Saturday, May 29, 2010

End o' year thoughts

by: Raina Lauren Fields

Whew! What a semester! If you’re interested in reading about wrapping up: my first year of graduate school, my first semester of teaching, getting engaged, and what I think is in store in fall 2010, then read on!

This semester, I took:

Poetry Workshop – Erika Meitner
Editing a Literary Magazine – Bob Hicok
Practicum – Matthew Vollmer
Modern African American Fiction – Virginia Fowler

Classes were stressful this semester. I took my first graduate literature course and felt in the dark, a lot of the class. It was a lesson into what I need to do to step my game up in these literature classes in the future. We read a lot of great literature – some of which I read before, but with a much more refined eye to the texts: Gwendolyn Brooks’ Maud Martha, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, were just a few of the books we read during the semester.

Poetry workshop went smoothly and I felt like this semester was a breakthrough in my level of writing. Unfortunately, none of the pieces I produced this year were published in any literary magazines or journals, but I hope with some work and some love that I can place them somewhere in the future.

The literary magazine course I took involved reviving The Minnesota Review, a leading critical magazine’s work and bringing up the status of the literary work that is presented in the magazine. I read slush for the poetry section, along with several of my classmates. I also was involved in researching marketing and advertising opportunities. Next semester, I will act as the General Editor, providing support and guidance to the publication. In addition, my classmates and I have started an online literary magazine under the guidance of Bob Hicok. While it’s not formally affiliated with the MFA program (in that it’s not being funded by the university), it’s a great learning experience in the inner workings of a magazine.


Teaching…is hard. For the spring semester, I taught one section of Virginia Tech’s ENGL 1106: Writing with Research. Side effects included student drama, continued feelings of overwhelm and fatigue, and dear God, what did I sign up for! Next semester, I will be teaching two sections of ENGL 1105: Introduction to College English. This summer, I’m spending some time to get together my syllabus, lesson plans, and researching different exercises and activities that are not only intellectual but fun.


I went to AWP in Denver! I was a blast! Met a ton of great folks, including some of my poetry idols, Rita Dove, Allison Joseph, and Patricia Smith. I spent way too much money at the book fair, but the only consequence of that is being smarter! (Oh and a smaller wallet, but you win some and you lose some). I also was on a panel entitled “The 21st Century MFA student.”

I am back in VA after two weeks of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, which took place in College Station, TX – also known as Aggieland, also known as the town of Texas A&M. I’ve never experienced workshops like that ever before. Every day was emotional, every day was learning something new not only about your poetry but yourself. I am so thankful from that experience and am still decompressing and still writing.

Nest semester, I hope to get more involved in and out of the department by volunteering, tutoring, etc. I've also started the ground work for a professional certificate that I could complete by Spring 2012, but am playing with the idea of trying to design my own certificate in education. Not sure if the graduate school will buy it, but there's always trying!

Oh, there's that pesky thing called a thesis I'm starting to think about. And always mapping out what will happen in the future, once I've finished this darn MFA. But I'm trying this new thing called "living in the moment," so let's see how that goes.


For Spring Break, my boyfriend and I visited Paris and London. It was a great, romantic trip. We also got engaged in Paris! My fiancé, Ross, and I had been dealing the effects of a long distance relationship since I started my MFA program in the fall. (He’s in NJ, I’m in VA – an 8-hour distance). He also works full time, so seeing each other more than once a month, just isn’t an option. Methinks we will be getting married Summer 2012, though no date is set yet.

Ross recently got into the MFA program in poetry at Virginia Commonwealth University with full funding! We are now going to be 3.5 hours apart, which is much better!

Hopefully, I’ll be spending the summer in NJ with Ross, though finding any semblance of a summer job is so difficult. I do need to keep up with my apartment and my car payments, so I’m praying something goes well. I have a few internship offers in NY, which I’m really grateful for, but they would be unpaid and it may not be practical to do something like that now.

So, we shall see!

Congrats to everyone who finished their first year! We did it!


  1. good lawd! you would think you lived a lifetime with all that you accomplished this year! I can't wait to see what this next year brings you!

  2. What a year!

    "researching different exercises and activities that are not only intellectual but fun" I think is the best possible thing, for teaching intro writing. Make it smart and fun and the students will reward ya!

    Glad to hear you're having a productive writing summer...

  3. I echo Josh and JayTee's sentiments. And I'm so happy to hear that you're going to be closer to your fella from now on! Congratulations!

  4. Thank you so much, everyone! And congratulations on your many accomplishments this year as well!

    Enjoy the beginnings of summer!

  5. I'd love to hear more about the material you find for teaching comp. I'm teaching comp in the fall for the first time at a community college and really want to get ahead of the game :)

    And getting engaged in Paris = awesome!


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