Friday, December 24, 2010

Graduate School

I've been scarce the last few months.  Okay, more than scarce.  I know.  I KNOW, I know, but listen--its because of GRADUATE SCHOOL.  Apparently the people who made up graduate school decided they actually wanted students to WORK while they were there.  Imagine that.  I don't know where the people who made up undergraduate school and the people who made up graduate school separated paths, but boy is there a HUGE difference now.*

Anyway, thats why I haven't been around lately.  Grad school stuff.  Awful of me, I know.  But here's some consolation:  I'm excited to write in this blog more often this semester.  My course load isn't nearly as frightening, and I'm committing.  Really.  The nonfiction course I took last semester turned out to be a pretty good thing, and while I'm still focusing on fiction, I might use this blog as my "creative nonfiction" outlet every once in a while.  So . . . expect greatness.

And, in the spirit of Christmas, here is some more consolation (in the form of youtube videos that talk about how awful graduate students are, as a race):

Enjoy, and its safe to say that you'll hear a lot more from me over the break.

*  Yeah, apparently a bunch of people just MADE UP the whole college/university thing.  True story.  I read it on the internet.  You'd be surprised at how much "serious" stuff we take for granted nowadays--that apparently matters--that was just made-up in the first place.

Monday, September 06, 2010

A precious day off...

Whew.  Just breathe.  The first week is over.  That's the hardest one, right?


*eyes dart around in paranoia*




Ack.  Well, I've started school again.

And, despite my complaining, it really hasn't been that bad.  A lot of work.  No doubt about that.  It is a Masters program, after all.  I've left the world of the undergraduate and ascended to that of something higher, better, more pompous and haughty, and much more difficult.  Supposedly.

Although it really wouldn't be that bad if I wasn't teaching.  Not that teaching itself is bad . . . but here's the rub:  I was under the impression that I would have a lot less control over my class than I really do. Which, I admit, I was complaining about a few months ago.  How dare they ask me, a Creative Writer, to teach a class without being Creative?  I got over that rather quick, though, when they showed my the shiny stipend I would be receiving, and when I realized how great teaching of any kind would look on all the resumes and applications that I'll be needing to fill out soon*.

Everything was dandy after that until, during the First Year Teacher Training Week (which also happens to be the week before school starts), I'm informed that I actually have a lot more freedom with my class than I had originally thought.

At first, I was excited.  Whipee.  I get to be Creative, after all.  Then depression slowly started to kick in as I realized that, in order to be Creative, I had to Create stuff.  Horrible, nasty stuff, like lesson plans, and schedules, and syllabi, and all manner of monstrous things that masticate my time away.  Eek.

So, in case you were wondering (as I'm sure all of you were) why I've been scarce on the old blogosphere for the past few weeks--thats why.  My brain was bleeding from overload (not counting the one brief blurb on Mockingjay that I couldn't help but post--still reeling from that one, although now I'm working my way through The Way of Kings...if you've seen or hefted that one, you know I'm a sucker for punishment...).

But--I think its safe to say it now--I'm Back.  With reservations**.

Sure, the first week was rough.  Lots of reading, lots of lesson-planning, lots of little assignments (both to do and to grade), and lots of classes.  But, overall, it was a good week.  Teaching was fantastic.  I was a little nervous before the first day of class, but as soon as the bell rang I just kind of slipped into the persona.  Its been going well ever since (all three classes...yeah).  And the Labor Day weekend has been a lifesaver--I've been able to get caught up in all my classes from the first week, and even get ahead in a few (and in creating my lesson plans, which feels positively AWESOME).

The only thing that has really bothered me about the past week is that I haven't gotten ANY writing done.  Thats a bit scary.  But, for now, I'm attributing it to the first-week-of-school-busies, and won't read too much into it.  I think that, now that I'm all caught-up and ahead in things, I'll find some time to do some writing.  Of course, by writing, I mean revising TR 1.0.  My YA project I'll already be working on for a class, and the same goes for some nonfiction.  So there's some mandatory (but much-anticipated) writing right there.  But yes, one of my main goals for this semester, other than to produce some great stuff for my classes, is to get a complete revision of TR done and send it out to some alpha readers.  I think I can do it.  I'm terribly excited about doing it.  It will be a rough semester, a busy one, but it can be done.  Raych, I might add--and this is important--has been an absolute gem this past week.  Very helpful and understanding of my ridiculous busy-ness, and all around supportive of everything.  I couldn't ask for more from her.  I think that, with her help, some nice things will happen this semester.  Hopefully, some very nice things.

So, all that being said, "Bring it on!" I say.  Do your worst, first semester.  (Well, you don't have to actually, not if you don't want to...sorry if that offended you...nice semester....niiiice semester...)

*  Creative Writing PhD, anyone?

**  "Back" meaning I'll hopefully start posting consistently once again, and "consistently" meaning, hopefully, about once a week. With school in full swing nowadays, I'm afraid my blogging will suffer slightly.  But hey...better that than my writing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

very impressed

I know its been a while since I've posted.  Preparing to teach, starting classes in my MFA program, and other things have kept me busy.  I'll update you on all of that in a later post.  For now, whats on my mind is the final installment of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay.

Wow.  I've already talked about how impressed I was by her first book.  I haven't reviewed her secondbook, Catching Fire, and probably won't get around to it, but it didn't disappoint.  I knew it would be difficult for her to exceed my expectations after such an amazing first book, and she came pretty close.  I don't think it was quite as good as the first, but still an amazing book in its own right.  She did a great job of progressing the series.

And, today, I just finished reading Mockingjay.

Once again, wow.

While Catching Fire progressed the series admirable, Mockingjay completely exploded the story and issues (in a good way).  The only progression of a trilogy that has been so well constructed that I can think of (and, admittedly, this one towers far above the Hunger Games) is Dante's Divine Comedy.  (Thats right, I just compared The Hunger Games to the Divine Comedy.  You heard it here first, people.)  Really, though--Collins's method of constructing a trilogy is worthy in every way.  She got that right, at least.

And she got a whole lot more right than that.

What caught me off guard (and impressed me most) about the third book was how the stakes were higher than the other two books in just about every way imaginable.  All the conflicts--between people, between the Capital and the Districts, between ideas and philosophies--were bigger.  More pressing.  And, of course, there was no shortage of new conflict added to the mix, as well as old conflicts that I thought had taken a back seat.  I'm avoiding specifics here because I'm avoiding spoilers (because I don't have much time and want to get these thoughts out), but hopefully you're getting the picture.

I will say, perhaps as a warning, that Mockingjay was a very, very violent book.  But in my opinion, it wasn't excessive.  It was necessary to the story Collins was trying to tell and the world she had created.  It was disturbing at times, much more so than either of the first two books, but it drove the themes of her books that much closer to home.

The book wasn't perfect by any means.  The prose in the beginning was slightly annoying at times (almost Meyer-esque, dare I say it), and there were one or two rather heavy-handed sections where Collins's themes seemed to take over her writing.  But other than that, her prose was very crisp, and Katniss's personality was clear as crystal.  Also, I won't mention how the love triangle in these books worked infinitely better, and seemed much more real, than a certain other series of young adult books that may or may not involve vampires and "werewolves."

And the ending--bittersweet, unexpected, but satisfying.  I couldn't ask for more.

In my opinion, the Hunger Games trilogy is a must-read.  Get your hands on it now, if you haven't already.

it was a dark and storm-blessed night...

Waiting in line for the midnight release of Brandon Sanderson's new novel The Way of Kings.  I'm going to start reading it in about .02 seconds.  If you haven't already heard of Brandon or his books, and/or have already started The Way of Kings, envy is both permitted and expected.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In case you've been wondering . . .

. . . why I haven't posted in more than a week, just have a look-see below.  Its because I've been at the beach in southern California for the past week, watching sunsets like this:

And building things like this:

Or, from another angle:

And enjoying the general scenery right outside our back door, including but not limited to: well as doing a whole lot of writing, sunning, a variety of aquatic ocean-related activities, hours upon hours of Scum (the card game of course, although there was some questionable filmy stuff around some parts of the ocean . . . they told us it was "algae" but you never know . . .), and lots of lazing around in general.  With family and friends.

Be jealous.

Friday, August 06, 2010

first drafts and anticipated revisions

Lately, things have been going pretty well.

And by things, I mostly mean my writing*.  Last week it was going well enough, I was getting about 2k words/day which is respectable.  This week its been even better, and I'm getting between 2.5-3k/day, all on the YA NOVEL project of course.  Things are coming along with it, and I can't really ask for more than that.  The plot is progressing fine, my main character is really getting fleshed out.  It doesn't feel quite as true as THE RISING, but I don't yet think its terrible.

The first draft process is interesting for me, especially because I haven't yet revised any of my novels.  My first project (THE RISING) is finished and awaiting revision, but I've decided not to tackle that until I can finish the first draft of my current YA NOVEL project, along with perhaps another short story and/or nonfiction piece.  That way, come Fall semester, I'll have the first drafts of all the major writing ventures I want to work on complete, and I'll be able to focus on revision.

It won't be ideal--depending on how the workshop classes are structured, I could be simultaneously revising up to three projects at the same time (my main goal is to have THE RISING revised by the end of October so I can get it out to some alpha readers, but I'll also be revising whatever I'm submitting in my nonfiction and YA novel workshops along the way--as well as writing new stuff, mostly short stories, every so often . . . hopefully . . .).  It will be a busy semester, but I think I'll be able to handle it.

Anyway, what I'm getting at:  the first draft process.  Other than short stories, I've never really revised any of my creative work (yet)--its not that I don't believe in it, because I certainly do.  I just haven't gotten around to it yet, for the reasons mentioned above.

But here's the thing with most of the first drafts I've been crafting lately:  I plow right through them, getting the basic story and character arcs out on paper (or on my word processor), ignoring problems of about every shape and size with the justification that "I'll fix it in post."

Will these problems actually be fixable in post?  I don't know.  I suppose I'm going to find out this Fall.

I admit its something I worry about, to a degree.  I'm putting a fair bit of work, time, and energy into these projects.  They're investments.  If it turns out that they're completely unsalvageable**, well . . . you might be able to imagine my chagrin.

But, although it will be frustrating, I'm not too worried about it.  That surprises me, but (I think) its true. It will be disappointing, sure, and frustrating in twenty or thirty different ways, but it won't be the end of the world.  I'll be able to learn from them either way, is the idea (see footnote ** again).

Of course, ideally these novels will turn out okay, if not better-than-okay.  I'm pretty sure THE RISING will.  The more I think about it the more anxious I am to get back to it and see what that thing can really DO.  I'm more worried about the YA NOVEL, but even that I think will turn out satisfactorily.  Again, it may not be publishable in the end, but that won't be the end of the world.

Anyway, at this point there's nothing for it but to push through and see how things turn out.

And you know what?  I'm optimistic about it.

P.S.  This post was meant to be about BYU's MFA program, but my mind was, apparently, occupied by other things.

P.P.S.  Have you guys seen my YA NOVEL progress bar?!  It's like watching a drag race.  Really.

*  If you're curious, everything else leaves me with a cavitous lack of things to complain about, too.  Other than lots of friends leaving us for some exciting (and some less exciting) places, while we stick it out in Provo for another two years.  But other than that, everything is actually quite dandy.

**  By unsalvageable, I mean this:  after attempting revisions I think the piece is so utterly putrescent that I'm positive it will never be published anywhere, and know that even attempting to send it in to places would be a complete waste of my time and not a learning experience in any way--AND try as I might there is nothing I can seemingly learn from the disaster that I could do better in future first drafts.  So, basically, a worst-case scenario.  I don't think its likely to happen for either of these books--I don't think either of them will be that bad--but that also doesn't mean I expect both of them, or either of them for that matter, to end up published any time soon, if at all.  My hope, essentially, is that they will be good "learning experiences," making me ultimately a better writer and helping me to understand what I can do better the next time around.  If they can get published along the way, that's fantastic.  But I'm certainly not expecting it.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Had an awesome family reunion this weekend, on my wife's side.

Family is good stuff. Makes you think, just a little, about how important the whole "building-relationships" thing is in life. Just a thought.

In writing news, you may have noticed that the progress bar for my YA Novel project is slowly creeping up there. DANG STRAIGHT. I've found a groove, and I'm hoping to stick with it for a while. The pendulum is swinging and I'm riding it for all its worth. I'm sure there will be some rougher spots ahead, but with any luck (and with a lot of hard work and dedication and motivation and decapitation [one of these things is not like the other . . .]), I'll be finished with this novel in the next three or four weeks. Knock on wood.

So, basically, all is well with the world, and writing is the

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

something awesome with Jane Austen

So, thanks to Mark Charan Newton I came across this:

And, if you're interested, here's the original Fight Club trailer for comparison--its even more funny after watching both:

Monday, July 26, 2010

dream on

And of course . . .

Inception (SPOILER WARNING--this whole post might be teeming with them!) was a pleasure to watch. It was captivating, thought-provoking, and epic. It had a good storyline, good writing, and some pretty good acting, as well.  In fact, some of those things were much better than good, they were great.  Fabulous, even.  The movie overall was a huge success, as thrilling as it was intriguing.

That being said, I don't think it was perfect.  If anything, I think it stopped achingly short of the absolutely INCREDIBLE film it had the potential to be.

But, it was still an awesome film.  Here's some reasons why:
  • It wasn't an action film (per se), and this was a pleasant surprise (although considering the nature of The Dark Knight, I should have known better).  It had action in it, of course, but this action felt needful, and appropriate to the film.  (I'll admit I am an occasional fan of inappropriate and unnecessary action, but I don't think it generally contributes to well-crafted and inspiring films.) The main action scene I recall involves Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a crooked and gravity-less hotel hallways, and it was Matrix-esque in its quirkiness and innovation.  Indeed, overall the action was a positive component of the movie, and its relative scarcity certainly helped, ironically, leaving room for the (far more important, in my opinion) intellectual and emotional aspects of the movie.
  • The acting.  First of all, Leo is turning into a very respectable actor.  I was particularly impressed with his role in The Departed, and I've heard good things about what he did in Blood Diamond as well (which I have yet to see, although its on my Netflix queue . . .).  I thought his acting was worthy in Shutter Island earlier this year, and his role in Inception as a gritty, mentally unstable widower was in the same tradition and equally profound.  Ellen Page did a fantastic job in the film--her gigs in Juno and Whip It were cute and well-executed, but she shows herself capable of some real acting in Inception.  But, surprisingly, I was most impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance.  I think he really stole the thunder from Di Caprio, and I would go so far as to say his role was Oscar-worthy (he's come a long way since the days of 3rd Rock From the Sun).  Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Dileep Rao deserve nods for their performances too, and--oh-- Marion Cotillard's performance as Leo's wife was simultaneously heart-wrenching and highly disturbing.  In fact, my only qualm with the acting was that Michael Caine wasn't in more scenes (really, can anyone ever get enough Michael Caine?).
  • The world-building in Inception was fantastic.  Although I didn't find the film as mind-bending as it was advertised, and I anticipated most of the "twists" from early on in the movie (I have a dreadful knack for that), what did blow my mind was the depth of the dream-worlds Christopher Nolan created.  Shiny golden props to him for creating such a fascinating world.
  • Christopher Nolan himself.  With such films as The Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Memento under his belt, I expected quite a bit from him with Inception.  He delivered.
  • Ambiguity.  I'm a sucker for ambiguity, and Inception had loads of it.  The final scene with the spinning top* quite literally tops the movie off (no pun intended, please).  But everything from character motives to in-world rules to the meaning and interpretation of the film itself oozed obscurity, and thats my bag of tricks, baby.  It was delightful.
So, those were some things I enjoyed in the film, among a great many others that I'm probably forgetting.

Now, why do I think it fell short, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  First of all, it was supposed to be this mind-bending, surprising, innovational film that changed things.  Well, it didn't do that for me.  As I've already mentioned, the dream world(s) it(them)-self(ves) surprised me, and bent my mind in a few new directions.  I appreciated that.  But the plot itself, and therefor the film as a whole, did not.  It was relatively predictable.  The twists were anticipated, if you can call them twists at all.  The movie does a lot of make-up work for these shortcomings with its deep and surprising characters and its ambiguity, but the holes are still there (at least for me).

And another reason:  I think the movie didn't delve into the Limbo concept as much as it could have.  I think it could have taken things a lot further down there, have made the movie even more epic than it was, and it just didn't quite make it there.  It is still epic, of course, but it could have been that much deeper.  I wish, in a way, the film would have taken its own advice (both in regards to creation and "going deeper").

But, those are minor issues when compared to the whole.

In the end, I thought the film was a blast--and not only a blast, but a quality film too, worthy in just about every respect.  I'm already looking forward to Nolan's next venture, and Leo's next role, and Gordon-Levitt's future as an actor--and, of course, anything involving Michael Caine (seriously).  I wouldn't even mind a sequel in the Inception world--I think it could be done in good taste, and I'm still itching for the deeper aspects to be plundered.

My Rating:  ****** (6/7 stars)

*  I'll mention briefly my opinion on the end of the film (and hence this footnote will be SPOILER-ridden).  My heart tells me that the top toppled.  It fell over, and Leo's character had finally come home in the end.  My mind, on the other hand, insists that the top continued indefinitely, and that he was still in a dream, and that his wife had been right all along--in fact, the whole movie itself seemed to be an (failed) attempt at Inception in Leo's own mind.  He rejected the inception, and chose to live his own reality.  And I think there is actually a lot of evidence that supports this--the whole movie itself, even the supposedly non-dreaming sequences, seemed suspiciously dreamlike (Leo wedging himself through an increasingly narrow space to escape strange pursuers, reminiscent of the security-pursures in Murphy's subconscious, among others).  But there is also something to be said on the fact that, in the end, Leo DIDN'T CARE--he set the top spinning, and instead of staring intently to see whether it would fall or continue, he leaves it alone.  This signifies enough change in his character that the movie can end with a feeling of accomplishment and contentment, whatever ending one interprets as canonical.  Its all about the ambiguities.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ups and downs

Some of you may still be curious about a certain post that I slipped in a week or so ago, discussing some changes. Others may have noticed that the progress bar for my YA Novel project has been suspiciously stagnant recently (and that it has now been reset to zero).  And it is obvious that I haven't been as consistent at getting posts up in the past week as I have been in the past two months.

Yeah. Well, all that can be traced back to one initial fact:

Writing is hard.

Seriously. It can be really hard sometimes. I'm looking back at my original novel, The Rising, and I'm wondering HOW I DID THAT. I mean, really. That thing is huge. And even though most of it sucks, there are some okay parts in there. And I wrote them. So that is good, right? I did all that.  Its something to be proud of, and I'll be honest, I feel pretty fabulous about it.

But, now that I'm trying to do it again, I'm having a hard time of it.

A lot of the difficulty, I think, comes with beginnings in general. The more I write, the more I realize that (at least for me) the hardest part is almost always just getting started--getting the beginning down on paper (or on the hard drive) and then going on from there. When I think back on TR, I sometimes forget how hard the beginning was in lieu of how easily the rest of the thing seemed to flow (which is not to say that the project itself was easy, because I don't think it was, or even that words easily came to my mind to write down every day, because they didn't). But the point is that the beginning of TR was difficult as well. It took me about the same time to write the first fifty pages as it did for me to write the last half of the book. So I'm no stranger to difficult beginnings.  I just think that those difficulties just get lost in the euphoria of what went well--a selective memory as it were.  And, now that I'm trying to get through another project, I'm having a really difficult time of it because I'm only remembering the good parts of my latest writing experience, and none of the bad parts.

Which brings me to my current project.  ORIGINALLY it was supposed to be an experiment in the urban fantasy genre, with "young adults" as the intended audience.  Well . . . to put a long story into a short container, I think that that particular idea just lost its momentum in the past three months.  And, honestly, I'm okay with that.  I think it was a necessary casualty in finishing TR*.  Which is sad in a way, I do think it is a pretty good idea with some potential, but I've concluded that now just isn't the time to write it.

So I've moved on to something else.

It is another YA Novel, of course.  But instead of an urban fantasy, its more of a "straight-up" fantasy.  It takes place in its own world, with its own rules and religions and geographies and peoples and so forth.

Basically, its about heroes.  And prophecies.  And the expectations of the public for said heroes because of said prophecies, and what happens when those expectations aren't fulfilled.  There's also an elitist school, monsters, a quest or two, some really mean kids, and much more.

Thats the basic premise.  And, in case you haven't caught on, that's the big change I was talking about in this post.  (If you're not a writer it may not seem like much of a change, but if you are then perhaps you know how drastic changing ideas mid-project can be.)  And, to be quite honest, I'm much more excited about this idea than I am about the previous one.  The previous one is good, like I said, I do think it has potential, but it just wasn't cutting it right now.  This new idea, I think, will (cut it, that is).

So, what does this mean for my own personal NaNoWriMo that I was so excited about a few weeks ago?  Well, it does mean that there is really no way I'll be able to have my NEW YA NOVEL PROJECT done by the end of July.  Really, there's just no way.

But, starting on Monday**, I'm (hopefully) going to get heavily into the New YA Novel Project.  My hope is to re-start my NaNoWriMo goal, and ideally be finished with the first draft of this project by around this time next month.  I think I just need to press through these beginning parts, do my best and hopefully gain enough momentum to start propelling me the rest of the way.  I really think that this (beginnings) is one of the most difficult things for me when it comes to writing.  I'm always so picky about what I want that I'm never satisfied with what I produce at the start of a project--and unless I push myself onward, I get stuck on those first few chapters, or even paragraphs, for days (or, when its really bad, for weeks).

So, thats whats been happening with my writing lately.  I've been in a bit of a funk, and it hasn't helped that my writing time has been severely diminished in the past few weeks (not necessarily a bad thing, but when it seems to happen too consistently it gets frustrating).  But I'm going to get back into it now.  I'm motivated, I can do it.  I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

*  For those of you who don't know, I wrote the first two or three chapters of the ORIGINAL YA NOVEL PROJECT back in April sometime, right in the middle of when I was writing TR--then I set it aside and didn't touch it, thinking I would come back to it later this summer.  Well, I did, and things just didn't work out.

**  I've already done a great deal of world-building and character exploration for the new project, as well as something sort of like a first chapter.  But, starting Monday, my plan is to take a serious dive into it, and hopefully not re-emerge until I'm through the "beginning blues" I've been suffering.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I meant was...

So, in my last post I said this:
Thats all for now, folks.  Look for one of the aforementioned posts (or a completely different one), full-blown style, on the morrow.
What I meant was something more along the lines of:

Thats all for now, folks. Look for one of the aforementioned posts (or a completely different one), full-blown style, in the next few days, maybe even week, or so.

(Just in case you thought I was dead or something . . .)

Monday, July 19, 2010

some random things

First of all, the hair follicles on my head were shortened tonight, and I'm not exactly excited about it.  I'd been growing my hair out for almost a year and I was rather attached to it (physically and emotionally).  But the time had come to dice it all off, apparently.  Such is life.  (Life = paying people money to cut off your extremities.)

In other news, my readership for this blog (according to trusty Google Analytics) has been pretty steady lately, so I'm looking for ways to expand it, and to make it a better blog in general.  Any suggestions?  I have some ideas, but I'm always open to help.  That's a lie--I'm not always open to help.  But in this case I think I am, so try me.  More about this, perhaps, in a future post.

And, as a teaser of sorts, here are some things I'd like to talk about at some point in the near future:
  • Reviews, expectations, goals, and finding a voice for this blog (yes, all in one post)
  • BYU's MFA program
  • Creative Writing PhD programs
  • Taking a year off
  • Apple products
  • Harry Potter
. . . and a few others that are still in the works.  So look forward to that.

Thats all for now, folks.  Look for one of the aforementioned posts (or a completely different one), full-blown style, on the morrow.

The BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers

Thursday and Friday of last week I had the opportunity to attend the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers--an annual symposium put on by BYU for teachers, librarians, parents, and anyone else who wants to attend.

It wasn't too shabby.  Being a writer, of course, I wasn't the ideal attendee for the symposium, but ultimately it was worth it.  And I must say I'm surprised at the ease with which writing/book events in Utah can obtain top-notch writers and guest speakers.  At this particular event I was impressed to find Brandon Mull (author of the NYT-bestselling series Fablehaven series) and Laurie Halse Anderson (author of the popular--but controversial--Speak, and a number of other very interesting YA novels), as well as a number of other National Book Award finalists and others.

The structure of the symposium was different than the general structure I'm used to from local conventions such as LTUE and CONduit--instead of a variety of panels and classes and activities, the entire symposium consisted, for the most part, of lectures.  There were some smaller break-out sessions with individual authors on Friday, and some signings, and one or two other presentations, but other than that it was one person speaking in front of a large number of people for an hour or so, a break, and then listening to another person speak for an hour or so.  So, for me, that structure wasn't exactly ideal.  Luckily the speakers (usually the guest authors/illustrators) were interesting and entertaining, for the most part.  But I have to say I prefer the structure of the convention/conference format more, I think.  I'm not sure whether I'll attend next year--I suppose it depends on who is coming!

Also, an interesting side note:  I didn't expect 95% of the symposium attendees to be female.  Of course, it makes sense when I think about it--computing librarians, teachers, parents who are free during the day, and the population of Provo all together will equate to a very large female majority.

Anyway.  The symposium was . . . okay.  Nothing special, but not terrible (and, looking back on it, so is this description of it . . . its fitting, right?).

More to come (on other things) later . . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

in which I talk about what I don't know about nonfiction (part 5)

I've talked about my basic impression of the genresome definitions and the concept of fact vs. truthsome more definitions and the importance of the "attempt", and most recently one of the major barriers of nonfiction . . . but, at least for now, I think I'm going to wrap things up.  (I'm sure I'll have more to say on the subject as I experience my nonfiction workshop class this fall, or read some of my much anticipated nonfiction reading-list*--but until then, this will be the not-quite-final-word.)

So:  here's some thoughts about John D'Agata's over-arching essay in his compilation The Next American Essay, which I found particularly interesting and insightful--specifically these quotes:
. . . despite the obvious abundance of documentation in nonfiction, some of the literature in this genre challenges that very presumption of fact.
This sums up exactly what I've been learning about nonfiction.  Nonfiction may be a lot of things, but it is not always factual.  It can be, of course, but the direction the essay is going right now is not towards the factual side of things--even though I think it is still an effective form of documentation. Where is it going?  Well, he goes on to pose these questions:
What happens when an essayist starts imagining things, making things up, filling in blank spaces, or--worse yet--leaving the blanks blank?  What happens when statistics, reportage, and observation in an essay are abandoned for image, emotion, expressive transformation?
So instead of going towards the factual side of things, the essay is going towards the imaginative, the emotional, the purely expressive.

And here we get to the creative process--one of the reasons I started creative writing in the first place, and one of the reasons I stayed away from nonfiction for so long.  But now I'm realizing that nonfiction can be just as creative as fiction (if not more so, in some ways).  It can be just as metaphorical, just as allegorical, just as exciting, just as lucid, just as stereotypical, just as boring, and just as emotional and crazy as fiction.

But, back to facts.  Here's more D'Agata:
There are now questions being asked of facts that were never questions before.  What, we ask, is a fact these days?  What's a lie, for that matter?  What constitutes an "essay," a "story," a "poem"?  What, even, is "experience"? 
Whatever a fact is, I don't think it is necessary for a piece of nonfiction. I think, instead, the only requirement is that--whatever it discusses, whether it is an emotion or an event or a lie or a misconception--it has to exist, or have existed.  And even that connotation is ambiguous.  Especially as nonfiction becomes more artistic, ethereal, and lyrical:
The lyric essay inherits from the principal strands of nonfiction the makings of its own hybrid version of the form. . . . Facts, in these essays, are not clear-cut things.  What is a lyric essay?  It's an oxymoron:  an essay that's also a lyric; a kind of logic that wants to sing; an argument that has no chance of proving anything.
The essay (and by extension nonfiction) is the neglected step-child of the writing family.  It doesn't prove anything with exactness, not like academic or scientific papers do.  Nor does it create something as wholly and with such wild abandon as fiction or poetry does.  But it does have one foot in each camp, and thus, in a lot of ways, the best of both worlds.

I found the following quote of interest because it was an afterward--despite discussing the title and, at least in my eyes, the overall significance and meaning of the compilation itself:
By "Next" is meant those essays that will be inspired by these.  By "American," of course, I mean the nation.  And by "Essay," I mean a verb.
The "next American attempt," or the "next American trial," or assay, or experiment, or conjecture.  Nonfiction, I think, is all about attempting to convey the human experience, in whatever way possible.  It is about trying to describe personal or terrible or terrific or ineffable things with a limited language--knowing that you'll fail, but succeeding just in the attempt.  Thats a big appeal of nonfiction to me, and that is why I think it is something I'll keep turning to as the years go by.

I think I'll even write a few pieces myself.

So watch out America.

Including, but not limited to books by David SedarisJohn ScalziDavid Foster Wallace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

a (potential) change in plans

I'm pretty sure a change in plans is taking place.  I'll confirm if/when it actually happens, but for now I just though I would taunt everyone*.  That's all.

* Whoa whoa, don't get all excited, just because there's taunting involved.  Its really nothing that great, just a slight (and by slight I mean major) and very unexpected (and by unexpected I mean unexpected) twist in how some things have been going.  I thought something would happen one way, and its starting to happen in a totally different way, that's all (forgive the ambiguity).  The only reason I'm not disclosing full details now is because I'm not sure if the change is permanent or not . . . hopefully it is, but I don't quite know for sure.  We will see.

Monday, July 12, 2010

weekend hiatus (part 1).

It's been a few days since I've blogged.  That's because I've been doing some ridiculously awesome things, like this:

(thats me catching a tree that nearly fell on me while hiking in Zion National Park this weekend, and then heaving it off the trail.  true story.)

And also, this:

(thats me nearing the top of Angel's Landing and looking over one of its many heart-squashing cliffs.)

And hiking things like this:

(Angel's Landing is that giant cliff in the background . . .)

And through things like this:

(The Narrows)

. . . check out the next post for more . . .

weekend hiatus (part 2).

So, as I was saying . . .

And I did some cool things like this:

It was fabulous.  I may not have gotten a lot of writing done, but it was good, ah, research . . . and worth every minute.  If you'd like to see (my first attempt ever at) a slideshow of more pictures, go here, or check out my wife's blogpost on it here.

Otherwise, happy trails . . .

Thursday, July 08, 2010

in which i talk about what I don't know about nonfiction (part 4)

Aaaand we're back--to nonfiction.

Our neighbors--with whom Raych and I are great friends--read "nonfiction" books almost exclusively.  For them this mostly means auto/biographies and memoirs.  I've discussed their preference of nonfiction over fiction with them a few times, and the general answer is always something along the lines of "most of these stories are just as interesting and exciting as those that happen in novels, but they happen to real people"--and somehow, that makes it better, although I've never quite been able to understand why.

Admittedly, I do agree with them to an extent.  There is a certain something about reading someone's story and knowing that it actually happened.  Nonfiction stories such as Gifted Hands and And There Was Light come to mind for me.  There's just a certain quality . . . I'm tempted to say its magical, but my gut tells me thats not the right word.  I mean, its more the opposite of magical, right?  Not the opposite of magical in that it is dull or boring of course, but the opposite of magical in that it is real.

And yet I can't help but think that by focusing on the "reality" of a story--meaning the factuality, the historicity of it--you lose something along the way.

Take Jesus's parables, for example, from the New Testament.  They're parables for crying out loud, not histories.  Of course there very likely existed in reality a samaritan who was mugged, and a sower who . . . sowed . . . at some point in time, and someone who sold all they had for a pearl, or someone who found his one sheep after leaving the other ninety-nine.  Whether Jesus had these specific people in mind is unclear, but what is clear is that the parables themselves are overwhelmingly considered fictive.  Whether they have any base in fact doesn't really matter--they're fiction, and their power doesn't lie in their real-ness.  They've been some of the most instructive stories (or short-shorts [or microfiction if you will--now thats an interesting concept]) that have ever been told.

And yet, if Jesus had told a story--
"And this really happened, guys," He said unto them, "And behold one of my best friends Henry had two sons, and the younger one said to the father . . ."
. . . and so forth (that's the [modified] beginning of the parable of the Prodigal Son, in case I've lost you--for the full parable you can look here or here), I don't think the parables would be as morally educational as they are.  "Poor Henry," we would say, and feel depressed at how much he suffered because of his wayward son Hubert, or how much Hubert himself suffered, or the neglected older son Haggus, or whatever.  But in many ways the lessons wouldn't quite hit home.  We would still see the same story, of course, and I think many of us would get the point.  But I don't think it would be as personal.  What I'm getting at is that nonfiction is inherently personal--but only for that one person whose story it is.  Whereas fiction is impersonal at first, when we understand that it has never happened to anyone really, but then as we get into it we start thinking "well, maybe this has never happened to anyone, but it actually could happen to anyone."

Are you following me on this?  Here's another example, although its a little biased on my part.

I'm Mormon (or, more properly, LDS).  As you may or may not know, the reason we have been labeled "Mormons" is because of the existence of the Book of Mormon.  I won't go into a full explanation of the book right now (although if you're interested, why don't you start here), but basically:  we believe that its similar to the Bible--a record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the American continents, inspired by God and written by prophets.  They key word in that description, as far as my current discourse goes, is "record."  We do believe that the Book of Mormon is an actual historical record of people who really existed two-to-three-thousand years ago.  In fact, I would say that a lot of Mormons's faith is somewhat reliant upon the idea that the Book of Mormon is "historical fact."

I had an interesting conversation with my father in-law the other day about the possibility of the Book of Mormon not being fact at all, but being more of a parable--still inspired by God, but not a historical document.

Honestly, I think a revelation like that (if it were to happen, which it has not) would shock a lot of Mormons, perhaps even snuff out their faith entirely.  If that's true, it's kind of both saddening and disappointing, as it means that a lot of people have placed far too much emphasis on the history of the document rather than its content. They've gotten so excited about the idea that it could have happened to real people that they forget that it is still meant to apply to us.

Now, I'm certainly not saying that nonfiction has no educational/moral/instructive value, because I truly believe it does.  And I'm not saying that fiction is inherently educational/moral/instructive either--because I don't think it always is, nor that it should be.  But I am saying that sometimes we get so excited about nonfiction being nonfiction that we forget what the actual story is, and/or what we could learn from it.  Whereas with fiction, although we have to get over that first barrier of realizing that it has never technically occurred and that it is not fact per se, we can realize its potential application to anyone.

My point is this:  sometimes fact, even if its just the pretense of fact, gets in the way of the inherent value of a piece of literature*.  We find it so interesting that this thing actually happened, or someone actually said this or thought these thoughts or felt these feelings, that we forget that the piece in and of itself is beautiful, inspiring, terrifying, or whatever.  What at first seems like a positive point of nonfiction, I think, becomes a negative if you look at it more closely.

Thats all for now, folks.  I'll finish up my thoughts about nonfiction shortly.

*  Of course, the same can be said of the suspension of disbelief found in varying degrees in fiction.  But thats a discussion for another day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

The popularity of Suzanne Collins's book The Hunger Games has spread like wildfire since its release in 2008.

And now, having finally read it myself, I can understand why.

First of all, her world-building is top-notch.  The post-apocalyptic, dystopian setting she has created is as impressive as it is haunting.  There is one major political force in the accessible world (located somewhere in the western U.S.) called the Capitol that rules its twelve satellite-districts with an iron fist, the culminating example of its power being the Hunger Games, a sort of Gladiator-meets-Survivor Man with teenagers held between the twelve districts, supposedly to discourage rebellion.  I found Collins's approach to the post-apocalpytic/dystopian world refreshing and innovative, with elements I've rarely seen before (or at the very least, elements presented in ways I've never seen them before).

Her second strength:  characterization.  The main character, Katniss, is shockingly real and well-rounded.  She was very well written, and I felt I came to know her better and better as the book progressed.  Katniss had some beatiful conflicts, both internal and external, and the ways she dealt with them were real and believable.  Other characters that I thought were particularly well-written were Gale, Rue, and Haymitch--even Peeta, who I think is one of the weaker characters, still has his shining moments.

And then there are the Hunger Games themselves.  I have to say, I haven't read a sequence this engrossing since, perhaps, the Army battles in Ender's Game.  The way Collins describes the fighting and survival is true edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting action.  She also integrates her world-building into the Games seamlessly, revealing interesting facts and histories in the world as she adds conflict and intensity to the Games.  And although I found much of the Hunger Games slightly lacking in some descriptions and imagery, the effect nevertheless seemed to contribute to the brutality of it all, the stark reality and immediacy of the Games.

Also contributing to the feeling of immediacy is Collins's use of first-person present tense as the main method of telling the story (from Katniss' point of view, of course).  I found it an interesting and, ultimately, a very wise choice for the book.

Another refreshing aspect was the love triangle.  Don't let the terminology throw you off, this is no vampire-werewolf-clumsy teenage girl love triangle.  It felt much more real, much more believable, and much more in depth than any other attempts at the cliche I've seen lately (I'll name no names).  Admittedly, it is a cliche, but Collins handles it responsibly and creatively.

Quite honestly, one of my biggest worries is how the second (Catching Fire) and third (Mockingjay) books in the series will be.  Now that the Hunger Games are out of the way, I wonder if Collins will be able to keep me as interested as I was in this first book.  She certainly has her work cut out for her, and I'll find out soon--I have the second book on hand and will read it as soon as I finish the YA novel I'm reading right now (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters).  But I must say, as engrossing as Ender's Game was, I've always thought that Speaker for the Dead was a better work in just about every way (except, perhaps, on the excitement level).  I'm not sure if Collins has the same miracle inside her or not--The Hunger Games is a phenomenal book on almost every level, with only a few micro-flaws--but it will be interesting to find out.  I'll let you know what I conclude.

My rating:  ****** (6.5/7 stars)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

on beginnings, and my own personal NaNoWriMo

So I'm back to work on my YA (young adult) novel--a project I started briefly in April on a whim, and then set it aside, as most of my time and energy was going into finishing The Rising.  I wanted to flesh the idea out enough that I wouldn't forget it, but put it aside to resume work on TR.

Things are going well.  I already had about 2.5k words done, and now I'm working on pushing that up, slow and steady.  At my high points while working on TR, I was writing 4-5k words/day.  I would love to get back into a groove like that with this YA project (as yet untitled), but I've forgotten one thing . . .


For the most part, I'm a discovery writer.  That means that, although I'll do some world-building and some very vague and sparse outlining, I really just start with an idea and run with it.  I generally have an idea of where I want things to end up, but more often than not that idea gets blown out of the water by other, bigger, better ideas as I'm writing.  Its a very organic process, and I love it.  But it also makes beginnings very difficult.  I can write a first chapter, no problem, but then I am strongly tempted to go back and revise that chapter, change it, make it better, or whatever.  Sometimes I even completely re-write the first chapter(s).  And then go back again and revise, change it, make it better, whatever.  And then rewrite them again . . .

It can be a very tedious and, more importantly, a futile process.  It doesn't get me anywhere.

So my biggest challenge in starting a new project is to just keep going.  I can't allow myself to go back and worry about whatever crap (and, for the most part, it is usually crap) that I write in the beginning.  I just have to persist and push myself forward until I start getting to the really good stuff (or, at least, the better-than-crap stuff).

Then, when I finish the whole project, I go back and start revisions.  (Anything [almost] can be fixed in post.)

Of course, I could dedicate an entire blog-post to my writing process and quirks--and perhaps I will--but right now I won't.  I just want to let everyone know that I am working on a new novel, and so far its going well.  I'm really excited about the crisis I have to start the thing out, and then, well . . . we'll see where it goes from there.

Also, in order to motivate me to press forward in the process and not worry too much about what I've already done (and, probably, screwed up), I'm declaring the month of July my own personal NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month.  Its a challenge and/or contest held in November, where writers all over the US attempt to write (the first draft of) an entire novel in one month (here's the official website).  50,000 words is the general word count consensus, which aligns quite nicely with the word count goal I have for my YA project.

So . . . I'm taking the challenge!  50,000 words in a month!

Think I can do it?  Thats quite a few words to write in one month, if you aren't aware.  About 1.6k words/day (although I'm planning on writing only 5-6 days a week, so it closer to 2k/day for me).  Nothing I can't do, as I've demonstrated with TR, but I just have to get into the groove.

So here goes NaNoWriMo, July edition.  Wish me luck.

Friday, July 02, 2010

something awesome

Couldn't help but post this:

Yes I'm a fan of So You Think You Can Dance (its way better than American Idol, especially lately).  And, believe it or not, its actually because I love dancing.  Long story short I was pretty heavily into ballroom dancing for a while, and dabbled in some other forms as well.

But the above performance is INCREDIBLE.  And I can't help but post it.  I don't know if the link/embedding will stay active; sometimes they take sytycd performances down from youtube.  But hopefully they don't take this one, because its freaking amazing (also, Adam Shankman, the last judge, cracks me up--he's awesome).


Thursday, July 01, 2010

in which i talk about what i don't know about nonfiction (part 3)

Ah, nonfiction.  We have come so far, in such a short period of time.

Its amazing what reading a few books, perusing some definitions, and just pondering a subject for a while can do.  I feel much more intimate with the genre of nonfiction than I ever did before.  And overall it has been a pleasurable experience.

Let me briefly explain why the genre has been so prevalent in my mind lately.  I'm taking a creative nonfiction workshop class this fall--one of the first workshop classes I'll be taking officially as part of my MFA program (along with the YA Novel workshop class).

I was hesitant to enroll at first, mostly because I had hardly read any nonfiction--ever--let alone having tried to write something in the genre.

But I think I've come a long way.  Reading The Next American Essay and having started another nonfiction compilation entitled The Art of the Personal Essay has been very helpful.  Reading what some professionals think of the genre has helped me incubate my own opinions much more effectively.  I've even attempted my first (conscious) nonfiction piece--and I don't think its that terrible.  I have some ideas for other nonfiction projects that I'm excited about, hopefully they'll emerge from the darkness of my encephalon and see the light of my computer screen later this year.

So I feel like I've been learning a lot.

And now I want to talk about the personal essay.

It seems to me that the personal essay is the heart of creative nonfiction.  Auto/biographies, histories, etc. make great nonfiction, but I (personally) am much more concerned with the creative aspect of the genre--which seems to be aggregately piled under the heading of "personal essay" (although memoirs, debatably, exist there as well--sort of one-foot-in-the-creative-and-one-foot-in-the-general of nonfiction).  So I thought I'd look at the OED defenition of "essay" (again, I've bolded statements I found particularly interesting) . . .

OED, "Essay"
I. The Action or process of trying or testing.
1. a. A trial, testing, proof; experiment. b. The trial of metals.
2. A trial specimen, a sample, an example; a rehearsal.
3. a. assay. b. The part of a deer in which trial was made of the 'grease'; the breast or brisket.
4. A taste, or first taste, of food or drink presented to a great personage.
II. A trying to do something.
5. a. An attempt, endeavor. b. The result of an attempt.
6. A hostile attempt.
7. a. A first tentative effort in learning or practice. b. A rough copy; a first draft.
8. A composition of moderate length on any particular subject, or branch of a subject; originally implying want of finish, 'an irregular undigested piece', but now said of a composition more or less elaborate in style, though limited in range.

So.  An essay is an attempt, a trial, an endeavor.  I like that.  The idea of the essay as an attempt at addressing something (an issue, an emotion, an item, a person, a location, an idea, a religion, whatever) is intriguing, and humbling as well.  An essay is not definitive.  Its certainly not fact.  Its just a sincere attempt.  They're an effort made towards understanding.  And therein lies one of the most valuable qualities of nonfiction.  I don't know anybody who couldn't be more understanding or sympathetic in some area.  Many essays, in my opinion, are created to help the understanding (or at least the exploration) of a given topic, and thats a worthy objective--and quickly becoming one of my favorite attributes of creative nonfiction.

I also found the "rehearsal" and "rough copy/first draft" definitions interesting.  A "first attempt" at understanding things, as it were.  Hmmm.  So all of these musings about nonfiction I've been mulling over could be their very own personal essay, right?

Anyway, the point is:  Yoda, eat your heart out.  There sure as hell is a try, and its called the personal essay.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MFA programs

Its been a little too long since my last update--I'd like to have a new post every 1-2 days.  I'll try to work on that.  I have a lot of things I would like to talk about on this blog, but my own writing always comes first.  Sometimes after a day of writing I just don't have the energy or desire to blog.  (I don't blog in the morning for the same reasons--I don't want to drain any energy I could be putting into my own fiction writing).  That said, I would still like to update more.  A lot of it just comes down to discipline--something I need, perhaps more than anything (except tenacity) as a writer.

If you're paying attention to my progress bars, you may have noticed that I recently finished the first draft of my first nonfiction project.  WOOHOO!  I'm actually very satisfied with how it turned out.  There will definitely be some things to fix and address in revisions, but I think that its a pretty compelling piece, especially being my very first nonfiction.  We'll see how I feel about it in a few weeks, but I feel okay about it right now.

Also, as of today, the progress bar for "Sleep of Death 1.0" has also reached 100%!  Which means . . .

I'll be moving on to my second novel project--an attempt at a YA novel.  I'm pretty excited to get back to a novel--it is a lot easier to quantify my progress compared to shorter projects, and I feel like I'm accomplishing so much more.  So I'm pretty excited back into that project, starting tomorrow!

But, in the meantime, I'd like to talk about MFA programs.

This Fall I'll be starting an MFA program--that's a Masters in Fine Arts, in Creative Writing--at BYU, with a focus on fiction.  I'll go into more detail about this program specifically in a later post, but for now I'd like to talk about my experience applying to MFA programs, as well as some general ideas about them.

Two years ago (starting in the fall of 2008), I applied to four MFA programs.  Three of them were very competitive, one was not.  I didn't know anything about the application process, I barely did any research, and I barely spent any time applying to them.

I was rejected from all four of those programs.

That was the major reason why I took a year off between programs (something worth another blog post entirely).  I spent that year working and writing, as well as re-applying to some other MFA programs.  Thirteen MFA programs, to be precise.  Here they are, in list format:
  1. University of Iowa
  2. University of Michigan
  3. University of California-Irvine
  4. Syracuse University
  5. University of Washington-St. Louis
  6. University of Alabama
  7. Arizona State University
  8. Ohio State University
  9. Brigham Young University
  10. University of Nevada-Las Vegas
  11. Sand Diego State University
  12. Portland State University
  13. University of Utah
A lot of high-end schools, some mid-listers, and a few wild cards and lesser-known programs.  But this time around, I was much more prepared.  I spent dozens of hours researching each school, preparing my personal statements (tailored to each program), filling out applications, studying for and re-taking the GRE, organizing letters of recommendation and, of course, working on my writing sample--the single most important component of the MFA Creative Writing application process.

You see, the selection of MFA students is incredibly subjective.  While med programs and dental programs and law programs and others all rely heavily on test scores (and/or GPAs, letters of recommendation, and personal statements), the writing sample is everything.  So, of course, I spent most of my time on that (my writing sample, if you're interested, was "In the Details," a story I wrote in early 2008--I may, if I feel so inclined, post it on the blog at some point, so keep your eyes open for it).

To make a long story slightly less long, I was rejected from 11 of those programs and accepted to two (BYU and Portland State).  Again, I'll elaborate on BYU's program and why I chose it in a later post.

So, you may be wondering:  Why did I spend so much time, effort, and money on these programs?  Is an MFA degree really that necessary in order to become a writer?

Well.  No, its not.  In fact, I don't think an MFA degree is at all necessary to becoming a published author.  The best education a writer can get is 1) by reading and 2) by writing.  In my opinion, those two things (along with tenacity and time) are the only necessities for becoming an author.  You don't need to take writing workshops or classes, you don't need to buy self-help books or special magazine subscriptions or anything, and you certainly don't need an MFA degree (although I won't deny the potential helpfulness of all of those things).

So, again you ask, why would I, Christopher Husberg, want an MFA degree if it isn't necessary?  Why spend all that time and money?

Well, for me there are two major reasons.  The first is derived from the fact that an MFA is a teaching degree--not a writing degree.  By obtaining an MFA I could technically teach at the University level--although I'll more than likely use it as a spring-board into a more "collegiately acceptable" PhD program--because, in all honesty, I've wanted to be a teacher, specifically of literature and writing, since high school.  My desire has always been to be a writer first and foremost, but teaching appeals to me as well.  So an MFA, in a way, is a tentative (and admittedly unreliable) form of job security (the second reason I applied).  If my writing career doesn't work out, or if it takes longer than I would like to get started, I have something else to fall back on (and an excuse to keep writing until I get something right).

I will admit that, if I weren't married, I probably wouldn't have made as much of an effort to get into an MFA program.  If I were single and only worried about myself, I probably would have tried to go straight into publication (which would have been good in some ways, and bad in others).  But I'm not single, I'm married, and although for now its just me and Rachel, I still have that responsibility.  I have a family that I need to (help) provide for.  I like to think that an MFA degree is a profession of my commitment to that responsibility.

But, also, an MFA program will be instructive and educational.  I do think that it will help me become a better writer.  Do I think I would have grown as a writer without an MFA program?  Yes.  But probably not in the same ways, and perhaps not as quickly.  One of the best things about an MFA program is that I'll be able to spend so much time writing.  And I really think that writing is the single most important thing a writer can do (I know that sounds idiotic, but if you're a writer you know exactly how true that statement is).  I'm sure I'll learn a great deal from workshops as well, and forays into the genres of nonfiction and poetry, and writing a thesis, and taking other classes.  But most of all, I'll be able to write.

And, of course, that's what I'm most excited about.

So.  There's some of my thoughts on MFA programs.  If, by chance, anyone reading this is thinking of applying to any Creative Writing MFA programs, I would highly recommend Tom Kealey's Creative Writing MFA Handbook.  I normally don't put a lot of stock into books of that type, but this one was genuinely helpful and informative, and an easy read.  I would highly recommend it to anyone considering applying to MFA programs (you could also check out the blog run by the same guy here).

Well, thats all for now.  Some things I'm excited to blog about in the near future:  Harry Potter, gender diversity, more about nonfiction, Apple products, and more.  Look forward to it.