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First Week

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

I’ve always been a pretty messy person, but every September when I was growing up, I remember how excited I’d get about my pristine new school notebooks and my perfectly sharpened pencils. I once thought this was a symptom of my nerdiness, but certifiably cooler friends of mine have told me they felt the same way. It makes sense: the newness of those school supplies represented a new year full of possibilities: you were going to get straight A’s; you were no longer going to ride the bench on the basketball team, you’d finally figured out what to do about your hideous bangs and dork glasses [this is completely hypothetical, of course], so now boys were going to like you and you were going to be popular. This was going to be your year!

I’m older now, so a lot of that naïve giddiness is gone, as are, thankfully, the bangs and the angst. But as I begin my third year at Columbia, that hopeful sense of possibility remains. This semester, I’m taking Advanced Fiction and Short Story, two intense classes with heavy workloads. Here’s what I need to get done after my first week of classes:

1.Read Heinrich von Kleist’s “The Foundling”, D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Junot Diaz’s “Fiesta”, Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, Louise Erdrich’s “Red Convertible,” Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”, and several other short stories

2. Read Joyce Carol Oates’ essay “Reading as a Writer”

3. Two page typed up journal response to one of these readings

4. Typed up dream journal

5. Handwritten journals

6. Turn in a piece of writing, either from something you developed in class or something you’ve been writing on your own (I’m turning in a short story I’ve been working on since the summer)

7. And, of course, keep writing, blogging, journaling, thinking, and reading.

Did I mention that this is the workload of a part-time student?

I’m not going to complain, though. I signed up for my MFA to be challenged, to be pushed to my creative and intellectual limits. Will I have my moments this semester when my own students’ papers are piling up, work is stressful, I’m averaging four hours of sleep a night and I miss my family and my friends, my TV shows and my couch? Absolutely. But right now, I’m feeling excited, engaged, and alive!

Good luck to everyone who’s back in school, and happy writing to EVERYONE!

What are you writing goals for this week/month/semester/year?

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5 Responses to First Week

  1. Dana says:

    BTW, thank you for the specific info from your class (reading list). We all would appreciate more specific info about what happens in those classes :)

  2. Dana says:

    I like where you say:

    "you’d finally figured out what to do about your hideous bangs and dork glasses so now boys were going to like you and you were going to be popular."

    This doesn’t ever go away for a lot of people. It just turns into "I finally figured out what to do with my novel so now agents are going to like me"

    This kind of thing makes me sick and ashamed of writers who fall into that trap. It’s a lot of people who read Writers Digest. Just look at the story titles: "How to Get an Agent to Notice You."

    Gross. Puke.

    Please don’t let this happen to you.

  3. Sara says:

    This was a fun poast to read. Back to school is something I miss – it’s like life’s refresh button. Dan pointed me to your blog, and I just bookmarked it! Good luck with your assignments, and I look forward to reading more in the future.

    (P.S. I am Dan’s friend from college & I visited your place not too long ago for his engagement party.)

    As for goals: I need to start a new blog up. I canned my old one, and I miss writing.

  4. Katie says:

    I always get super excited about new notebooks and pencils, too.

    As for writing goals, right now I’m lucky if I can find a spare minute to add a few hundred words to anything, so they are (unfortunately) temporarily put on hold.

    <>< Katie

    PS: This robot-prevention feature thinks I’m a robot…

  5. Robin says:

    Wow, your classes sound just like heaven, wish I was back in school working on all of that! Enjoy!

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