Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The cost of migration and the pleasures of teaching Mr. Green Jeans

Hi lovely writers,

I'm finally posting.
When I was offered a fellowship to UOregon in May, I was thrilled. Starting then, though, this avalanche of responsibility and personal expenses began and it has only just now started to slow. Money is one of the least interesting things in the world to discuss, in my opinion. However, it's a part a life and can serve as an inhibitor, a liberator, or sometimes a sordid combination of the two in seedier avenues. Let me be frank: moving across the freaking country is expensive. I love my MFA program. I love all the lovely poets and fiction writers I've met, my professors, even the clerk who works in my new favorite restaurant down the road. I love my new oddball neighbors and the fact that I have an abundance of ripe grapes in my backyard though I have no idea what to do with them. I'm thrilled to be here. But getting here, was expensive. It is in no way cheap to move your spouse, yourself, your dogs, your cat, and possessions 2500 miles away. I don't think I could have done it alone without racking up around 6K in credit card debt.

So, future applicants - when you're whittling down your lists this might be something you want to consider: "how much is it going to cost to get my ass to my new fabulous MFA program?" and plan ahead. It'll save you some headaches and some cash. My advice - if you're moving further than 1000 miles away, get rid of everything that's not breathing, sentimental, or readable.

Did I mention I'm happy to be here? I am, and I'm thrilled about the class I'll be teaching. One of the reasons UO's program is lovely is that all first year students teach some form of Creative Writing. Around 1/2 teach Intro and the other 1/2, including me, teach in a program called the Kidd Tutorial. Kidd is a course series for Junior and Senior undergraduates. The course is a multi-genre writing workshop / craft inquiry course. We read literature, craft essays, and discuss writing. My class is designated as having a poetry emphasis; much of what my students read and write will be poetry, but we'll also read and write creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and anything else I can come up with that I think will improve their writing. Plus, I keep the same five students all three terms this year, so I'm excited to see how their work and their thinking about writing develop.

One of the reasons I'm excited about teaching in the Kidd program is because I was initially concerned I might experience poetry burn-out if I was studying, writing, teaching, and reading poetry ALL the time. I do want the MFA immersion experience and think it will be great for me as a writer. Typically the way I've worked, though, is to immerse myself in all types of literature - I'm as influenced and inspired by fiction as I am by poetry. I'm excited I'll be teaching other writers how to learn from and to let themselves be influenced by other genres. Reading is a true pleasure, and as writers - it's our 2nd highest form of practice (next to ass in the chair, pen in the hand).

Next week's orientation; class begins later here - Sept. 29th. I'll let you all know how my first workshops and teaching sessions go. I've enjoyed keeping up with what's going on with everyone!



  1. Monica: I completely agree that people need to be aware of moving costs. Especially this past move, having to invest in a Uhaul trailer (regardless of the fact that we gave away ALL our furniture) was something I wish we could've avoided. But you can't help it, between accumulation of books, movies, clothes, cat stuff. Moving's just one of those things!

    After making two cross country moves in the span of two years (to and from Flagstaff, Arizona), I am glad to be settled back in the South where I plan on dying. Hopefully when I plan my PhD situation, I will not have to move more than a day's drive away. Location is definitely a limiting factor, but I'm always driven by place anyway.

  2. Moving costs are no joke lol. And it's especially horrendous when you have to consider other people/creatures and their comforts. I'm glad you made it and are settling in.

    The Kidd program sounds amazing!! I love what you get to teach and the fact that you get to keep the same students for 3 terms. I would have loved to have had that experience as an undergrad. Lucky them! So were you able to teach that instead of Intro to CW (which wouldn't have been bad either) because you had some teaching experience already or was it the luck of the draw?

  3. Wonderful to hear from you Monica. I can't agree more about how expensive it is to move cross country. Kidd Tutorials sounds pretty fun! Let us know about your first workshop (and Garrett Hongo...he is such a controversial figure). Yay for late starters! Soon we get to have fun!

  4. @Rachel- I love the South, too! Hope to settle in Chattanooga one day.

    @Jaytee - I believe the teachers with the MOST experience are assigned Intro, but I'm really not sure. Some of it's probablly the luck of the draw. I'm happy where I ended up!

    @Tory - I'll def. let you know how it goes, and you do the same. You'll be working with Henri Cole, won't you? I love his work. I'm teaching "Mimosa Sensitiva"... He's great!

  5. that is good advice to give. i thought about applying for stegner but i have a spouse and three cats, a house we'd have to sell etc and then the low chance of getting in? guess i'll stick it out in the south :)

  6. I remember researching the Kidd Tutorial Program. It sounded amazing. You'll have to let us know what you decide to have your student read.


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