Hi there loyal readers (if I have any)!
It has been quite awhile since I have contributed to this little blog of mine. So many things happen simultaneously and then I don’t make the time to write. However, now I have obtained a temporary to long term assignment as a Receptionist so there’s no excuse now.
I have seen many movies, read books, watched plays, and am currently dealing with bedbugs (fun). But I am committing to sharing more thoughts and the like to my bloggy.
As for temping, I find that it can be a crapshoot sometimes. You may be called for a long term assignment, they don’t like you so you’re canned and you’re not even told by them but by your recruiter. Or you can be at a long term assignment and it may take them Forever to make you permanent or if ever. Currently, I’m in a good position. Took over for the past two receptionists at my office in the past six months. I’m content that I am currently employed and can now save!
I’m also excited to be taking a writing class again. I’ve signed up with Gotham (it really is cheap) with a kool instructor (checked her out online) so hopefully, this fiction class will be better than the past ones. Well, it’ll be different because it will be the first female fiction instructor I’ve had at Gotham. Gotham is hit or miss with their instructors as well therefore I am hoping for the best.
And with that, I’m out! On to creating posts for this bloggy!
When I was in high school, I had a writing friend. She was writing a fictionalized account about her experience with a crush while I…can’t even recall if I was writing as much as she was.
Now that I am not participating in a writing workshop, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I proposed an idea in which we would get together, write (like with my other writing workshop) and then catch up. She gave me a book called Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors as a birthday gift years ago. I started reading the book about four years ago and never completed every exercise. This time around, I will fulfill my goal of reading this book from cover to cover – just like I did with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way three years ago.
Tuesday night I attended the last class in the summer cycle of my writing workshop. One person was not present for critiquing (which makes me wonder, real time conflict or resistance to listening to criticism? But I digress) and the other person was.
I must say I have never delved so much into another person’s work as deeply as I have in this workshop at FDCAC. What sets my instructor, Laura Pegram, apart from the other instructors I’ve had is her devotion and compassion for illustrating what sets mediocre stories apart from exceptionally written stories by respected authors in the writing world.
I read authors like Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, and Edwidge Danticat – all authors I’ve never heard of until this workshop. The introduction to different authors and styles aided my voyage to finding my voice on the page. I was exposed to the heavyweights in most of my classes like Mary Gaitskill, Margaret Atwood, John Cheever, Junot Diaz, ZZ Packer, and so on; this workshop exposed me to more authors of color that are probably well-known in literary circles but not familiar to me.
Apart from a fantastic instructor, my classmates provided very helpful and supportive feedback that I will use during my revision process. They were present in class, constructive comments, and most importantly, contributed useful suggestions when revising my story. Not just suggestions like, “If I would have written this, I would have included this…” but more on the lines of, “Perhaps a scene illustrating why she was feeling like this in the first place would make the end result clearer to the reader.”
I wish every writing workshop was like this and every instructor was like Laura! I cannot wait to take another workshop next month. FDCAC is what’s up! Gotham, take notes.
Marcela Landres suggested I check out the writing workshops at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Upper Manhattan (96th street). After she told me to “write better” without reading my writing, I collected myself, swallowed the criticism and made the decision to take a workshop. My ego did take a blow but my MFA submission wasn’t amazing; I can’t front.
This Saturday, there will be an open house from 3-7 pm in which prospective students can meet their future workshop instructors and also sign up for the classes there. The writing classes run for 8 weeks and the cost is a mere $200 (cheaper than both Sackett Street and Gotham). Acting, screenwriting, and playwriting classes are also available, all for the same price. Pretty sweet, huh?
I will be attending this open house on Saturday and I look forward to putting myself in a new environment. Additionally, there will be a guest speaker (not revealed on the website) so hopefully, the person will be a pleasant surprise.
As always, I will provide a play by play of the day’s events.
Have a wonderful day, everyone!
Since I have taken classes at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, I receive emails with helpful writing advice from writers as well as alumni news from the program. Recently, I read an email containing writing practices from Neil Gaiman. I read his advice and realized I had to share with my writing community. Enjoy.
Neil Gaiman has become so popular he is often considered the “rock star” of the literary world. He trades mostly in science fiction and fantasy in a variety of forms—novels, children’s books, graphic novels, comic books, and film. Among his trend-setting works: Coraline, The Graveyard Book and The Sandman series. He takes readers, of all ages, to the very edge of imagination.
8 Good Writing Practices
- Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
- Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
- Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
- Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
- Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
- Laugh at your own jokes.
- The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
February has started and will soon end in two weeks which means two things: acceptances and/or rejections.
March and April: Graduate schools have made their decisions by then and will be notifying folks of their status. Am I nervous? A little. I’ve been blogging, writing, talking, and dreaming about this for months now.
Will I go to San Francisco? New Mexico? Texas? Upstate New York? Massachusetts? Or I could be going nowhere. Which with the existence of low residency programs makes obtaining an MFA not as unobtainable. I have choices and its not the end of the world. Not that it would be if I weren’t accepted at all but there are other avenues to receive higher education. I guess I want the MFA for the experience, for the study of the craft in close quarters with folks who love writing as much as I do, and so I can have another degree because I can. Think about it. How many years ago were women not even allowed to enroll in university? The first college women were allowed to attend was in 1833 at Oberlin College in Ohio. If I have the opportunity to keep going, why not?
In the meantime, I have a memoir writing class I’m taking at Gotham until March 23rd (a day after my birthday!). Nothing like a class not in your genre to keep you busy.
I’m enjoying the class; the folks are on time and always prepared. Great feedback and kool instructor. Maybe I’ll write myself a memoir! But I’ll always be a lover of fiction fo’ life.
Can someone make this process into a science? The constant double checking of materials is never ending and the personal statements are all over the place. Why can’t graduate schools use the common application the way it was for some undergraduate applications?
I thought to myself, “Why is this so frakking stressful? I didn’t do any of this when I applied to college the first time around.” Then I remembered – my school adviser mailed all of my applications off. I didn’t do all this administrative work before and I hate it now.
Today, I spent the whole day visiting my school websites to figure out their personal statement requirements. The good thing is, most of them want a 200-500 count personal statement while only two ask for a 2-5 page minimum. Why can’t they all ask for uniform personal statements? The most important part of the application is my work of art anyway.
But I do have to say that the binder I allotted for all my application materials has significantly helped me through this. I write a note on each MFA checklist per school and stickers on the schools that accept online personal statements, which makes my life a whole lot easier when I mail out supplemental materials like the manuscript.
As for my manuscript, reading the speakeasy forums on the Poets and Writers website has significantly silenced any self-doubt that was constantly chatting in my head during this process. I don’t know if the doubt sprung from being critiqued by a friend who was trying to help that shot my ego into bits; being unemployed due to department lay-offs; having an interview for a publishing intern position and unsure if publishing is even something I genuinely imagine myself working in; or having cabin fever because all I’ve been doing is editing my manuscript for this application. For the past week, I was pregnant with dread, self-doubt, and anxiety. I always feel this way when my work is critiqued by a friend (but I never feel this way after a writing workshop critique) and when I’m about to embark on a journey that is bigger than me.
This Saturday, I attended a Write it Right! workshop administered by the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. This class focused on the functions of basic grammar starting with the noun and ending with bracket usage. The last hour of the class is a little fuzzy because I had stopped paying attention after semicolon usage. The class was very helpful; I feel confident and comfortable using the semicolon and comma in most sentences, like this one. In this class, the people in attendance were from all walks of life – more older than younger actually. One girl mentioned she was accepted into the Sarah Lawrence program and had to withdraw because it was so intense. My hypersensitive emotional state during this process was stimulated when she mentioned her experience; am I ready to dedicate my full attention to writing in an MFA program? After reading the speakeasy forum, I have the confidence to answer this question with a simple: Bring it on!
Writers have different experiences when they obtain their MFA degree. If and when I am accepted, the only thing I am certain of is that I’ll be surrounded by writers that can help me shape my writing. I’m taking my writing seriously for the first time in my life. It’s now or never.
I have had the privilege of taking workshops through Gotham and Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop. I like them both. I have received a lot of input from both workshops. However, there is a distinction in quality.
Gotham is great. It is affordable and you get a lot for your money’s worth. Where I find it lacking is sometimes the students. They were dedicated and motivated enough to enroll themselves in a writing workshop to reacclimate themselves to writing again or writing for the first time. It’s great to read different genres of stories and its great when some people really mark up your story from beginning to end with insightful and helpful comments. Then, there are some in which you don’t really receive a lot of comments or feedback other than, “I liked this. I didn’t like that. Get rid of this.” Sometimes, that isn’t always helpful. It feels like a lot of half-assing about. There was one workshop I recently took in which two stories were supposed to workshopped on say a Tuesday and the class received both stories that Tuesday morning. How unfair is that to both the writer and the reader? We need time to read, re-read, and re-read and mark up to be as helpful and possible and give all the feedback that can improve the work! Maybe I’m pontificating a bit here but I could not stand that. It has happened where students have emailed their work last minute (day of or day before) to have it critiqued. Maybe it happens in other workshops and I shouldn’t be too harsh on Gotham – but if its consistent, then the instructors should step in and be a little strict about it, is all. We are all here for writing. Let’s take it seriously.
At Sackett Street, I was amazed at how dedicated my instructor was to our writing and helping us. The structure was structured but lax – if that makes sense. She gave us a schedule of our writing submissions. If any of us were late by a minute, we would forfeit our turn to a random story she had for occasions like these. Needless to say, some of us were earlier than late! But the best part of that structure was that we really deeply revised each other’s work. Not to mention that we had to write our comments and have a copy for the instructor so we can become better critics! How awesome is that? I grew so much as a writer and got better at critiques in those six short weeks. The price is more for a smaller class and a more intimate setting. Not only were classes held in the instructor’s residence (which was nice) but we also received one-on-one sessions with our instructor a week after our story was workshopped. I think everyone should at least try out Sackett. Yes, it is pricier than Gotham but its attention is so focused on you and your writing, its totally worth it.
There are more writing workshops out there but give these a try. They cater to you based on your workshop writing expectations.