The MFA Years Begin

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What a summer, what a year — within just a matter of months, I graduated college, moved out of my house in Chicago, got married, traveled to Europe for my best friend’s wedding, and got a big girl job as a journalist & teacher. And today was my first day of graduate school orientation at the University of Central Florida in Orlando — my husband is also starting medical school this week.

Since I both work as a journalist and write fiction, I’ve received many questions from my students about why I’m choosing the MFA.

The MFA is something I’ve worked toward all throughout college. I went into Wheaton knowing I wanted to write fiction and I left with an even stronger conviction, having led our literary journal through two beautiful publications. And while I love journalism and my experience as a freelancer, reporter in Washington and editor of a newspaper, I’m choosing the MFA because I’m choosing to put my art first. 

I’m giving myself permission one week, one day, one hour at a time to prioritize my creative writing. My dear writing mentor at Wheaton told me as I was preparing to graduate that the most important part of the MFA is simply protecting my time and mental energy to create. The workshop environment will provide just that sort of support and community.

Alexander Chee (Iowa Writing Workshop alum) writes about the workshop method: “Listening to [peer’s] critiques forces you past the limits of your imagination and also your sympathies, and in doing so takes you past the limits of what you can reach for in your work on your own.”

I want to be forced past the limits of my imagination. And I’m ready for the challenge that awaits me in the next few years as I begin school and start preparing for my thesis. I know it will take more passion and endurance than any of my undergraduate projects, but I couldn’t be more excited for this journey to begin.

This past spring—on the day that I received my acceptance to UCF—I was attending a journalism conference in Chicago. While there, I met a reporter from the Chicago Tribune who sat down with me for a while to talk about his work. After telling him of my recent acceptance to an MFA program in fiction, he smiled and said he knew journalists in his building who had also completed their MFAs in Creative Writing. It made them more empathetic people. It made them better storytellers: and good journalism is simply a form of storytelling. But fiction allows us to go beyond a news story. We can enter into our characters’ alternative reality, which is both empathizing, humanizing, and humbling all at the same time.

My days will be very full with writing as I start classes very soon. But I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend the next few years than to surround myself by a community of artists who are all helping each other push past the limits of our imagination.

So here’s to the MFA, this exciting new venture. Here’s to putting art first.

If you want to keep up with me and my writing shenanigans, stick around. You can follow me on Instagram for regular updates or check out this page.

Much love,

Ciera

ALSO —

I’ve been on the hunt for the best, most innovative short stories or novels to keep my reading game strong. So if you have any recommendations, let me know what you’ve been reading this summer!

 

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