I recently got my copy of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Tom Kealey back from a friend who borrowed it (and was accepted to Goddard College) and was transported back to two years ago when I was in the “MFA zone.” All I did was research, revise my story, research some more, talk to people, research some more, and prayed I’d get into an MFA program. When I was rejected by all seven schools, I took a break. But man, it was brutal to try to put yourself on the page, sell yourself, and want to study with other writers. Continue reading
My book club and the mountain of books in my room have me constantly reading. As ya’ll who read my blog regularly know, I completed three books in the past week! I’m on a roll and it feels so good!
I have to be careful though. I find myself rushing through the words like I’m in a race to finish as many books as I can this year. This is true but I’m reading like mad so I can enjoy the content and also be exposed to different writing styles; I don’t want this competition with myself to deter me from actually enjoying these books.
Recently, I read the short story, “Secretary,” written by Mary Gaitskill and at first read, I absolutely hated it. The character was completely unlikeable, she didn’t change at the end, and she stayed in the same place she was in the beginning – no arc, no nothing. After the story sat with me for a day, I was able to appreciate what Gaitskill painted in her tale. For one thing, the collection is titled Bad Behavior for a reason; I had an icky sensation after reading “Daisy’s Valentine” and “Secretary” which is why I hated this book for a full five minutes (maybe less, maybe more, I’m unsure) then this loathing went away. What place does the writer have to be in to create such depressing characters? I’m not hating on Gaitskill, I’m lauding her with the praise she’s received for her writing. The way she made me feel had me rushing to take a cleansing hot shower; now that’s deep. The reaction I had to her story was enough to show me this is what writers do – sometimes the stories stay with you and sometimes, they don’t.
Will I be able to create stories like her? I hope so.
As for writing styles, I’m reading memoirs, literary and contemporary fiction to get an idea of what I like and what I’d like to write. After reading King’s Blockade Billy, I realized how much his writing has affected my own work; the journey to find my voice has begun and I’m so excited to perfect it.
This is why reading like a maniac is absolutely amazing.
Author: Frank McCourt
Publisher: Scribner (2005)
Frank McCourt’s third memoir, following ‘Tis, was about the years he spent as an English and Creative Writing teacher. The schools he taught at were: McKee Vocational and Technical School on Staten Island, Seward Park High School, New York Community College in Brooklyn, and Stuyvesant High School.
The book is sectioned off based on the places he taught at in order from McKee and ending with Stuyvesant. Continue reading
Author: Haruki Murakami
Published by: Vintage International (2009)
Murakami has run marathons for about twenty years and this book are his musings during marathon training. He seamlessly discusses the life of a writer and how running every morning aids his writing process.
When a writer friend suggested this book to me, I said to myself, “When I read this book, I’m going to train again.”
After the completion of Murakami’s memoir, I am focused on my goal to complete a full marathon. This year I am not eligible to run in the ING NYC marathon but I am going to join a running class to keep me motivated.
Diligence, determination, and discipline: three tools prominent in Murakami’s memoir that I can use to be successful in both my writing practice and marathon training.
This book can appeal to everyone because apart from being a memoir about running and writing, it’s also a memoir about Murakami’s life (well, a part of his life). He’s witty, honest, and candid about his running and writing career; his forthrightness is respectable because he’s not trying to be anyone he’s not – just himself.
I devoured this book in two weeks (or less, I think which is a record for me because distractions come up often for me) and it’s a pretty small book.
Anyone interested in Murakami, reading, writing, or memoirs, pick the book up. You will not be disappointed.
My reading habits have changed recently. I’m not sure if it’s the change of my living situation, taking my writing seriously, or the fact that I’m applying to obtain my MFA degree for the second time around that’s been a direct result of reading more.
I do more reading at home now. Before, I’d only read on the commute into Manhattan. Now, I read prior to going to sleep as well as on the train. I read before bedtime that last year but then I got busy or I was wasting time on the Internet.
I’m on roll this year as well – reading and writing different genres. Could this be what grad school is all about? I shall see!
What kind of reading habits do ya’ll have?
Last night I met up with my amazing writing group that I procured when I took my Memoir writing class at Gotham in the spring. It was the first time I put myself on the page, authentically and I was scared. I didn’t have any negative expectations but I didn’t know know what to expect. The support and feedback I did receive was absolutely what I needed. This group has fueled my decision to continue with my future memoir. When I’ll complete it is another story. Then it makes me wonder if I should be getting my MFA in memoir writing rather than fiction.
I think my fiction needs more work than my memoir writing. I’m more comfortable with memoir writing and still frigid with my fiction. I don’t know why my fiction suffers while my non-fiction flourishes. Is the universe telling me something? I don’t know.
Eventually, my fiction writing will grow with my creative non-fiction work. I just have to be honest with the material like my own material.
For Independence Day, I decided to spend the day at Coney Island. I cannot recall the last time I went to visit and had been meaning to go in a very long time.
First stop: the Coney Island Aquarium. This visit was inspiring, fun, and delightful. We watched a sea lion show, sharks, jellyfish, walruses, plankton, and more. My first thoughts after exiting? I want to own fish; I don’t want to eat them anymore.
They were absolutely adorable and lovable. Why do people eat these fish? Well, I know why but I am going to look into owning fishes or just one nice, colorful fish.
Second stop: the famous Cyclone. As a New Yorker, I was ashamed that I had never been on this ride before. Luckily, I was riding with a newbie as well, as it was her first time even visiting Coney Island so that was kool. The ride had amazing dips (I’m a sucker for rollercoaster rides; I love them!) but on the up, very bumpy and rocky. The ride gave me and my friend a headache because it was all over the place. My thoughts? Six Flags Great Adventure is so much better than this. Off my list of things to do.
Third stop: the Coney Island Freakshow. Super duper kool, right? Our host’s name was Donnie Vomit. His act consisted of hammering a nail and drilling into his nose. The rest consisted of a sexy woman swallowing swords, fire, and blowing fire into the air. Not to mention another woman who danced with a snake and the British man with short arms who can play a mean snare. My thoughts? I’ve got to come back and maybe write some of this stuff down! What a story I can create about the people who do this stuff!
Last stop: Sheapshead Bay. My other friend, who joined us later, took us to another section of Brooklyn where there are swans in the lake and we walked through gorgeous residential areas of this section. I didn’t realize how beautiful my borough was. We ate at El Greco Diner, which wasn’t amazing but decent and had a pleasant walk to the Neptune Avenue stop on the F train. My thoughts? Brooklyn is Awesome!
I love my borough and I’m so glad I chose to do something else other than find a roof to watch the July 4th fireworks. Don’t get me wrong; I like watching fireworks as much as the next person but each year has been lackluster for me. I never remember the fireworks the day after and the day is always a wash because I end up scrambling my plans for thirty minutes of fireworks. Today was different and I have inspiration to write a story about burning my feet in the sand today or the frenetic energy at the beach.
Everything can be written into a story. This is what being a writer is all about.
Looking forward to next July 4th. I’m going to make it as memorable as this year’s.
I started out in fiction and am thinking of indefinitely branching out to writing non-fiction. Here’s the thing: I have a warm place in my heart for fiction even though I rock the socks off when I compose a non-fiction piece. In my head, anyway.
I’ve been looking at low residency MFA programs and have been eliminating choices based on the lack of both genres, tuition, admission deadlines, and recommendations (one school wanted a rec from a published author!). I would love to have the opportunity to do both. Can I apply to both and see which program accepts me? It’ll be like double applications for me though.
What I love about fiction is taking something real and adding ingredients like personality, quirks, likes, dislikes, wants, conflict, plot, characters, and sometimes theme (but not in that order) to create a tale about anything in particular.
I wrote down subjects I’m obsessed with as well as I’m constantly thinking about to write a story. This exercise took a long time. What I culled from this exercise was a possible story surrounded by a bunch of notes about the plot, person, back story, and everything in between. I was excited. But did I sit down to write it? No. I spent ninety minutes writing these ideas down so I didn’t have any more time to start. The next time I sit down to write, it’ll be a first section or chapter of this story. Embarking on a new journey with a new character has me pumped and ready to take on the world. I don’t know how long I’ll be with this character but I’ll be living with her for a while. It’s my introduction to her.
Non-fiction doesn’t provide me with this thrill; I write about my life effortlessly as I do now without so much as the blink of an eye.
I guess I’ve made my decision in this entry. Fiction it is! Now I have to tweak the frak out of my stuff.
When I go away to Greece, I will create a game plan on admin stuff but not spend too much time on it (like last year). The good thing about last year was I created a functioning system and now it won’t be work.
On to writing fiction, I go!
It’s May and I have no idea what I’m going to submit for my applications!! I have the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel, a story I wrote in my creative writing class during college, and also something memoir like from my recent class. I have no idea which one to work on because I’ve been caught up doing too many activities.
Well, next week, I will be in Greece where I’ll be enjoying the sun, food, environment, and everything else in between. I won’t be thinking about the applications but I will have to worry about them when I get back.
Oh me, oh my – the things I do!
My memoir writing class is over and I’m going to miss my Tuesdays with my instructor. However, because the class’s chemistry worked so well, we have decided to create our own writing group which I cannot wait for! I’ve never been a part of a writing group before so this will be a new thing. Not only will I be motivated to continue writing after the class is over but I’ll be surrounded by writers that are as dedicated to their craft as well. This is exactly the kind of group that will be helpful during my final three rejections (I know what’s up, I’m not gonna front) which will be a reminder of how much my writing has grown since I applied (which feels like it was ages ago).
On the rejection front, remember the classmate that was accepted to the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa? It will sound like I’m hating on her (which I’m not because I didn’t want to apply to Iowa – the frak am I gonna do out there anyway?), but she shared with us how the school reneged on the funding they promised her which is messed up. What I don’t understand is how such a reputable school known for providing full funding during the three year MFA program would pull such a stunt? Does this happen every year and is this a ploy to have her reject their offer? I would hate to be in the position to pass up an opportunity to work in a concentrated environment because I couldn’t afford it. I want this to work out for her because its the University of Iowa – a really good school and if she was accepted, then her writing will only get that much better.
As for me, I haven’t heard word from any schools. I called up both San Diego University and San Francisco State University which both told me they don’t know when the Creative Writing department will start notifying students. I told the Admission folks, “Can you just tell me if I’m in or out so I can move on with my life?” They laughed me off and apologized for not knowing. I hate this waiting. Luckily, my eventful birthday month (coming to a close soon) has kept me in high spirits as well as planning a vacation in May and visiting a friend of over a decade in Dallas. I can’t complain; my life has been effervescent and gleeful since the beginning of the year. Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs (we all do) but I’m not depressed and I’m still writing, which is very important.
I look forward to my writing group and my future because man, the light is so bright, it’s hurting my eyes!