Sunday, July 17, 2011

the little writer that could.

Hey, all. I posted back in March about my visit to Columbia and whether I would choose to go there, since I was waiting on one more (non-MFA) decision. I decided to go to Columbia....and then a week or two later, had a complete breakdown over financial anxiety and told them I wasn't going to go. I already have graduate degrees and I've been paying on them for 2+ years, and got overwhelmed at the thought of the staggering cost of tuition+books+living in NYC. I've paid my own graduate education up to this point, through grants/loans/workstudy and working part-time, and will be paying for my MFA myself - this isn't a case of mommy and daddy footing the bill, so I wasn't taking cost issues lightly. If anything, my family was super concerned about the debt I would incur. Everything I read online pointed me in a direction far, far away from NY.

We've all heard and read the horror stories about Columbia and the other NYC MFA programs, about being "cash cows" and rude admins and no funding, and so on - it could go on for days and multiple Facebook threads, as we're all aware. Maybe some people have even experienced this themselves. My experience, however, has been far from that. Ever since the beginning, with sending in my confirmation deposit, the School of the Arts and the larger institution have been nothing but helpful and accomodating through email and phone conversations. Being a naturally anxious person, I'm sure I drove them crazy, asking a ton of questions "just to make sure," and they always responded promptly, politely and with a note that it was no trouble.

Very long story short, I decided to go because of a funding offer that opened up that eased my financial worries considerably. Am I still taking out some loans, especially to live? Yes - but drastically less than originally thought. Is this the norm? Maybe not. Maybe this experience is the exception and not the rule, but I never would have known if I didn't take that plunge and try to go for it. It is really easy to get caught up in the funding maze and talk of different programs and debt, and make "practical" decisions in lieu of going balls-to-the-wall and taking a flying leap towards your dream. Of course, practical is necessary sometimes - I'm not advocating going 100k in debt for the sake of not being practical - but if a program is perfect for you, and doesn't necessarily offer full funding, you never know what may happen until you try. Apply. Talk with administrators. Meet with students. Get to know the financial aid, housing and student services people. If you get in, you don't have to go. Be honest with the school about your financial concerns, look at other aid sources and ask the financial aid people about other sources of money. As Tim Gunn would say, make it work.

Because what it comes down to, really, is finding the program that is the best fit for you. But if you really want a program that seems out of reach for financial reasons, it might be worth going for it and seeing what happens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Muzzle Magazine's 1-Year Anniversary Issue - Deadline July 15th

I generally try not to spam, but I am really excited that Muzzle (my love child/ magazine) is wrapping up a submissions period for our 1-year anniversary issue. I know there are a lot of up-and-coming writers who read this, and we'd love to see your work. 

Call for Submissions:

We are currently taking submissions for our 1-Year Anniversary Issue, scheduled to come out in late August 2011. We hope to honor the past year of extraordinary work that's appeared in Muzzle by putting out the most badass and gorgeous issue imaginable. We are enjoining you to submit your work so that we can reach this lofty goal. Submissions for our 1-Year Anniversary issue will close on July 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM (we're flexible on time zone).

We've had quite an exciting first year of publication. Muzzle has the distinct honor of being the only online literary magazine named as one of the ten best new magazines of 2010 by Steve Black at Library Journal in “LJ Best New Magazines of 2010: Ten new periodicals rise to the top.” Additionally, in a starred review published in January 2011, Steve Black called our little magazine "a fine literary journal of creative writing by people of diverse backgrounds that deserves to be linked to from catalogs in libraries everywhere." Our past issues have included stunning work from Roger Bonair-Agard, Marty McConnell, Rachel McKibbens, Marcus Wicker, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Jamaal May, Jonterri Gadson, and many many other talented folks.

Muzzle  publishes poetry, visual art, interviews, book reviews, and poetry performance reviews. To submit to Muzzle, please use our online submissions manager (and be sure to check out our submission guidelines).

We highly encourage everyone to read past issues of Muzzle prior to submitting. Everybody has aesthetic biases. For more information on what we're about, check out our  interviews at Six Questions for... and

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Boot Camp!

While most incoming MFA students this year are busy finishing up their jobs, spending time with old friends, and enjoying their summers, I’ve spent the last week in boot camp.

Most other programs either have some teacher training during orientation or train students during their first semester. But Florida State University is one of the few schools, if not the only, that has an extended summer training session for TAs, affectionately known as boot camp.

When I first found out that I would have to leave my job earlier than anticipated and not have any time off between work and school I wasn’t too happy. But the closer and closer I got to starting my training session the more I realized how relieved I was to be getting these 6 weeks of training before being tossed into a Freshman Comp class of my own.

FSU’s boot camp is designed for all English Graduate students with TAships who have less than 1 full year of college teaching experience. This year’s crew includes 30 incoming Masters and PhD students in Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, and Creative Writing: a diverse, intelligent, and quirky bunch.

We’re only a week in, but already things have been very busy. Between two pedagogy classes (one on general theory and one more specific to the classes we’ll be teaching) and an internship in a summer term freshmen comp class, there is a lot of reading, a lot of assignments, and a lot of class time. But there are also been parties, lunches, and faculty readings to attend.

It’s proving to be a really great transition period for me. Getting used to homework and managing my own time without traditional office hours has been a challenge (Homework or nap? Nap or homework?) But I’m glad I’m having a chance to get back into the swing of things now before the semester starts. Another perk has been the assigned reading of the books we’ll be using in the fall. Having lesson plans and readings as a priority now will inevitably make fall term much easier. And though I’m still nervous about teaching, I at least feel like I’ll have the right support, particularly all the current TA’s we’ve been meeting with and learning from.

At FSU all first year TAs teach First Year Composition. We have the option of picking one of several “strands” which come with syllabus outlines and assignment suggestions. The strand system is a great one for first year teachers. It gives us enough of a built in structure to make sure that there is consistency across freshmen comp. But it also gives us a lot of flexibility in picking a strand that works for us and in adapting it in ways that allow us to develop and compliment our own teaching style and interests. I already have my eye on a strand with a creative writing emphasis. We also have the option of designing our own strands and special topics to teach after our first year.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week so far. But despite my struggle to get used to having homework again, boot camp has been a lot more fun than its name implies.

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