30 Awkward Moments From Your Creative Writing MFA

“We met at AWP. Can I email you my short stories?”

1. You, trying not to creep out your favorite professors.

Kevin Tang
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Kevin Tang
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2. You, trying to “cut loose” on weekends.

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3. You, “eating dinner.”

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4. Trying to chase down funding opportunities around the department.

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5. Applying to Breadloaf, MacDowell, Stegner, Yaddo, and other A-list artist residencies.

Kevin Tang
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6. Going from teaching comp to bored undergrads to totally hoity workshop critiques.

Kevin Tang
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7. When people say, “I don’t read contemporary literature because you MFA writers just churn out mediocre bores.”

(Translation: “I haven’t read since high school. I masturbate to TED Talks.” This same sort of dude tends to also blame the minorities, feminists, and pomo elitists. I’m looking at you, B.R. Myers.)

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8. What it feels like getting workshopped for the first time.

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9. When some lazy asshole in your year nabs the only full-ride scholarship.

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10. When you’re that lazy asshole.

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11. These workshop comments:

I want a tramp-stamp that says “believability issue.”

Kevin Tang
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Kevin Tang
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12. The gist of every workshop critique:

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13. When a colleague starts crying mid-critique.

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14. When someone writes about a another colleague — in a sex scene. An emotional one.

(Any sort of uncomfortable, thinly veiled roman à clef, really.)

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15. When a classmate writes something unreflexively sexist/racist and says it’s art. And then later says it’s satire.

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16. When every poem being critiqued has a nautical theme, or wounded fauna, or some other weird coincidence.

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17. When a satirical genius is somehow very lenient toward your work.

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18. That one weird time you’re asked to do in-class writing exercises.

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19. Every discussion about Franzen or Tao Lin.

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20. When colleagues reference some micro-offshoot of the Oulipo writers that you’ve never heard of.

(Play along.)

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21. At a reading, when someone goes way over their allotted time.

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22. Trying to hide that the only reason you came to the reading in the first place was the snacks/free wine.

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23. What it feels like reading anything you were proud of writing a month ago.

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24. When feted, laureled, Pulitzer-anointed visiting authors tell you that publication’s not important, and you should write as if no one’s reading.

I don’t need to play the “as if” game. I know no one’s reading.

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25. When fiction/nonfiction writers complain about their agents in front of poets.

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26. When a colleague gets published by The New Yorker or snatches a Wylie agent or book deal and your entire department melts down in a jealous rage.

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27. When you submit to one of a billion Glimmertrain contests and get this note back half a year later.

Goodbye $15 “reading fee.”

Kevin Tang
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28. When yet another person writes a handwringing pro-/anti-MFA thinkpiece.

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29. These job opportunities on your MFA’s career email list:

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30. When you realize you’re supposed to be writing right now and you’ve just read an entire BuzzFeed post instead. YOU. YES YOU. GET BACK TO WORK.

And may we all get a near-million-dollar advance soon.

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