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But I also have remained aware of the problems within academia: there is a food pantry for graduate students in the room across from my office, for example, a lack of diversity within my program and many others, and a job market that dwindles every year.
I thought without suits to button my body into, I would be free to exist. When consulting with people about how to apply to Ph D programs, Deena El Genaidi’s advisor tells her to play up her minority status in her personal statement.
El Genaidi explores the problematic and pervasive nature of this advice, while also discussing what it means that minority students and people of color are encouraged to use their trauma in order to be admitted into academic programs.
It’s time to do away with this distinction between the MFAs and the non-MFAs, the unfree and the free, the caged and the wild.
Once we do, perhaps we can venture a new, less normative distinction, based not on the writer’s educational background but on the system within which she earns (or aspires to earn) her living: MFA or NYC.
I’m an instructor at the university where I attend the best nonfiction writing program in the country, and I make approximately $18,000 a year before taxes.
When I was denied a second teaching assistantship at the university this summer for the upcoming school year even though I already had signed a contract with the offering department, my director explained that it was in the school’s best interests to look after my best interests, and my best interest was to make sure that I had time [to] write my thesis. In this vigorous and innovative program, students will have opportunities to work with a host of visiting writers and poets, as well as to participate in the vibrant writing and performing arts communities of both Brooklyn and Manhattan. They explore a wide range of literary styles, from traditional narratives to the experimental, contemplative and avant-garde. This program offers a solid foundation and practice through courses in literature, writing workshops and writing process and technique courses designed for the aspiring writer. Students have opportunities to work in poetry, fiction, playwriting, creative non-fiction and on cross-genre projects.And what role do mentors play in a writer’s development?In the inaugural installment of “The Mentor Series,” a series of interviews between mentors and students curated by Monet Patrice Thomas, Allie Rowbottom and Maggie Nelson ruminate on these questions and more. in Creative Writing is a terminal degree program designed to help meet the needs of students as they seek to become published writers and teachers. in Creative Writing, the focal point of the curriculum is the writing workshop.In literature and theory classes, students look closely at the links between contemporary writing and literary traditions, writing and theory, and between writing, reading, music, and the visual arts. in Creative Writing will be prepared to seek publishing and performance venues for their work and thus participate more widely in the ongoing conversations that make up literary traditions and lineages. degree, will serve them well in future writing and teaching jobs.In the moment, I probably nodded politely and smiled, as I’m prone to doing, but his suggestion frustrated me.How, after living for two years on a barely-sufficient stipend, did he expect that I’d be able — or want — to fling myself across the country to a city with exorbitant rent prices where I had no job, no insurance, and no community? Had I not been living during the two years of my MFA, during which I moved to an unfamiliar-to-me city, taught classes at the university for the first time, learned to edit a journal, found my way into a community of writers, and struggled in draft after draft to improve my own prose?Allie Rowbottom: I remember once, after I finished my MFA thesis, you advised I take my time and sit on the project.You said something about not publishing too young, or rushing out of the gate, and I’ve thought about that a lot now that I have published—one of my biggest challenges (or strengths? Now that my first book is out in the world, I feel an urgency to produce more, at the same time I worry that rushing never makes for solid work.