Skip to main content

First Week

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?

A Conversation With Jaden Terrell on Writer Expectations, Part 1 (Killer Writers)

A Conversation With Jaden Terrell on Writer Expectations, Part 1 (Killer Writers)

Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford continues his series of interviews with mystery, thriller, and suspense authors. Here he has a conversation with novelist Jaden Terrell about writer expectations and success.

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Writing for oneself after a decades-long career as a ghostwriter is a challenge unto itself. Here, author Daniel Paisner discusses his career as a ghostwriter, how the process differs from writing his own work, and if the two ever intersect.

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Sensitivity readers offer a very specific and focused edit to manuscripts. Here, C. Hope Clark shares what a sensitivity editor is, how much it pays, and where you can start.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 615

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a desire poem.

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top writing advice websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Love the Art. Work the Business. | Nikesha Elise Williams

Nikesha Elise Williams: On the Power of Self-Publishing

In this indie author profile, novelist Nikesha Elise Williams shares her path to self publishing and the creative marketing strategy that's led to her success.

Change of Plans

Change of Plans

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, there's been a sudden and unforeseen change of plans.

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

Author Ashley M. Coleman gives you her top five tricks for writing about the music industry—even if you're not an industry expert.