Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Brief Dispatch From MFA Land

Why, hi there.

It's been over two months since I last updated this blog. One of my last posts explained this: I'm currently in my first semester at Roosevelt University, on the first leg of my MFA candidacy in Creative Writing. While I had hoped to do little "snapshot" updates over the course of these months, that hasn't happened. But I wanted to write something, for god's sake. I was honest when I said I wasn't giving up on this blog, just that doing five book reviews/personal essays a month was impossible, given my jam-packed workload of reading, class writings, workshop editing, and edits, edits, edits. On top of that, I'm one of the student editors of Oyez Review, the MFA program's literary magazine (issue #40 is above; I'm currently editing and reading submissions for #41, coming this spring).

I'm also going to be doing two blog posts for the Oyez website. I'll update those here when they're published. A slight preview of my first blog post: after reading submissions for a solid month, I want to find the editors who sent me detailed, kind rejection letters. And I want to hug them profusely. With a small team of student readers, the workload has been immense. I can't imagine the work that goes into reading for a journal that publishes all year. So when I received rejection letters accompanied by kind notes, I was appreciative, but now, I'm even more touched. The unpaid hours are really, truly done out of love and dedication. So to take the time to send a small, personalized note when time is precious shows just how dedicated the editors of my favorite journals really are.

Some other notes:

1.) The new director of Roosevelt's MFA program is writer and novelist Christian TeBordo. When I found out he was coming to the program, that's what sold me, and I'm pleased to note that his writing skills and personality are in equal abundance. He's nicer than I could have imagined, and he really, truly wants to make the program as good as it can be. So I feel like I've started at the perfect time.

2.) My fellow first year MFA candidates are talented people. There's no competition, but rather a true sense of community and a shared goal of helping each other become better writers. We're very honest with each other, and there are never any hard feelings. And even though we've been together just over a month, there's been a marked improvement overall. I'm sure there will be steps back and steps forward for all of us, but for an opening month, this has been a terrific experience. And for fuck's sake, I need to stop using passive voice. That's been one of my biggest problems as a writer, and seeing this pointed out consistently has helped.

3.) On Monday, October 7th, Lindsay Hunter gave a reading at Roosevelt. As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm a serious fan of her writing, and I was beyond excited about this opportunity. Not only did I get to meet her and hear her read (if you ever have the chance to attend a Lindsay Hunter reading, go. Just go. Her performances are equally stunning and hilarious), but she sat in on our Fiction Workshop. She offered assessments on my story, was encouraging and honest, and she's a very careful reader. To have one of my favorite contemporary writers discuss my own work with me was unexpected a few weeks ago and a reality just this past Monday. I was honored. The photo below was taken for the Roosevelt Creative Writing MFA blog.

4.) I won a $1,000 spring semester scholarship for the above story. An organization called Friends Of American writers offers this scholarship every year to a first year MFA candidate. I was humbled. I guess in a way, it's the first time I've been paid for my writing, in a roundabout way. Actually, not really, but every little bit of cash helps right now.

5.) Two classmates said my story reminded them of George Saunders. I was touched and deep down wanted to say "easy there, tone it down. I'm not even within a couple galaxies of his talent." But it was just an overall assessment on tone and style, and I was touched, even though I was heavily skeptical.

So this is just a random smattering of what I've been up to as of late. I don't want to promise more consistent updates, because whenever I make any kind of promise via this blog, that's a virtual guarantee that said promise won't be kept at all. But I'm happy, a bit overworked and dazed, but overall on the way to where I want to be as a person and as a writer. And the ultimate catch-22: I'm making progress on my writing but have no time to work on things not related to school. I better keep my ass moving during Thanksgiving and Christmas break, yeah?

More updates soon! Just not sure when, exactly.

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