Tracing Your Success

Tracing Your Success

Everyone comes to Columbia at different stages in their writing career. Whether you’re fresh out of undergrad (like I was), or you’ve taken some years off to follow a different major that just didn’t work out so you came back to your true passion, or you’ve been published a handful of times and want to polish your skill – whatever the case, Columbia welcomes them all to apply.

Even with these various stages, I can attest firsthand to the level of progress you will achieve in the program. Like I said, I came straight from undergrad – I was as green as green could be. Sure I’d taken a few workshops in college, joined the school literary magazine, written a handful of stories. Friends and family told me I was such a great writer, too. So when I applied to grad programs, I thought I could learn, of course, but that I was already on pretty good footing.

Turns out, I had no idea. It’s one of those retrospective things for me. I look back now, two years later, and read over the story I submitted in my application here. It’s not terrible, but I cringe. I wanted to think it was just a product of putting distance between me and that story, but really I know it’s a product of schooling in this program. (Also, I talked a little about what else has helped my writing in another blog.)

A (less organized) version of a story-map Nami Mun wrote on the board during a workshop of my story.

How I actually got to this level is a combination of things, but the biggest factors can be split between my cohort and my professors. Honestly, you can read past blogs and see that I adore these people on both the writing and the social spectrum. But there’s even more to be said for the environment they create. One semester I had Nami Mun for a workshop instructor, and she drew the most complex web diagram on the board to help deconstruct my story. Another year, Don DeGrazia used his Story Workshop technique and asked me for a random word: I came up with “scoreboard” and wrote a scene from it that became an entire short story. From one word. The people in my cohort themselves leave the best intellectual and critical comments on each story, and will even text me late at night if they think of something that would help propel a certain story we just workshopped.

Another Nami Mun imitation.

It’s strange – I’m not quite done with this semester (the last one before starting thesis work), so I haven’t entered the Reminiscent Phase, where I look back and swoon over all the “good times.” I assume that’ll be in the next blog or so, so stay tuned haha. But even still, I think that attests to the good work being done within these classes and communities here at Columbia. That before I even reach the finish line I can see the results.