Last month I finished the spring semester of my second year in the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA in Creative Writing Program. I’m on the three-year plan, on track to graduate one year from now.
This semester was the most demanding yet. I took my first poetry course—Craft of Poetry—which I compared to studying a foreign language (see Beginning Again, January 2013). I also signed up for five thesis credits, which required me to work diligently on my memoir manuscript. The workload was heavy: reading, analyzing, and discussing at least a dozen poems each week; writing a poem a week and critiquing poems of my classmates; writing or revising a memoir chapter each week. No wonder my primary ambitions right now are to work crossword puzzles and sleep.
- Narrative nonfiction is an art and a craft that draws on skills and techniques in structure, dialogue, scenes, character development, setting, and reflection. I’m studying the theory and honing my own skill through practice and experimentation.
- Practice and experimentation yield the best results with time and commitment to pen on paper, fingers on keyboard.
- Reading, particularly directed reading that includes analysis of craft techniques, is building my writer’s toolbox. I’ve gained many tools by reading memoirs, essays, and short works in fiction, nonfiction, and prose poetry.
- Deadlines (either self- or teacher-imposed) motivate me, especially on days I question the value of my writing or feel pulled to other responsibilities—or pleasures.
- Reading and writing poetry and fiction help my nonfiction writing.
- The writing profession requires promotion, networking, collaboration, and continuing education.