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
Publisher: Spiegler and Rau (2010)
Wes Moore is about two men with different fates. Both grew up without fathers, have mothers who wanted to raise them in better environments, and started out rebellious. One of them landed in jail while the other is a Rhodes Scholar. Continue reading
Author: Rebecca Walker
Published by: Riverhead Books (2001)
Rebecca is the product of a biracial and bicoastal home. In her memoir, she recounts her sexual experiences, her identity crisis (is she white, Jewish, or black?), and everything in between.
What is missing in her memoir are the spaces in between – there weren’t enough instances where the reader (well, this reader anyway) was too involved in her story. There was an emotional distance prevalent in the tale. The writing wasn’t particularly salient, novel, or fresh. There were run on sentences that drove me crazy or places that were incomplete.
As a person of color myself, I was able to relate to her identity crisis (am I American or Dominican, or both?) but I wanted more. She was the daughter of a famous and well-renowned African-American author; why didn’t we hear more about that? I comprehended this book was about her and not her mother but Alice Walker was her mother, after all. She also recounted many friends from the different coasts she lived from year to year – which I could not keep track of for the life of me.
This book was lacking insight; I kept thinking, “Okay, so what?” Almost like an essay with a good thesis statement and not enough examples to prove her point. A decent portrait of her childhood but not enough to keep this reader vastly interested in her story.
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.
This morning, I finished a short story for my writing workshop. I was enchanted and completely involved in my story like I’ve never been before. I was lost in the story, I liked what I was writing, and although I know the tale has many places where it can benefit from some description, the first draft is complete. The only place to go from here is the revision state.
I was in the revision zone last year with a piece I had workshopped in so many places and the result was a polished story lacking emotion. I read the manuscript myself a few days ago and was impressed with how I crafted my tale but as for impact, there was none.
With this story, I can build on it without making my message saccharine but truthful and honest. My goal is to put myself entirely on the page, which I was unable to do with my piece for MFA applications.
I have officially decided to put aside applying for an MFA degree this year; I’m having too much fun writing both creative non-fiction and fiction to worry about application deadlines. The good news is I can attend university open houses and start saving for school when I apply for 2012. Seems so far away but time will fly.
I’m focusing all my energy on my craft and also running, but that’s another entry (when I finish Marukami’s book) so I will be busy this fall.
How’s everyone about to apply this round doing? Psyched? Scared? Who’s taken the GRE? I’m so glad I never have to take that test again!
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.
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!