How I Will Be Spending The Next Two Years

About a month ago, the PBS Newshour ran a segment about the 75th anniversary of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the oldest writing MFA program in the country.

At 1:16 in the above video, the segment cuts to workshop director Samantha Chang standing in an office filled with crates full of manuscripts in red folders, explaining that over 1,200 people applied to the workshop that year. The picture then zooms in on a crate containing “the lucky twenty-six who were accepted.” Somewhere in that lingering shot are 58 pages that passed through my printer before getting to Iowa City.

In the fall of 2011, I will begin studying for an MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

I decided I wanted to attend graduate school for the time it would afford me to focus on writing, and because I wanted to be in a place that would provide me with extrinsic motivation to create fiction. I had also learned at the Clarion Writers’ Workshop how fantastic it is to be in group of similarly impassioned people, and wanted more of that. It was my original intention to apply to MFA programs immediately after attending Clarion in 2008, but instead I spent most of the next year bedridden by Crohn’s disease. It took me until 2010 to get my life sufficiently orderly to pursue those plans again. So my first steps toward making writing my main focus were fairly stumbling, but things seem to be going smoothly now.

There are still some foreseeable difficulties though. Most notably, that I’ve spent the last 26 years living in a place where the annual temperature looks like this:

and now I’m moving to a place where the annual temperature looks like this:

I’m going from a place where it almost never gets below freezing to a place where I can expect to see frost for half the year.  I am flatly terrified that I am going to find a way to die of exposure walking between classes. But I have chosen to fight terror with terror, and, in a effort to curry the favor of the elder gods, have purchased one of these to protect me:

Bring it on, Iowa.


Add yours →

  1. You are going to rock this SO HARD. The green spaghetti face alien hat AND the Writers’ Workshop. Will await your profile in the Paris Review. 😉

  2. The Elder Gods totally approve your plan.

    And my eyes only froze shut on the way to class once. You’ll be fine.

  3. YES! Grad school tag!
    And there was only one day last year where I thought my lungs would freeze up. Just one.

  4. Somehow Iowa midwinter and the elder gods is strangely appropriate.

    Get a really good warm full length jacket and wear jeans and a t-shirt under it. Otherwise you’ll melt in the central heating…

  5. Just dropping by from Ferrett’s LJ — once you’re in Iowa City, you might want to check out, which runs local fan conventions; ICON ( is the SF convention, originally founded by Joe Haldeman while he was at the Writer’s Workshop. Critical Hit Games is the local game store where games happen, if you’re that sort of fan.

  6. (Oh, and Daydreams is where the comics are. Prairie Lights Bookstore is overhyped but still pleasant; The Haunted Bookshop is a nice used bookstore with a genre-friendly staff.)

Leave a Reply