(Art by John Millar Watt; “Why, oh my, Madam School Year, the pleasure is all mine.”)
In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.”
375. “What Are You Looking Forward To, or Dreading, This School Year?”
This is my last year in the MFA program at The New School. I am currently halfway through the second to last semester, and there are countless more assignments and readings to do before Christmas break. Next semester will see my creative thesis (narrative) come to life, as well as my literature project (an essay), and I am looking forward to writing both. That said, friends and family have already begun asking me that ever so innocent question, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” What I dread most — not desperately, but with mental irregularity — is actually finishing school.
I wish I could read more in less time. It’s not that I want to read fast; I enjoy perusing texts. It’s that I want Time itself to slow down with me as I read.
Anna Karenina serves as a beacon of light, in my second to last semester of school, as I approach the novel’s end. One and a half more parts to go. (Levin and Vronsky have met yet again, and this time seem pleasant together, too pleasant…). I look forward to finishing the book, along with The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Give Me Everything You Have — the memoir written by the professor whose seminar “Style, Form, and Meaning” I am reading all these books for. My workshop professor’s novel, For Rouenna, I also want to read before Christmas break.
Sigrid Nunez will be my thesis advisor, and I am absolutely thrilled. I felt nervous asking her to guide me through the writing of my thesis, like I were asking someone out to prom; I don’t know why. She is a stick of dynamite in class, always referencing theater and music when giving critiques (which cut to the bone, as if she not only read your weekly assignment, but read through the ink on the page to the very fingerprints that typed the words). She understands my writing (more than I do sometimes), and I am honored to work with her next semester for my creative thesis.
Our degree also calls for a non-fiction project, an essay on any aspect of literature. For this, I might explore the workshop experience (given how the number of workshops, and tuition for attending them, are rising). Something about the pros and cons of workshopping, not sure, not having fleshed out the idea much. But I’ve taken a lot of notes, and certainly have been on both ends of criticism, from constructive, to destructive.
What I dread (eek), and must come to terms with is actual graduating. I haven’t thought about sending invites yet. But it would mean a lot to see the people I love in the city I love for doing the thing that I love: which is writing, studying, and teaching. It’s pretty far away (May?) but still. If a boy could dream, then I would apply for the Center of Fiction‘s writing fellowship. They are this cool little non-profit safe-house engine for creative writers in New York. Every year they honor a handful of artists with a fellowship, which includes mentorships, meetings with agents, a community, and of course a bit of money and a chance to read one’s work. It would basically be an MFA semester, but sponsored by this reputable non-profit, and without the intensive weekly workshops. I have been sneaking in to their library an hour or so every other week to scope out the historic book section and read their magazines. They have — and this is a recommendation to any writer in New York — a massive collection of literary magazines (all the magazines), which is fun to peruse. And in their historical section, they have two books I am saving up to buy: an illustrated copy of The Three Musketeers, and a tiny, one out of one-hundred hand written copy of The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, originally written in 1120, plated in gold leaf, and lapis lazuli looking ink, and…uuuhhhhhhh yes…but for like $70 bucks or something.
So that’s that. Ups and downs, forward tos, and dreads. Let the fall commence!