Filtering by Tag: MFA

Best Anonymous Quotes of 2013

As 2013 comes to an end, I've found that words bring the clearest meaning. The last half of this year has been packed with words: from the manuscripts I've written, or not written, the little emails laced with hope and jokes, and advice from friends that helped me both laugh and contemplate where life has taken me since graduating with my MFA.

Now that I have an iPhone (oh yes I do), I've joined the modern world with things like Instagram and other amazing apps (sorry, Kindle Fire. I love you, but your apps stink). I experimented with a typography app as I crafted this post. This year more any other, words spoken and written by anonymous people seemed to have encapsulated my thoughts and feelings. So I wanted to share these quotes with you.


I love this twist on the classic "great minds think alike." I adored this quote right away because of the use of "wonder," one my most favorite words. But there's a lot to love here. It reminds me of the wondering that I've had the pleasure of doing with some great friends. I appreciate it even more now that I'm out of school.

Nothing beats being able to hash out a new story idea or difficult scene with a friend. In the MFA program, I was spoiled by being surrounded by like-minded writer friends who were just a floor away. I'd wash the red ink off my hands after a grueling grading session and wander through the halls, knocking on my friends' offices with a burning question on my tongue: "What point of view should I use? What do you think of me adding a tiger into the end of my story? How do I describe creme brulee without using the name?"

Without batting an eye, my writer-friends would divulge their opinions. We'd talk entirely too long about our respective projects and end each conversation complaining about the lesson plans still to write.

In the "real world," you don't often run into people who can have such conversations easily. I try to keep my craft-talk to a minimum, but I still get blank stares, polite smiles, and nods from my new work friends. They're happy and proud of me. They're also eager to peek inside the brain of a would-be writer, but what they find there doesn't make a lot of sense. This is usually the case for most writers.

My writer-friends are pure miracles, really, and getting to meet them on a free weekend over a greasy sandwich or hot bowl of soup raises my spirits. We burn our voices out talking at the speed of light about writer things, and I'm just thankful that I can have these conversations, even if they are more a treat now than the norm these days.


I've had a ton of dreams this year that probably stemmed from stress, but were nonetheless memorable (and draining). Have you ever dreamed something so real that you woke up fully expecting it? That was me, at least once a week. Those dreams usually had to do with me thinking I'd received an email or phone call that, upon waking and checking my Kindle Fire, I realized hadn't happened at all. 

Yet, other times, when the said email or call would come (just later in the afternoon), I wondered, "Well hey, am I psychic or something?" Then I'd daydream about the Oracle of Delphi and scold myself for putting off writing a novel about Apollo. 

For someone who writes in the vein of fantasy, my dreams are mundane. Weird stuff happens, but usually framed within spending time with friends and family and doing normal things, like grocery shopping. Magical realism that would be too boring to write about. But again, if I believed that even one little part of my dream was real, I'd wake up blinking and scrambling for proof. 

Having dreams like that is tiring. When I get to work, cracking my jaw over a big yawn, it's because the manic and worry that came with an ordinary dream dug its claws into me. At times like this, I wish I drank coffee. 


This little manta comes from Wren, my college buddy who just started a blog, The Wren's Nest. She, in turn, had heard it from an old friend, so perhaps it's got some history in it. 

2013 was not without its disappointments. Rejections, a writer's best friend, came flooding in for various manuscripts; as a consequence, I finally cleaned out the pints of ice cream in my freezer (the taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream is greatly improved when sprinkled with tears).

Eventually though, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. It was a useless emotion that cramped my writing mood - and anything that prevents me from writing is bad news. "If not this, something better" came at just the right time when Wren and I stayed up late talking over the phone. What's great about this saying is that it leaves no room for negativity. If your expectations about anything don't happen, then you're asking for something even better to replace it. It welcomes life to surprise you.

It's hard to accept surprises when you're a writer, because when you create a world, you're the one who controls everything. You know which plot twist will send your main character reeling. You know what kinds of flowers grow behind the haunted mansion in your story, which villain will be redeemed by the third book, and how many paper clips is in your MC's math teacher's desk. But real life? Who knows what will happen? Sometimes, that's a good thing, especially when you invite extraordinary surprises in. 


I'm trying to follow my own advice here. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about being stuck in revision hell, along with facing writer's block. I think the gifs I used within that post accurately described what that was like, haha. With the help of my friends, NaNoWriMo, and a few well-placed contests (with tight deadlines), I think I'm back on my feet. 

After graduating, I tried to write at my normal speed, but it was difficult to rebuild my schedule without the program. Being a writer now meant finding small moments during the day to write a paragraph or map out a few chapters on the back of a post-it note. Tired from a long day of work, I'd curl up on the couch and blink blearily at the television screen until finally stumbling to bed. 

I haven't stayed up late to write in months. Weekends are dedicated to catching up on sleep, seeing friends, watching movies / reading books / and other things I can't do during the week. I'm totally an adult now. It's almost too easy to be normal with such a schedule. 

So seeing "Stay Weird" printed in bold script on a sweater was like a wake-up call to me (and a hit to my wallet, haha). I didn't forget to "stay weird," but the principle of it had slipped to the back of my head. 

Maybe that's why I had such a hard time writing. When I let go, the wheels started turning again. 


2013 was a mixed bag. It was a year of growth forced by the natural consequences of leaving academia's cozy yet frustrating bosom and launching into the brick wall that is the "real world." 

I've revised tens of thousands of words, shed substantial weight, developed a love of sweet potatoes and beans, mimicked Sonic the Hedgehog in meeting writing contest deadlines, and filled my life with a lot of music and life-changing books. 

I'm happy to say goodbye. Hello, 2014. Let's be friends. 

Graduation: A Post in GIFs

Here's the moment you've all been waiting for: I'm officially done with grad school. I've been yammering about this for such a long time already, so now that the time has come, I find myself speechless and utterly unable to express what it's like to be finished with a shiny MFA degree in my hands (well, hypothetically. It'll be mailed in a few weeks).

Strange to think that this blog started in my first semester of graduate school.... so there's never been a not-in-school moment for I Wear Milk Crowns until now.

1) My initial reaction to the end of grad school:

2) What I said to students who had asked me why academia still looks down on genre fiction:

3) Cleaning out my office and turning in the key:

4) Finishing April's CampNaNoWriMo at 15k - and proud (even if I was off by 5k from my goal):

5) Kicking off the summer by watching all of Sherlock:

So, yes, lots of feels going on. I'm still trying to process everything that's happened, but I'm looking forward to what the future brings! What's going on with your end of the semester? 

Flappers and Narwhals: A Thesis Adventure!

Formspring time!

How is your thesis book coming along?

Very well, thank you. It's a little slow at times, but I'm only a few weeks away from writing the conclusion.

If anyone's been checking my Figment page over the last few months, you've probably noticed that besides the occasional contests, my updates have slowed down considerably.  There's a good reason for that. 

My third and final year of graduate school is approaching and in order to earn my diploma, there is one last epic task that I must complete: writing a finished, polished manuscript. My thesis. 

No matter what genre you work in - whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry - this is the usual requirement for graduation (besides, you know, getting good grades and all that). Fiction writers have the option of either writing a novel manuscript or a short story collection manuscript for their thesis. 

After much deliberation, I decided to take on a novel. 

The last year is usually spent working closely with one's thesis director and committee; we gather together, talk about revisions, and then I go back to my office and scratch my head until I figure out the best plan to attack my editing. In order to this successfully, and get the best feedback I can, I must complete the first draft of my thesis before returning to school.

So that's what this summer is for. I have been writing every single day to reach that goal.

Because it's a school-related writing project, I'm not able to share it. However, I can tell you a little about it. 

My thesis is set in a fantasy world inspired by the 1920's. There is a girl who studies shipwrecks and lore. There is a boy who speaks to numbers. 

This novel is bursting with flappers, lighthouses, gramophones, an adventurer's club, deaths, narwhals, pocket watches, keys, wooden props, a castle, islands, witching waves, candy floss, ocean liners, violets, a carnival city, squash racket matches, captains, sailors, saltwater swimming pools, childhood crushes, fire, and foul storms. 

I've been listening to a lot of The Hush Sound and A Fine Frenzy, two bands I've adored for a while. I've also been filling my iPod with a ton of electro swing. 

My research books include, but are not limited to a 1927 reproduction of a Sears catalogue and an early history of ocean liners. 

And of course, there's always bits of inspiration to be found along the way: 

Richard Barthelmess, you're terribly cute. 

The anatomy of a 20's girl! 

And of course, a happy helping of Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton's misadventures.

Last Day of Classes

There's something wonderful and strange about the last day of classes. The hallways are electric with excitement, of summer plans being whispered in hushed tones. Flip-flops slapping the tile floor. Backpacks emptied of textbooks. The classrooms, dirty and worn-down, breathe sighs of relief that send a ripple of musky air through the building.

I stare at my cubicle and wonder if I've got everything I need.


While I do have summer plans, and final projects to turn in, it's different to be on the other side of things as a graduate student. For one, I'm lucky enough to be teaching while I'm here. This means that today, I had the distinct honor of watching my students fidget as they handed in their last assignments. In this moment, when the summer plans and playful jokes end, that the weight of what they've done weighs heavy on them. Final grades are coming. There's no turning back. I know the feeling. I still go through it myself with my grad classes.

My students turn in their papers and leave. Most of them I'll never see again. A few linger behind and we talk about the benefits of keeping a scrap folder on your computer and how to beat writer's block. They tell me that they've never written so many stories in their lives as they had this past semester. I want to say, well, this is college, and, you should be proud.

As I climb the stairs and walk back to my office, I discover a giant spill, as if someone knocked over a glass full of ocean and didn't bother cleaning it up. The room next to my office is open and the smell of hot pizza and subs drifts out. Students gather around the pizza box while their teacher fumbles with the paper plates. I smile at them and head to my own office, silent save for the vibration of their chatter through the walls.


"That's everything," I say, standing in my cubicle and a stack of final papers in my hands. The papers and portfolios all fit in my tote bag. Barely. I admire the artwork I have tacked up on the pumpkin-colored walls with some sadness, knowing that I won't see them again until fall. I gave a silent salute to my Peeta Mellark poster, the printed out copies of Dorothy Parker's poems, and the fairy tale illustrations I had scanned and printed from various library books.

When I return, I'll be a third-year graduate student. My final year in the creative writing program. This means that, among other things, I'll be coming back with a full manuscript in my hands: my thesis.

So summer for me will be made up of paper cuts, of long nights of writer's block, and indulgent purchases made in the name of "research."  

What I wish I could do with all the paper I've accumulated this semester.

The "Old" and St. Augustine

I'll be the first to tell you that Florida isn't magical.

If that comes as a shock to you, I'm terribly sorry. We do have theme parks, most of which I admittedly love and will likely blog about. Beyond that, though, Florida is a very new state. I say new in broad terms: we don't have much "old" going on here.

In craft class, we were joking about ghost tours. Thinking about the possible tours that could spring up in New Tampa, the best we could think of was one that boasted haunted outdoor shopping malls. "And over here," Claire said, wiggling her fingers for good measure, "is the haunted Steinmart! It's three years old... creepy, right?"

In order to find the "old," one must travel to certain parts of Florida for the fix. St. Augustine is, without a doubt, one such place.

As I said in my previous post, the lot of us mosied over to St. Augustine for the awesome Other Words conference at Flagler College. The air was sharp with cold and we huddled together as we wandered up and down the tiny streets and hidden treasures. I was so happy to have finally put my sweaters to good use: winter is a rare breed of season around these parts. With a red nose and aching finger joints, I grinned and sighed happily at each gust of wind attempting to tear off my face. It was so delightful. I friggin' love the cold.

Most the conference was spent in the Ringhaver Student Center. We took turns manning the USF booth, advertising our MFA program, literary journals, and books for sale by our talented professors ;) The panels took place in comfy classrooms and some us even took a gander at the library (to print our pieces for Open Mic... if you were me and forgot them). I even walked away with a Bible-sized biography of Lord Byron from the free rack just inside the door. What luck!

The night readings were held in Ponce Hall, Flagler Room. Beautiful room. On either side of the podium, rooms were filled with old furniture and the most lovely paintings I've seen in a long time. There were even four paintings in the middle area, each a female character from a Shakespeare play. Super. The room was all gold, and wood, and filigree designs above our heads - I wish I studied more architecture so I could describe it better. Pictures, unless taken sneakily, weren't allowed. Over the two nights there, I listened to such poets and writers as Wil Haygood, Diane Wakoski, and Lola Haskins.

My discovery poet was Sarah Maclay. I perused the book fair and found her book, The White Bride, at the table. The mythic cover art drew me in and the imagery kept it in my hands. I presented at the comic book panel at the same time as her reading, but I did get to meet her later on that night. She was wonderful.

St. George Street is THE street to start for a plethora of unique shops and restaurants. The first night we were there, I somehow ate every little rice fleck left from a giant burrito. The interior of the Taco joint was the most interesting we came across: the walls were covered with drawings and messages written with Sharpie. Other foods included: my favorite staple tuna sandwich, pizza, pastichio, and a plate of scrambled eggs. All of the food was delicious. You can't go wrong in St. Augustine. Next time, in warmer weather, I want to try something sweet from the gourmet Popsicle shop. Yes, that's right.

Gloria and I fell in love with a shop called "Dragonflies" and at another Spencer's-like store, we all found something strange and wonderful to bring home with us. I couldn't resist taking home an inflatable desk version of Evard Munch's painting The Scream. It's always been a favorite of mine since I was little and seeing one in a favorite undergrad professor's office make me want one for my own. The little screaming guy now sits in my cubicle, reminding me of the horrors of grad school life :)

Among the other shops, I found a bead shop that I remembered when I went to St. Augustine in middle school. I remember not being able to find it on the way back and thinking that - oh my god - it simply disappeared! Well, it is still in business even after all these years, and I must have had a hard time finding it because the store was, really, a hole in the wall. A little square with a door. I squeezed into the shop and stared at all the beads. I even found the glass beads with little mushrooms inside them (I had purchased a cat version with a mushroom in it's stomach back then). What I didn't remember, with my rose-colored glasses, is that everything in the bead hole was expensive. I left empty-handed from the store, frowning at my friends and saying, "She wanted ten bucks for a ring!" Watch out, dear reader, for the fine print that says "$2 for every gram of metal."

St. George's Row was another place I remembered; it's an indoor hall that curves and it is lined with shops and other interesting things. The first picture in this post is from the magic shop. I went with my family again to St. Augustine not long after the middle school trip. My mom was experimenting with our hair at the time so she and I had matching banana-yellow hair with dark roots. The magicians running the store put on a few tricks that wowed my brother into begging for a card trick kit. We were all actually impressed until one of the magicians smirked and made a stinging comment about our hair (my fear of being blond again must stem from this).

The hallways had at least three different fortune-teller puppets (ranging from zombie swami to one-eyed pirate). Another machine tested the amount of love one has? I didn't quite get it, but there were levels of love like hot stuff, burning, mild, clammy, and my favorite: poor fish, try again. Featured to the right is the Merlin machine. After being fed 25 cents, the starving wizard will measure your personality with the shake of his hand. The light on his chest says that I'm "royal," but I'm going to be honest here and say that I didn't give him a quarter. Now that I'm looking at this picture, it seems like Merlin is staring at my chest. Hmm. Perhaps my reaction to that is the real test of my personality.

Now I'm back to the old schedule and the piles of work look especially mean. I guess they missed me. But it's invigorating to get a taste of something different, an extra flavor that adds a spring to your step and a light to your weary eyes (corny? Nah...). Breathing in the dust of another world makes me appreciate what we have now... and inspires me in my writing and life.

To work, to work!