Friday, October 29, 2010

Advice for MFA Applicants

by Jennifer Brown

Hello everyone! I see that MFA application season is heating up once again. I have put together a few "if only I knew then what I know now" thoughts about fiction writing samples on my personal blog HERE.

Good luck everyone!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halfway through the first quarter.

Hey fellow MFA students! I haven't posted in a while, so just as a reminder, I'm Lindsay and I'm a first year in nonfiction at Ohio State. I'm about halfway through my first quarter of courses, teaching, etc. and I thought maybe it was time for an update.

I've spent the past few weeks wondering when I'm going to wake up and realize that I completely imagined all of the amazing things that have happened since I've gotten here. I feel so incredibly lucky to be where I am. My courses are amazing -- I'm taking a nonfiction workshop with Lee Martin (!) and I honestly leave every Monday evening feeling like a better writer than when I walked in. I have to take nine credits per quarter as a TA, so I'm also taking a literature course, which is also going really well, although I have to do my first ever annotated bibliography for next Wednesday and I'm kind of starting to freak out.

Writing is going really well. I hit a few road blocks when I first got here -- performance anxiety, I think. I was having a lot of trouble putting words on the page, but I turned in my first essay last week and we're discussing it in class tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm also really anxious about it. (What if everyone hates it? What if it's not good enough? You know, the usual.) I'm going to start sending out to literary magazines soon, I think, and I'm planning to submit to Creative Nonfiction's MFA Program-Off, depending on how revisions go between now and the deadline.

I feel like I'm even learning these amazing things outside the classroom. We have three incredible reading series -- the student/faculty series where second years read with creative writing faculty, Mother Tongue where the MFAs read their current work a few times each year, and our visiting writer series that brings incredibly talented people to campus. It seems like there's something going on almost every Thursday night, and every time, I feel like I learn something valuable. And it's also just a lot of fun.

And then there's teaching. I sometimes feel like I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but I really love being in front of a classroom. I'm excited to teach something other than comp sometime in the future -- creative writing, a literature-based composition course, a second year writing course, etc. The multitude of teaching opportunities is one of the things I love most about OSU. And the training we get is honestly unmatched.

Aside from the academic side of things -- teaching, writing, classes -- things are still amazing. The people in this program are some of the best people I've met in my life. I feel like I've known these people forever. They're incredibly talented, kind, funny, and generous; I'm especially blessed to be part of an amazing cohort of first year nonfiction writers who are talented in ways I never would have imagined and yet are not the least bit cutthroat about it. I couldn't ask for better colleagues. And on top of everything, they're fun. We go out for happy hours, pizza, karaoke; today a group of us went to a "Fall Fun Fest," complete with a hayride, a corn maze, and pumpkin picking.

And Columbus? Columbus. I'm a small town girl at heart and always will be -- I miss cornfields and traffic lights that blink after 10pm like you wouldn't believe -- but Columbus has a special place in my heart already. It's an incredible city and I've yet to be disappointed by its offerings. (Even the rumor of its lack of decent Mexican food has been debunked, now that I've discovered the multitude of Taco Trucks stationed around the city.)

So, basically, my fears from this summer were completely unfounded, and I'm so grateful to have this opportunity. Sometimes I really can't believe it's real.

On a semi-unrelated note, is anyone going to NonfictioNow? I'll be there, as well as three of my fellow OSU nonfiction writers. Let me know if you'll be there -- I'd love to meet any and all of you in person!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On ruthlessness

I don't think about ruthlessness that often. I don't particularly like the idea that the MFA is just time to write (I prefer to think of it as time to hone skills), and yet still, being in an intellectually stimulating environment, surrounded by writers--it's kind of hard not to write a lot. Sometimes even, perhaps, too much.

The problem isn't culling the good work from the bad, it's figuring out which good work is good enough (i.e. worth other people reading).

I didn't realize how lackadaisical I'd become in sorting this out until I got the workshop comment that a piece was uncontrolled. I wondered what that meant. Uncontrolled. Did that mean purpose-less or audience-less or uninteresting, perhaps even unreadable? Would someone look at that poem, read a line and move on? Or even worse, read the whole poem and then think "that was a waste of time."

For the past three days I've been revising new poems maniacally, and also taking a sixteenth look at other work I'd considered finished.

My question, then, is whether other people feel the need to be ruthless with poems otherwise, perhaps for too long, handled with kid gloves? Can you induce ruthlessness? Would you want to? Or prefer to nurture a piece until, naturally, you can't stand it not being good enough anymore--and it either gets there or gets trashed for parts?

Or are you already ruthless?

MFA DAY at Adelphi

So I don't know how many of you reading this are in the New York area, but Adelphi University is having its 1st Annual MFA DAY. It is being held Friday, Oct. 15th beginning at 9 a.m.

The day consists of an introduction by Program Chair Jacqueline Jones LaMon, followed by workshop sessions by genre. There is a Faculty reading and a Q&A with students in the afternoon.

Registration is FREE!!!

Here is the link if you are interested:
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