading assigned at all and I was so jealous of everyone's lists of what they were reading. Well, I'm getting it now! The good thing is that this class requires a 20 page paper which I can use as a critical writing sample should I decide to apply for PhD programs in the future. So there's that.

Those of you who took lit classes last semester: do you think it informed your writing or did it distract from your writing? I'm expecting a little of both.

This semester we're workshopping at Rita Dove's house. So that happens for the first time on Monday and I freak out about it daily lol.

That's it for me. I turned in a poem to be workshopped on Monday and I'm involved in a love/hate relationship with the poem I want to submit next so I'll be back to report about workshop next week!

Good luck this semester everybody!

Dirty secret writing lives

Note: I'm going to keep this post short, since there are lots of awesome, recent new blog posts and I don't want to hog the top of the page. (And on an unrelated note, I hope y'all had pleasant winter vacations, too.) Okay, that being said...

I love poetry, and the more I learn about craft and literature, the more I expect from my own poetry (not that it ever delivers). But poetry (with a capital P) deepens constantly.

And yet this break I read a novel, Warlock (which is an amazing Western meets Plato's Republic meets the McCarthy hearings book by Oakley Hall), and I reread some awesome comic books (Zot, especially, by Scott McCloud). I mention this because this semester I'm taking a graphic novel workshop/seminar with Mat Johnson (Incognegro, under DC's Vertigo imprint, most notably--an excellent comic), and though I have not put any work into learning to write comics before, I had always kind of secretly believed it would be what I would do when I got out of school (before deciding to get my poetry MFA).

Any of y'all have mediums you secretly wish you worked in more (especially other kinds of writing)? Any of y'all think learning those other crafts will greatly inform your primary craft?

Application Crisis

Hi yall. I hope you're settling into your spring semesters well. I know that my students still don't seem to know what's going on! Hopefully next week, they'll have adjusted, since that'll be their first "normal" week.

But I don't want to talk about them, I want to talk about ME--in a permanent state of crisis! I'm starting to worry about what will happen AFTER my MFA, and I wrote about it over at

Click here!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Break is Dwindling down...

By Casey Tolfree

It's been a very productive winter break. I was a little nervous when the semester let out that I wouldn't want to do anything for the month. Just sit around, reread some book I'd read a million times already and veg, but that wasn't what happened at all.

I spent a lot of my first semester revising and I was tired. I needed something fresh and new to work on. What I really needed was the time to think about.

I took a writing prompt I'd written for my workshop and created a short story out of it. I consider myself a novelist so this was a great achievement. The first short story I've really ever written. You can check it out on my blog, it's called Reunion. After writing the short story I actually came up with an idea to change some plot points and add a lot more and created an idea for a novel based off the same character and a similar but not exactly the same situation. That's on my blog too (the beginning) it's called Ennui.

But the writing is always there. I have to write. Even if I don't put anything on the page, I'm always writing and rewriting in my mind all day. I read a lot over break. I started off with a cute book called Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs. It's the third book in the Friday Night Knitting Club series. It was nice to visit old characters.

After that I checked out A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore and Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy. Both were on the NYT Book Review Top of 2009. I don't read a lot of what is considered literary fiction and though I was interested in both books, they weren't all that exciting. The Moore novel felt like it wanted to be something it wasn't. It was reaching for something it couldn't quite get a grip on and the end came all too quickly and randomly. The collection of short stories was intriguing, though I felt most of them ended where they should've began.

I also read A Raisin in the Sun, it was homework for my African American Women Playwrights Class. It was a quick read but very in depth for a play. It almost read like a novel. I just started Don DeLillo's White Noise. We talked about him a lot last semester and I had never read anything of his, so I picked it up. Now I just have to finish it before next week. As someone who entered my MFA from a journalism program, I often feel I missed out on a lot of literature and I'm slowly trying to play catchup to the English majors. It's a process.

I'm excited for the semester to start. I missed my classmates a lot this break. Not only is the semester sure to be a blast but even better - the AWP conference is in April and I just bought my plane ticket. I have a lot of new and different things to present this semester and I can't wait to see how my classmates react to it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Long overdue!

by Whitney Gray

Whew--finally got around to writing a detailed report of my first semester in the UNCG MFA program. It was a long semester, and yet it flew by. I made it through with all A's (which is not an accomplishment), no drama and no tears.
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