MFA Update: First Feedback Received & Gearing Up for TA

Two weeks ago I submitted my first assignment of my first MFA semester to my mentor. For the last two weeks I’ve been working on reading my assigned craft books and trying not to gnaw my fingernails off. While I wasn’t concerned about receiving constructive criticism–in fact, I crave it–I was waiting to find out if my thesis topic would be approved.

I’m ecstatic to report that it has been approved, which means I can now dive deeper into my research and write ahead if I please, without worrying that it’s not the best use of my time while in school.

Beyond that, I am also delighted that my writing is on track with where an MFA Fiction student’s writing should be. The first two paragraph’s of my mentor’s letter confirmed this for me:

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I think there was an autocorrect issue in her email–“mediations” should probably be meditations. Aside from her praise, she offered some great constructive criticism and ideas for how I can strengthen my main characters’ emotions. She gave me some exercises to write and permission to send more of my thesis.

Moving Forward with Writing, Research, and Editing

So, yesterday, with library books due back today and no more available renewals, I spent the day doing research. I now have 11,000 words worth of notes…and that’s just scratching the surface! This will be an interesting experience because while I would usually prefer to do most of my research upfront, deadlines will force me to write as I learn. My editing process will be more important than ever.

As for my contemporary story, “All the Moving Pieces,” I do plan to revise it following her suggestions. I’d like to submit it to a contest or publication when it’s ready. The benefit of taking it out of the realm of schoolwork is that I can make it a bit longer. I had to keep it to 15 pages of double-spaced text, which made it difficult to fit everything in that I wanted. Not impossible, mind you, but difficult. There are areas I’d like to expand upon, even if only a little.

Getting Ready for My TA Position

I start observing a class in Septemeber, with training later this month. I’ll also be taking a class this first semester of my certificate program. All my readings and assignments are on my calendar, along with my MFA work:

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I’ve ordered the necessary texts and downloaded all the online readings and presentations. Late last month, I drove up to New Hampshire and filled out my I-9 form. With my TA position right around the corner, I’m excited to get into the classroom. Here’s how my certificate program works:

First Semester

  • I observe a class once a week.
  • I tutor at the writing center for one hour each week.
  • I take a TA Colloquium Class with my fellow first-semester TA.
  • I meet once a month with more experienced TAs to discuss strategies and tactics.

Second Semester

  • I attend a class twice each week.
  • I help with grading and small lectures.
  • I provide students with assistance during office hours.

Third Semester

  • I teach a class with supervision and mentorship.
  • I provide students with assistance during office hours.

I love to teach–I feel so honored that I get to participate in this certificate program while pursuing my MFA. I’ll have a crazy schedule, I’m sure, but it’s worth it.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

So the big question remaining is…do I stay put and commute three hours on days I have to be on campus or do I move closer? There are pros and cons to each:

Pros of Moving Closer

  • My commute time will go from 3 hours to roughly a half hour to an hour–more important with winter weather than now.
  • I have awesome friends who already live and teach and study close to the school.
  • I won’t have stay in hotels/couch surf.
  • I’ll be closer to one of my sisters.

Cons of Moving Closer

  • I’d be further away from friends and family around here.
  • I’d have to pay more rent, which means more time working and less time available for my studies.

I know the pros list is longer, but the cons list has an important one, mainly relating to finances. Right now I’m leaning toward trying to find more work with freelancing so that I can save more/have a more reliable income. If that happens, I’ll probably move. I don’t see why it shouldn’t, as I’m actively applying, but for now, while it’s warm and not snowing out, I don’t mind the idea of traveling up to New Hampshire once or twice a week.

What do you think?

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