On that damn d-word: Diversity

Hello again, world. Hello, September. I took a little break from the blog, though I didn’t plan for it to be this long. I come back and September is here.

I’d like to tell you that I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been too busy with something super important, like saving the world. So I will. Little did you know, I’ve spent the past week or so on a perilous adventure saving your life and the lives of everyone else on the planet. It’s been very exciting.

Feel free to believe that story, but the truth, I suppose, is that I’ve been busy with things like work, job searching and house hunting. And, of course, writing. I’m pretty proud of the self-discipline I’ve been able to use to keep myself writing. I’m using methods like a rewards system. Lots of writing = lots of ice cream. So maybe I’m getting fat, but so are my notebooks.

Another distraction from the blog has been trying to figure out what to do about graduate school. In my first post, I mentioned I’d be updating about my search for an MFA program. So far, this has been the update: every time I think about grad school, I just want to curl up and…stop thinking about it.

But the last few weeks have been different. I think I’ve figured out what I want to do. My plan was to apply to an MFA program for next fall, and I was feeling hesitant about that for many reasons, including not wanting to leave the Bay Area for school and not wanting to put on hold this life I’ve begun to go back to being a student. I love learning and being a student is what I do best, but in a lot of ways I feel ready to move on from academia, applying my thirst for knowledge to the so-called “real world” (I have a hard time putting this fantasy life I live into that category).

So the solution I’ve found is to apply to low-residency MFA programs, like those at Antioch University, Pine Manor College and Vermont College of Fine Arts. With these programs I can stay in San Francisco, have a full-time job and work on my MFA at a distance from my instructors. Then there are biannual residencies on campus or at another site, usually for ten days at a time. This sounds perfect to me, and I’m glad to at least have a little more clarity about what I want to do. Now I can stop pulling my hair out every time I think about it.

Even though I’ll be away from campus for most of the year, I have certain needs. Apart from wanting to find a good program that might offer some financial aid, I’m also hoping to find… diversity. Or something like it.

I hate to use the d-word. It always seems to fall short, perhaps because it’s been so often thrown around to refer to cases like tossing a token black woman into a room of white guys and calling it an example of diversity. It makes things challenging — how am I to find a college home that truly reflects an array of backgrounds when anybody can slap the word “diversity” on their website and claim to have what I’m looking for? Other questions that come up:

  • How can I be sure that that absurdly happy group of racially diverse students in the picture really attend the school? Isn’t that the cast from Glee?
  • Short of climbing into bed with faculty members, how can I find out if any of the faculty are queer? And will climbing into bed with them help or hurt my chances of being accepted to the school?
  • Should I be concerned if the only black person on the website is the same woman in different photos? Should I be more concerned if they’ve used Photoshop to change her outfits and her hair, apparently hoping I’d think she’s several different people?

You can see why this is challenging. I guess I’d just like to find a community of writers that can understand my perspective as a writer. And to be the young black queer woman among a faculty and class composed primarily of straight white men wouldn’t really make me feel at home as a writer. Hopefully between now and application time I’ll be able to figure out some research methods to get me the information I’m looking for.

Has anybody out there had any experience in low-residency programs? What about in trying to find a “diverse” setting? Any advice would be much appreciated. Otherwise I might end up crawling into strangers’ beds. I’ll let you know how it goes if it comes to that.

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Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 10:51 AM  Comments (2)  
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What the hell am I writing?

What the hell am I writing?

I think one of the reasons I’ve been feeling so strange about my writing lately is that I’m having trouble identifying what it is. I was once a poet, see, and then I became a fiction writer and I was comfortable with that title. Comfortable, at least, with calling myself a fiction writer who sometimes writes poetry, but always able to identify it as one or the other.

Then, in my last semester as an undergraduate Creative Writing major at San Francisco State, I decided to take a poetry class with the incredible and talented Toni Mirosevich. Partly because Toni is so incredible and I didn’t want to graduate without ever having taken a class with her, and partly because I thought that reconnecting with poetry would help me think outside of the box with my fiction.

Well, the class helped me think outside the box, all right. So far outside that I didn’t know what to call my writing anymore. If you’ve ever read Toni’s work, you might know that she’s the queen of creative non-fiction and you might have expected that I’d end up writing some kind of poetry/fiction/non-fiction fusion that could never be categorized.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I’m all about letting go of labels, after all. And I have great respect for writers who can pull off these sorts of things. But with my writing, of all things, I’ve always been something of a control freak. I like to go into it knowing that I’m writing fiction, that my paragraphs will begin with capital letters and end with periods. That it’s fiction because it’s not true and it doesn’t rhyme and there are no line breaks.

Right?

Then I find myself writing pieces like this, and when I go to post it I have to tag it as something, so I have to decide: is this fiction? Is it poetry? What about that truth element? Does that make it creative non-fiction? Can I call it poetic non-fiction, prosey poetry, poenonfiction? And what about when I write something that’s not true for me, but it’s somebody’s truth, and that’s why I write it? And what happens when I rhyme?

According to Toni, this is a good place to be in my writing. I’m on the edge of discovery, on the verge of… something, I suppose, though I’m not sure what. To me, being on the edge of something unknown feels like I’m about to plunge. I ask myself what’s the worst that could happen if I wrote something that can’t be categorized, and my mind goes to all kinds of illogical places, like the crumbling of the universe as we know it.

Then again, I wrote a few uncategorizables this morning and the world seems to still be in tact. For now. We’ll see what happens.

_________________________________________________________________________

‘Til Morning Comes

We know morning will come

but we try to carry this night together

by holding our breath

keeping darkness in our lungs

to release

when dawn begins

its painting of the sky.

I’m holding on until

your breathless laugh

makes me sigh.

I watch the air from within me

move to you

and I hope you’ll hold my breath

‘til morning comes.

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 10:42 AM  Comments (3)  
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Is this how all blogs begin?

Here’s the story:

After a windy, adventurous road full of challenges and triumphs, I graduated from college with a degree in Creative Writing (technically, English with an emphasis in Creative Writing) and half a Sociology minor (okay, so I never finished it, but I can’t seem to let it go). It’s funny to me that after all that time of adding and dropping second majors and minors, trying to figure out what practical focus could actually get me a “real job” while I pursued my silly dream of writing, I ended up still focusing mainly on creative writing.

So now, of course, comes the inevitable question I hear every day: “What now?” I’ve been trying to come up with creative answers: Join the circus. Fix the oil spill. Sometimes I’m tempted to just say what I want to do: Get a dog. Travel the world. Change the world. Of all the answers, “be a writer” seems to be the most laughable. But why not? It would seem to be most logical to say that after getting a degree in Creative Writing, one would become a writer. Right? Heh.

Maybe it’s just me who makes a joke of it, if I dare to say that’s what I’m doing with my life now. I always accompany it with some self-deprecating line or laugh, because of all the answers, that’s not what anyone expects to hear. But I guess that’s what I’m doing. Being a writer, for now, for me, means: writing, preparing work to submit to literary magazines and writing contests, reading, considering graduate schools and of course looking for that “real job” to pay the bills in the meantime. I’d love to work with a non-profit, which is where that whole “changing the world” goal comes in. But who ever said that changing the world will pay the bills…

But here’s the main thing that makes me a writer: I write. So that’s my plan, to work every day to earn that “er.” In this blog I’ll write about how life goes along the way. I’ll post readings and events, share about some of my favorite writers, share some of my fiction and poetry. I’ll post about social justice work and life in San Francisco. I’ll write about what it means to me to be young, queer, Black and female. I’ll update when I come closer to figuring out what the hell I’m doing with my life, including my search for an MFA program and for a job, and when life laughs at my plans and takes me somewhere unexpected. And I’ll probably post some rants and raves.

And now I have a new answer when someone asks what I’m doing now. I’m blogging. Let’s see where this leads me.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 3:32 PM  Comments (4)  
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