Recent Columbia graduate, Cyn Vargas, talks to Marginalia about her new book, her current work, and more. Check Cyn out at her website here. Her book, On The Way, will …
I like fiction, I like to write, and I like to be a student. I like other people that like these things, and as Graduate Student Ambassador for the Creative Writing – Fiction MFA program, I like to spread my love for these things. My blog posts attempt to do just that, and myriad other things. So, please read and add to my margins.
Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia?
I never thought I’d be an educator, even though my mom is one, my aunt is one, and my older sister is one, but that’s what I ultimately landed on. I graduated with a BA in English and a BA in Theatre from the University of Georgia in 2005. I knew I needed a change, so I headed west in my truck and landed in Los Angeles, where I spent a very, very, very small amount of time before my newfound dislike of acting and my feelings about L.A. (none of them terribly positive) propelled me to move back to Atlanta.
There, I had that quarter-life, post-graduate crisis—WHAT DO I DO? I worked as a stock boy for J. Crew until my father moved to Florida to open a business and I moved with him to help. There, I was a tax accountant and office manager, then a part-time server at a fine dining seafood restaurant. I know, super exciting. After a series of unfortunate events that aren’t as exciting as the Lemony Snicket variety, I decided to go to graduate school and pursue an MA in English. I did that, which turned out much more fortunately, and I taught on the college level for over two years. I felt something was missing, though. I always wrote for fun, and I wanted to include that to be something I pursued professionally. I decided to devote my future to my true passion: telling stories.
In addition, I spent a lot of time exploring Florida bars, beaches, and pools.
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
During that quarter-life, post-graduate “WHAT DO I DO?” crisis, I read a lot of books. A lot. Usually more than a book per week. One of my favorites from the beginning of that time period was Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned. When I began looking into graduate schools, as a city boy living in Southwest Florida (and, yes, we consider Atlanta a big city down South!), I knew that I wanted to live in a big city. I’ve always loved Chicago, I had some good friends up here already, and I was ready for an adventure. Florida was doing nothing much for my mental sanity, though I had an excellent job at two really awesome schools. I started looking at schools in Chicago, saw that Joe taught here, and decided to apply. I guess they liked me, because here I am!
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
My cohort of students that started the program at the same time and I all have “labels.” We have the queer-fiction writer, the young woman that writes about creepy men and their effects on young women, the guy that writes science fiction, the guy that writes about extroverts, the guy that writes about anything political, especially if it involves Irish politics, and the gal that writes about… well, anything quirky and kooky. I like to write about people with strange medical conditions or ailments or psychological issues—my “label” is the “weird medical condition” writer. That gets my fires juiced up, for some reason. So, I’m working on a few projects right now. I’ll be figuring out which project I’ll focus my thesis around this year, so I’m trying to get as much done on them as possible and figuring out which one will be the best story and the story I can best tell at this point in my writing life.
Also, I’m going to take Young Adult writing this year, and I think I know what I want to write about in that class… that’s something I’ll likely include in my blog. So, stay tuned into Marginalia for that! It deals with one of the newest and craziest passions in my life, and that’s playing rugby. I’ve never done any sports writing before, so I’m going to spend some time reading good sports writing and good YA fiction to prepare. I feel like that’s evading the question a bit, but I like to talk about my writing after I’ve written a full draft.