Tag Archives: MFA

Going paperless hurt

I am a big fan of technology and I’m generally very excited about the possibilities of what our ever-growing technology can bring us or do for us. Yes, even though I still don’t own a cellphone, I’m a fan of them (except for when the bozos who use them while driving—I can’t count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve had a near collision only to find the opposite driver busy talking on the phone—or texting. But, this is not the phone’s fault, but the idiot user—just the same way it isn’t a gun that kills people, but the idiot users). I don’t own a cellphone because I don’t want one, not because I don’t think they’re cool because I do! Heck, I remember the first ones that came out and looked like Captain Kirk’s communicator. That was cool! No, I don’t want one because I don’t generally want to feel attached to the feed at all times…I like to disconnect some.

But the ever increasing digital age brings with it some growing pains. For instance, my family in general has always tried to recycle as best we can. No, we’re not trailblazers nor are we leading the way, but we try to participate. Recycling digital, however, isn’t quite as easy. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’ve heard someone say that the old monitors have to be taken “in” and not simply discarded. I know that’s not gonna happen—mine find their way to the trash can.

But I don’t mean this to be about being green. I wanted to talk about what it means for me as a writer. I always kept copies of my work printed. If I write a new draft of something, the old one gets recycled—either as the backside for something new in the printer or into the paper recycling. I mean, I have a copy of all my written work printed out, but I don’t have all the multiple drafts. I have a “first” draft, and then a “last” draft (which, of course, is the one that gets recycled whenever I revise).

The problem with composing digitally the way I do now is there is no progression. I click “save” and the new version replaces the old. I don’t have an old draft to refer to if I’ve accidently deleted a scene (this is why I started keeping a “first” draft of my work). Something that came up with my mentor Rachel Harper during my MFA was she wanted to see a copy of my plot. The problem I had was that I’d written out a rough plot for each chapter (like I’ve always done with comics)…HOWEVER, I composed on that digital file and as the chapters were completed, the “plot outline” part of it was deleted. So the file was essentially the complete text (or first draft) up to my current spot…followed by a plot outline. Because of this, I couldn’t supply her with a plot outline for the chapters already composed.

I blame this on the digital revolution, of course.

Thanks to Rachel’s encouragement, I’ve now shifted to creating different computer files for the different tasks; meaning I have now a file that reads “plot” or “outline” or some such and another file that reads “title” of the project.

Like all changes, some of them hurt…we just have to adapt and go with it.

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Gradumicated

Well, it’s official! As of May 21, I’m officially terminal. Degreed, that is. Hooded robes. Cowhide in frames. After nearly two years, I’m now the proud holder of a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing degree from Spalding University. For those who don’t know (and don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either until I asked just what exactly did “terminal degree” mean…I mean, I wasn’t ready to die or anything like that), an MFA is a “terminal degree” in the same way a PhD is. What that means, is that I’ve gotten the highest education available specific to WRITING. Tis the end of the road. Yes, I could have gotten a PhD in Creative Writing…the difference would have been with the PhD I would have had to have had a lot of extra “fluff” courses to go with it. Things like Literature and foreign languages. But because I knew Writing was where I wanted to be, I didn’t need all that extra stuff.

The funny thing about that is, I’d been accepted into a PhD program for Creative Writing. However, after a 4 hour meeting with the director, he said I didn’t need a PhD, and that I needed to find an MFA program instead. It would be faster and serve the same purpose. The difference for me now (with degree in hand) is that I need to focus on publishing!

So, I’m excited to be done so that I can insert myself into an already crowded job market. I’ve had one near miss (was in the top 3…but didn’t get the offer) and am still on the short list for a couple that I’m very interested in. Plus, I’m still finding announced positions and applying as I discover them.

But I’m also saddened because the Spalding MFA program is such a fantastic program and I will miss the learning, encouragement, camaraderie and feeling of community that Spalding residencies foster. It’s a very “comfortable” place, even though the residencies are grueling days and hours! At my last residency, I had the opportunity to write and direct a short film. What an incredible experience. The University should be posting those soon and when they do, you can bet I’ll be floating the link all over the place. It’s a considerably altered/adapted scene from the opening of my novel, The Interns (which I’m considering renaming to Mississippi Needs Super-Heroes, Too. I’d welcome your thoughts on the titles)…which is now in my agent’s hands! Woo-hoo!

I would publicly encourage anyone and everyone who’s considered further writing education to look into the Spalding MFA program. It is a “low residency” program, which means your time physically on the Louisville, KY campus is limited. Most of the work is done from home. It’s great for the non-tradition student—basically, those with a real life which often consists of jobs and families and responsibilities and such. Not that traditional students don’t have those…yeah, okay, they usually don’t have them.

Anyway, we called PhD holders “Doctor”…so, you may now officially refer to me as “Master Mann”

bwahhhahahahha

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2010 in review

Well, 2011 is here…so long 2010! ’10 was good, but I’m looking forward to ’11 as I’m excited about what’s planned so far and what I anticipate!

I jump right in with both feet in January. I will be attending the Wizard World Convention in New Orleans as a guest on Jan. 29-30. It will be the first time I’ve done a signing session in New Orleans since around 1992! Wow! Hope to see a bunch of familiar faces there.

The very next week, on Feb. 4-5, I’ll be signing books and will lead two workshops on Graphic Storytelling at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.

On March 24-25, I’ll be speaking in Nashville, TN at the public library system; I’ll be at the Goodlettsville and Madison Branches talking about Graphic Novels.

Then, in May, I’ll be graduating with my MFA in Writing from Spalding University. You’re all invited to the graduation ceremonies, of course. J

I hope to announce that my agent, Kimberly, has placed my book The Interns by then, and I’m hoping I’ll know more about job prospects by then as well. I’m submitting my applications for academic year beginning in Aug. 2011 and I think most colleges and universities would like to have those positions filled by then.

WordPress did something neat this year. Below are the stats they given me for 2010. Not sure what it all means, but I DO note that I didn’t blog near as much as 2009–has SOMEthing to do with school, I’m sure. ha. I’m not promising more blogs this year, but I’m gonna try.

Here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 251 posts. There were 22 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1,005kb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 16th with 87 views. The most popular post that day was Plot to the end.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.yahoo.com, livingwordliterary.wordpress.com, sites.google.com, and mail.live.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for roland mann, cat & mouse, buying time, buying time roland mann, and civil war reenacting .

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Plot to the end March 2010
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2

Who’s Roland? November 2007
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3

Bibliography December 2007
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4

Projects January 2008
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5

Buying Time is Here May 2010
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MFA Residency, the 2nd

I’ve completed the second (out of 5 total) residency at Spalding University. My experience this time was different than the last. At my last residency, I did most of the events with a small group of 610 students (meaning first semester) also in the Writing for Children and Young Adults (I just call it W4YA, since that is my main focus). Because of that, our small group experienced a nice bonding process from start to finish at the residency and then stayed in infrequent contact throughout the semester that followed. But because of the way the YA program is set up, YA students in 620 and 630 (second and third semester) must focus on a different concentration (meaning either Fiction, Poetry, CNF, or playwriting/screenwriting). The first few days of this residency, I felt a bit “orphaned” because the classmates I’d bonded with last semester were scattered about, and the other classification students were already bonded. It got better as it went on and I think Admin were alerted to the feelings (I wasn’t alone in my feelings, some of the others felt a bit orphaned as well) and are working to address those issues.

That’s one of the things I really like about the program: the administration seems genuinely interested in the experience of students, realizing that we’re all non-traditional students and our needs are a little different from the traditional 18 year old who comes to campus and lives there for the next few years. Not only that, the program is relatively new (2001, I think, was the first year) and thus it is only expected to have some growing pains. And honestly, I’m excited to be part of a growing group that has input to help make the program better.

So, if you’re wondering, I’m still 100% sold on the program and have no hesitation recommending it to anyone considering this sort of program. In fact, I recruited someone this past weekend who walked away leaving me with the impression that she was seriously considering Spalding low intensity MFA.

I’m also excited about my mentor this semester. Rachel Harper will be my mentor and I had a very good meeting with her prior to leaving residency. Yes, yes, I know it is her JOB, but she made me feel she was truly interested in reading the material I produce this semester and helping me create the best material “I” want to create and not what “she” wants…I can also say that not all writing programs are that way—many of them want you to fit into a mold. For what it’s worth, it is my plan to finish work on The Interns this semester. I’ve been talking it up to Kimberly, my agent, and I’m excited and ready to put it in her hands…but gotta finish it first!

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Plot to the end

Writers are bombarded with endless suggestions of how to improve their craft and what to do to make their work “successful” (successful is, of course, defined differently by different writers). I guess this blog is another of those. My response has always been though—take all the feedback and ideas you can get, pour them into a pot, stir them up, and take out of it something that is useful to you as a writer.

I’ve always been one who’s plotted a story from start to finish before sitting down to the nitty-gritty of writing. Part of that is the nature of comic books, the industry where I’ve gotten the over-whelming majority of my work. Comics are episodic by design and stories must be tailored and crafted to fit within a specified number of pages so that writers have to know what is happening and when it’s happening. It’s not limiting, as some might suggest, but it is what it is.

I’d often read about writers, though, who just begin typing without really knowing what the story is or where it is going. Obviously, I’m talking prose writers—comic writers don’t have that liberty. After having finished two novels, I wanted to give it a try just to … y’know…see?

I didn’t get to finish the one before I started on another (The Interns, listed at the side of this blog page, for those of you keeping score) and started it the same way. Actually, it was much easier for The Interns because I was only supposed to generate 20-ish pages for my Spalding MFA workshop—it didn’t matter what the story was or where it was going, right?

As is often the case for writers, the more I wrote on The Interns, the more I liked the character and the situation in which I’d placed him. It was fun watching him squirm. But I still didn’t know exactly where the story was going. Oh sure, I’d developed ideas because of the situations, but it seemed like endless possibilities and I’d started to really want the story to mean something.

So after 70 pages, and a nice talk from my writing mentor this semester, I knew I had to go back and figure out what the story was and where it was going. To put it simply, I had to go back and plot it out from start to finish. Okay, maybe not from the very beginning because I’d written a good deal of that. I did have to figure out the ending. Getting there was fun as I got to explore the myriad paths of possibilities.

But ultimately, I picked one…and that’s where we’re going.

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Residency the first

Even though I’ve returned, I’m not sure that I’m fully recovered from the first “Residency” of my MFA program at Spalding University located in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been so overwhelmed I haven’t had a chance to yammer on here. But what an incredible time I had and what an incredible program I’ve entered.

Lemme back-track a little: Finding myself in need of a higher degree, I’d been accepted into the PhD program at USM, but the coursework would require that I be on campus for six full semesters; that’s three years. I was close to accepting it and trying to commute to Hattiesburg—about a five and a half hour drive—for the classes during the week. I decided, however, that three years of my kids’ lives are worth far more than a PhD. Being gone Monday-Friday would cause me to miss a lot of volleyball, baseball, cub scouts, singing…you name it—for three years! So, I started looking around for these “low residency” programs I’d heard of. My good friend and writer pal, Sid Williams was in one and he blogged about it now and again. After a search of low residency programs, I finally decided on Spalding…and I’m glad I did.

Low residency means that the majority of my coursework will be done at home, with correspondence with my mentor/instructor all online. At the beginning of each semester, however, an intensive 10 day on-campus residency kicks things off. I’ve just returned from the first one. And let me tell you, it was incredibly intensive: Ten to twelve hour days of lectures, workshops, discussions and readings. Even the “fun” things were related to the program. (We went to see an Opera of Hansel and Gretel one night, but then had to complete a writing assignment based on it.)

The workshops were the highlight for me. In it, nine students (see the picture below; our mentors—Luke Wallin and Joyce McDonald—are front row left. The rest are the students in my workshop group, the Writing for Children and Young Adults group) discuss a body of written work by one of the other students. The tenth student is to sit silently—taking notes—while the discussion occurs. Now, most of the workshops I’ve ever been in go almost immediately for the negative aspects of the work. That’s not The Spalding Way, however. The hour’s time devoted to the work is split almost exactly equal with positive comments and suggestions (there are no “negative” comments). Though it may sound a little goofy here on this site, the result of the workshop is a nurturing and encouraging hour for the writer. While most of the writers left with a list of “things to work on and revise,” most were also creatively jazzed and anxious to get to the work. I know I left with a big list of things that needed to be addressed and I couldn’t wait to get to it…unfortunately, because of the “intense” nature of the residency, those things did have to wait until I returned home.

I’m already out of words…more next time!

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School and projects

I’m now officially registered for coursework towards a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing. I’m very excited about it, too…in fact, even a little nervous. The MFA in Creative Writing is 100% geared toward writing creatively. No foreign languages or math classes for me, thank you very much. I’ve been overwhelmed this last week with reading all about registration, the course-work, etc. I’ll be able to do most of it from home, and as most of you know—that’s a huge relief to me. Not sure when my first assignment is due, but I’ll be turning in 25-30 pages of original work!

No real news on the hunt for a publisher for The Gifted. Kimberly, my agent, has gotten some decent feedback, but a couple of them have said it was for a younger audience than what they were looking for. Guess I’ll have to work on “upping” my audience. Cat & Mouse, the novel I’m working on now should definitely have older content. In talking with Kimberly, I guess I’m really shooting for the Twilight age audience…essentially, Brittany’s age. She enjoyed The Gifted, but I do realize she has Daddy-bias. But in my discussions with Kimberly, we talked about a few things I could add to help get that audience. Not sure it will work, but I’m willing to try it.

And that’s really what’s been keeping me busy; my revisions for Cat & Mouse. I’ve just now reached the point where I was “at,” in my writing anyway. The revisions aren’t huge, but they take some reworking to make sure everything works just right. Either way, I’m still right at 25,000 words and that’s pretty exciting.

Another project I’ve spent a little time on is something tentatively called Moonbeam Bobby, a possible comic-style story about a missionary kid on the Moon. His Mom and Dad are missionaries to outgoing colonists and he’s just “stuck” there. I’ll post material here when I get the okay!

I think I said this earlier, but Brittany has been offered a bid in the Mid-South Talent Fair. She’s very excited about that and has really worked on her stage presence this year. She’s got the song down; she should, she’s been doing it all summer. For those of you in the Mid-South area, she will perform October 1, at 7:30 p.m. The competition takes place at the Desoto Civic Center. But don’t bring your video camera or camera—seems they want to charge you $50 for one of their “professionally” produced things.

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