Last Class - Writer's Digest

Last Class

Publish date:

I always love the last week of the semester because we spend the entire class reading student work. Throughout the semester, all of our classes are conducted in the same format: the students sit in a semicircle around the professor. But during the last class, we students take turns sitting in the professor’s chair when it’s our turn to read our work. I don’t know why, but this always seems to formalize the process: it reminds you that you are writing for a real live audience; that the words you compose are not for you alone. I think that in order to write effective fiction, you can’t ever forget that.

In both my classes this year, the caliber of fiction I heard was outstanding, and I felt really proud to be included in such a great group of writers. The diversity of voices and narratives reminded me once again just how many rooms there are in the house of art. I heard stories about broken families, death, love, pet stores, an ice house full of witches, an old man making his last run on a jet ski, the Marines, autism, classic cars, a taxidermist, baseball, and so much more.

After class, we went out to the bar(s) down the street from Columbia. I spent too much money, drank too much beer, and stayed out way past my bedtime. But that’s one of the best parts of an MFA program: the friends you meet. The obvious benefit of the program is that it’s helped to improve my writing, but another thing I’m grateful for is that it’s also helped to me step outside my normal social circle and get to know people from all over the country and from all walks of life. The friends I’ve made in my program are as diverse as their writing. It’s funny, because as a high school teacher I noticed how quickly friendships form for my kids over the course of a school year. Young people are constantly meeting each other and building relationships, some of which will fade, but others which will become lasting friendships. But when you grow up and become an adult, you have your established friends (and I’m lucky to have an amazing group of those already), but you don’t really meet new people or make new friends the way you once did.

But going to grad school, and especially arts school where it’s basically a requirement to lay your heart on the page each week, changes all that. I know that many of the relationships I’ve formed over the past two and half years, both with teachers and fellow students, will carry on in my life long after I’ve received my degree.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

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 cleaning poem.


New Agent Alert: Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


5 Tips for Writing Scary Stories and Horror Novels

Bestselling and award-winning author Simone St. James shares five tips for writing scary stories and horror novels that readers will love to fear.


On vs. Upon vs. Up On (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use on vs. upon vs. up on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


7 Very Specific Reasons Why I’m Excited for the 2020 WD Conferences

WD Editor-in-Chief Amy Jones explains why she's excited for the 2020 Writer's Digest Conferences, which are happening virtually November 5-7, 2020.


Sierra Magazine: Market Spotlight

For this week's market spotlight, we look at Sierra Magazine, the bimonthly print and online environmental publication of the Sierra Club.


Jonelle Patrick: Writing Edgier Than Bookshops and Cats

Novelist Jonelle Patrick discusses writing about a country she loves and the importance of both readers and editors.