Notes from the First Week of an MFA Program

  • Taught my first class yesterday. I obviously can’t talk much about the students since the little blighters will probably find this blog, but they seem pretty cool. Hopefully, it will be a good class. Most of the other Writing Sems TAs ask their students to call them by their first name, but I went mad with power and told them to call me Professor Kanakia. And now they do it! It feels so wrong and so good.
  • My writing mojo is starting to come back, I think. We had our first fiction workshop yesterday (with Alice McDermott!) and she instructed us to write a 3-10 page story and hand it in by Sunday (just as an exercise to get the ball rolling and to put us on equal footing). I was very worried about it, but I think I managed to stumble upon something interesting during yesterday’s writing session. We’ll see.
  • I love my apartment. It is a museum of wonders! I have three rooms. My bedroom, which really just contains a bed and some suitcases. And then my kitchen / living room. And, finally, a tiny study. The study has just a desk, a chair, and a computer. No windows! It’s like Las Vegas in there. For instance, it’s about 8:30 AM right now, but in my mind it’s the middle of the night.
  • I have finally gone full yuppie and erected a standing desk. It’s on my kitchen countertop. And it is amazing. It is so wonderful to be able to browse the internet whilst: a) standing within an arms-length of food; and b) feeling very virtuous about all the passive exercise I’m getting from standing up.

There she is, standing right in the corner of my kitchen!

  • Ugh, I am taking a Spanish class: Elementary Spanish I. Johns Hopkins’ writing program has a language requirement: you either need to test at a third year proficiency in a language or you need to take two semesters of language study. Oh my god, I hate language requirements. All through high school, foreign languages were the bane of my existence (this is the third time I’ve taken Intro to Spanish). During freshman year of college, I took the first two quarters of Intro to Arabic and then was like, “This is in every way horrible. Somehow, I will figure out how to get out of this sometime during the next three years”. But no, three years later, I was stuck there, taking the third quarter of Arabic. And it was so much worse trying to take it after having forgotten what I’d learned during the first two quarters. This time, I had some vague intention to try to pass out of the language requirement, but that ambition was doomed from the start. Once I failed the placement test, I just did the adult thing and settled myself down to take two semesters of this schiz. Oh well. The instructor seems nice and I think I’m responsible enough now to just do the reading and homework and participate in class and generally settle back and get through it. But still…I am not looking forward to sixty more hours of this (oh yeah, and everyone else in my class is a Hopkins undergrad…)
  • On a sidenote, I understand that language study is a wonderful thing and I well believe that the study of languages is very enriching for most people…it’s just…I’m badat it. Language study is never going to enrich me, because I just don’t ever end up making the slightest bit of progress in whatever language I am studying. My experience in language classes makes my heart go out to all the techies struggling through fuzzy classes (and vice versa).
  • So far, the workload doesn’t seem too bad. The X-factor is how long it takes me to prepare for class, of course. But there does seem to at least theoretically be enough time in the day to do a lot of writing and reading done (I have about 9 hours of class and 3 hours of teaching every week).
  • In terms of reading, I’m continuing with the light, trashy reading. Right now I’m reading Anna And The French Kiss, which is a romance-flavored contemporary YA novel about a girl who’s attending an international boarding school in Paris. It’s not bad, but it feels like it needs more punch, somehow. I don’t normally read much YA (it feels very undignified for a man of my age and stature), but I figure that since I’ve written a YA novel and have published YA stories and am considering writing another YA novel, I probably ought to read a bit of it.

Doesn’t it stand so nicely? It’s an old laptop that’s been desktopified through the addition of an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The standing desk platform is the Kangaroo, manufactured by http://www.ergodesktop.com

6 Comments on “Notes from the First Week of an MFA Program

  1. I remember a young teacher at Stanford who insisted we call him Professor. We secretly laughed at him for it (but liked him a lot anyway!)

    PS: I’m gonna get on my high horse and assert that much of the best fiction being written now is coming out in YA. Refrain from standing on your dignity, sir! Channel it all into being called ‘Professor.’

    • I doubt I’d “insist” that people call me Professor. But I do prefer it. Because it’s sooooo silly.

      P.S. Do you have any good YA recommendations? Although I know there’s a lot of good spec-fic YA, right now I’m trying to read YA that has a realistic setting (for instance, I’ve just read The Chocolate War).

      • Does historical fit into your specs? If so, then Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is fantastic, and I just read and loved the Montmaray books by Michelle Cooper — both are realistic and WWII-era. Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me has a faint touch of the speculative, but is mostly realistic and also really good.

        • I’ll check out your recommendations! I was actually just envisioning contemporary YA, but I’m willing to look at some historical stuff.

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