Congrats on Your Acceptance, Part III–Wes & Jenn: A Study Date

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Again, congrats on you acceptance! I hope this blog post finds you well and that you are enjoying the process of selecting your future MFA program. I’ve been thinking a lot about the different reasons for why I chose Columbia College Chicago and what factors were most important when making my decision. I’ve blogged about funding and housing options which, in my opinion, are certainly the biggest factors, but I think one factor that you can’t really find information about is the actual courses you will be taking and the workload involved with those courses. Sure you can read tidy descriptions of the courses that you will be taking, but as always, I think this blog post should offer insider information, something that only a current student in the program can offer.

Over the course of the last four semesters, I have taken the following courses: History of the Essay, Theory & Praxis (for GSIs), Four workshops with all three faculty members, Topics in Nonfiction: Poets Writing Prose, Topics in Nonfiction: The Political Essay, Form & Theory of Nonfiction, Postcolonial Literature (Literature Class) and Marginalia: Otherness in Verse (Literature Class), and a Poetry Workshop. I feel that overall I have had the opportunity to take classes both within the genre of Nonfiction and in other genres. I’ve also taken classes that aren’t solely creative writing classes, but that have allowed me to write academically and produce conference length essays that will add to my professional development and could potentially be submitted to professional writing conferences and academic journals.

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My bestie Wes Jamison, also a candidate in the Nonfiction program, and I are at Stella’s, our favorite diner in Lakeview, while I’m writing this blog post, for a study session this week.  We’ve been talking about how busy we have been lately and how we just need a little break, which is the main reason why we chose to study at Stella’s. Sometimes you just need a change of pace, a little break from your weekly routine, simply to feel rejuvenated. We just ordered an intense amount of food, and perhaps we are being a little indulgent, but we planned on being here for awhile. Wes ordered the Vegetarian Skillet with eggs over-easy and rye toast. He also order the Stuffed French Toast with a fruit cup and a large Coke. I decided on the Vegetarian Scramble with hash browns, wheat toast, and a side of onion rings. I also ordered a Coke. I know. This is excessive, but we’re in for a long night.

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On the menu for our studying plans: We are both reading Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha for our Graduate Literature Seminar, Marginalia: Otherness in Verse, taught by visiting poetry faculty member CM Burroughs, who by the way is a phenomenal instructor and writer. We are also both working on a reading response, which we are required to do weekly for our literature class. This is just the beginning, because we both also have 15-18 papers that need to be graded (mine by Wednesday and his by Thursday). This is just a typical Monday night for us (the workload, not the Stella’s, though we’re talking about making this a weekly ritual).

My week begins on Monday with my Nonfiction Workshop (with David Lazar) and then ends with me teaching Writing and Rhetoric II. On Tuesday I work for the Academic Affairs office. Wednesday starts with teaching and ends with Topics in Nonfiction: The Political Essay (with Aviya Kushner). Thursday I’m at the Academic Affairs office again and then I’m off to my Graduate Literature Seminar. Fridays I usually spend winding down from the week and reading essays for the following week for workshop and trying to catch up on reading. We do a lot of reading. A lot.  I am lucky that I don’t have a job that requires me to work on the weekends, because I am always in need of a little time to wind down by Saturday, to hang out with friends and drink adult beverages. By Sunday night, though, it’s back to the routine, the reading, the teaching prep, and the writing. It’s a busy schedule, and we are all constantly busy.

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So, here at Stella’s, on a Monday night, Wes and I are feeling pretty swamped, but we’re actually starting to feel a little full as well. And we’re doing a lot of laughing. I mean, we like it here (at Stella’s,) but also here in Chicago, in this program, at this school. I think that there is value in a highly academic writing program, one that asks us to read outside of our given genre (literature classes, poetry electives), one that asks us to engage with theory (through Topics classes and our Form and Theory craft classes), and one that constantly pushes us to think deeply, encourages our professional development, asks us to read passionately and widely, and, most importantly, knows that each of these components will allow and encourage us to write in new and challenging ways.