What We’re Up To This Summer, Part 1

It’s summertime in Laramie, which means our MFAs have oodles of time to write, read, travel, and explore the world. To find out what the 2019 cohort is up to this summer, we did a quick interview with them— check it out below!


JENNY ZHANG, MFA, NONFICTION

First off, if you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? I have always felt great affinity with the wooden spatula, in that we’re both reliable, easy to clean, and good for stir frying.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? Definitely a colander. Draining, but with a purpose.

What are you working on? My goal is to finish the first draft of my thesis by the end of summer. I’m also dabbling in writing trashy erotica to keep me somewhat sane in the inbetweens.

Am I allowed to ask how it’s going? Yes! It’s going OKAY, and I say that with some trepidation, because is it ever supposed to go better than awful? Mostly, I’m adjusting to not having hard and fast obligations for the next few months – it’s weird to go from a set schedule to what feels like infinite free time. I have to remind myself that it’s fine to just relax. I get to write at a leisurely pace, I’m not as anxious about finishing things, I’m exploring, and I’m failing a lot. I’m learning to be okay with it.

Tell me your favorite adjective? Cacophonous.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? Sure, why not? I’m a recovering dash addict, but everyone’s invited to the party!

Got any summer plans? Austin is my home base for the summer, and I plan on being near some sort of water feature every day. (That’s something I missed while in dry, windy Laramie.) My big trip is in July – I’m going to China to visit my family and do research for my thesis (thanks, Dick Cheney!).

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? Biking. I like knowing that I can leave of my own accord anytime.

Are we having fun yet?

Recommend a book? Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.


TAYO BASQUIAT, MFA, NONFICTION

If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? Spatula.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? Can opener. That manual kind that won’t stay on the can, leaves sections of the lid attached and thus requires a hammer to finish the job.

What are you working on? Right now, Wilderness First Responder certification.

Am I allowed to ask how it’s going? I have fake blood stains on my hands.

Tell me your favorite adjective? Stippled.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? No to semis, yes to lots of colons except in titles.

Got any summer plans? Write the first draft of my thesis and lead outdoor adventures for adults.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? Walking.

Are we having fun yet? [Edit: Tayo didn’t answer this, which I presume means he’s having all the fun.]

Recommend a book? Stoner by John Williams.

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“show us something terrible, or wonderful”

we are pleased to announce the recent launching of the other room journal! co-edited by fiction mfa’ers tim raymond and justin mundhenk, the  journal publishes “stories. online.” check it out for your reading pleasure, and submit. stories. online. about the aesthetic of the other room, the editors say the following:

literary fiction tends to be defined in terms of what it’s not. literary fiction is not genre-based. literary fiction does not accomodate convention. our sense of this style is purely intuitive. so we’ll say this. send us work that enjoys language (we love lydia davis). show us your best line (we love amy hempel). wander a bit (we love denis johnson). give us weird (we love joy williams). contradict yourself and your story. make us sleepy, or angry. make us touch ourselves oddly. shove your accidents in our faces.  show us something terrible, or wonderful, or just make us feel. show us what you keep hidden in the other room.


in the blogosphere

interesting things are afoot.

courtesy of katiecakes schmid:
Claudia Rankine responds to a poem by Tony Hoagland. Go to her website to read her really interesting AWP post and Open Letter requesting submissions about writing on race. She also posts a link to Hoagland’s poem. Read Seth Abramson’s post too. It’s really interesting. The best I’ve seen on the internet in regards to this subject. Mostly I’ve just seen “tony hoagland tells rankine his poem is for white people” as the headline and lede.

Claudia Rankine is friend to the UW MFA. brought here as a distinguished author by the program’s Visiting Writer Series in Fall 2009, she taught a workshop in poetry to mfa students across genres.

more literature

htmlgiant posted an interview w/jesse ball (for your consideration, plz).

‘JB: Well, you could say that I have gotten better at knowing what I need to do.’

‘JB: Last April I hurt my knee doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so I have been out of commission since then, however I just had an operation to fix the knee, and will be back at it soon.

I have always been obsessed with contests — both physical, as in boxing, wrestling, etc, or mental, as in chess or go. I like when fighters or chess players demonstrate willpower. It is an underappreciated quality.’

Parades
And when you are finally caught and questioned,
it is discovered, sadly, that you know
nothing of use. Your captors exchange glances, nod.
You are released in the freedom of some afternoon,

some autumn of the year, your coat, hat, returned
as if to continue your life. Now it is you
in the world again. In yellowing rooms, life
becomes no more than the places where it occurs.
At the pier in darkness, parades will cross the water,
visible but once. Or I could say

I saw the wind coming hard along the river
touching all it passed.

How are things consequent? When they catch you
again, what will you say? That all things
may be weighed, may be raised and weighed
by two human hands?