MFA: Year 1

The school year is over and I am a year and a half away from earning my MFA in Creative Writing. I can’t believe how quickly time flew! And it’s weird, because I had so many doubts when I decided to apply to different MFA programs. But I can honestly say that this past year has been both challenging and highly productive. I know that I grew as an author and I learned to be confident in what I bring to workshop and other classes. (Well, I’m confident most of the time. I still need to work on my poetry.) But overall, I can say that I’m happy with everything that has happened to me since moving to New Hampshire. Here’s a short review of my first year in the University of New Hampshire’s MFA program:

  1. Met a bunch of amazing people
    •  I met so many people who are passionate about writing and who want to see me grow as an author. It took very little time for some of my workshop mates to become good friends and valued readers.  This is probably one of the greatest benefits of pursuing an MFA or any degree really. Writing may seem like a solitary profession and in a lot of ways, it is. But the only way to improve is to receive feedback. Critiquing your own work is a skill every writer should have, but sometimes you need some outside person to help you along the way. And with the Internet, it’s easy to come across readers for you work. But I like to have face to face interaction. Plus, I always appreciate people who are up for drinking after a 9 am workshop.
  2. Had my first reading
    • I’m terrified of public speaking. I tend to thrive in smaller, intimate settings. But this year I wanted to break out of my comfort zone as often as possible. So, I decided to read at Read Free or Die, the school’s monthly MFA student reading event. Standing in front of the microphone and sharing one of my stories was such a nerve-wracking experience. It’s one thing to share my story in workshop, where I know it will be positively critiqued. But sharing my story with a roomful of people, some of whom are total strangers, is a completely different experience. But I pushed through my fears. And afterwards, a lot of people came up and complimented me and my story! But of course, with every high comes a low, which leads me to my next point.
  3. Had my first magazine rejection
    • (Didn’t I just talk about rejection in a previous post? I think I did, but I can talk about it some more here.) This may not seem like much of a highlight. But I’m one to see the silver lining in the clouds. There’s something satisfying about receiving a rejection from a magazine. Initially, I was heartbroken because I was certain my story was good enough for publication. But once the pain and disappointment subsided, a new sense of determination took over. I learned that receiving a rejection doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer. There’s a slew of reasons why my story could have been rejected. Maybe the magazine’s readers enjoyed my story, but knew it would’t be a good fit for the magazine. Maybe they received another story similar to mine and didn’t want to publish two of the same stories. Maybe they didn’t care about my story at all. Whatever the reason, I tried not to take the rejection personally. They didn’t hate me; they probably didn’t hate my story. And that’s okay. Because eventually one magazine will decide to publish my story.
  4. Won honorable mention for a writing award
    • I also talked about this award in another post, but this was a huge highlight from my first year! Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the awards ceremony because I was working at the time. But I was elated when my friend text me to tell me the good news! Like I mentioned in the other post, I didn’t expect to place at all. I was still wrestling with my own insecurities about my writing. But hey! Someone liked my story enough to give me an award, so I must be doing something right.
  5. Developed two novel ideas, which I hope to work on during the next school year!
    • With the arrival of summer, comes more time to do research and pursue ideas for novels that may or may not serve as my final thesis. I came into the program intending to write a novel because I wanted the challenge of having to create something massive like that. And I knew I wanted my novel to fall into the Young Adult genre because it’s what I love to read. My original idea has changed and is unfortunately being benched for the time being. But I do have two really great ideas that I want to work on during these next few months. One idea requires a lot of research and some of it is overwhelming, but also quite fun because I’m learning about moonshine, which is a topic that is seen a pretty rise in popularity. The other story idea requires quite a bit of work as well and is a much more emotional tale. But since I have more free time, I hope to have rough drafts for both novels completed by the end of the year.
  6. Learned that I’m a capable writing, though there are things I can improve on
    • Coming to the MFA program has made me a more confident person and writer. After my first time in workshop, my professor said that I was a natural storyteller. My friends and classmates praise my work. And honestly, it feels nice when I talk about a story and leave my friends a little speechless. But I can’t blow my own horn too much! There’s still a lot that I can learn and improve on. I’m a good writer, but I want to become an exceptional writer. And the only way to do that is to continue reading and writing. I have to block out every distraction and focus on my characters and stories. I’ve already grown so much since last August and I’m excited to see just how much more growth I undergo before my time in New Hampshire is over.

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