CalArts MFA Writing Program Thesis Reading Schedule

From the Calarts 24700 Blog:

The School of Critical Studies’ MFA Writing Program Thesis Reading Series begins tonight (Feb. 23) at 7:30 pm in the Butler Building at CalArts, with readings from Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (Critical Studies MFA 12) and Gina Caciolo (Critical Studies MFA 12).

Thesis readings continue on Thursday evenings through the end of spring semester, including an alumni reading panel on April 12. The series culminates in a showcase of works from the graduating MFA class at REDCAT on Sunday, May 13.

Spring 2012 MFA Writing Program Thesis Reading Schedule

All events are located in the Butler Building except where noted:

Feb. 23, 7:30 pm – Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Gina Caciolo
March 8, 7:15 pm – Byron Alexander Campbell, Evan Chavez, Melinda Morelli
March 15, 7:15 pm – Jill Foster, Justus Caudell, Sonal Malkani
March 22, 7:15 pm – Rachel Kolb, Tracy Rosenthal, Marlene Nichols
April 5, 7:15 pm – Michael Molitch-Hou, Nancy Romero
April 12, 7 pm – Alumni panel: Janice Lee, Mathew Timmons, Sam Benjamin, Grace Krilanovich at Butler Building #4
April 19, 7:15 pm – Denise Li, Ebony Williams, Nijla Mumin
April 26, 7:15 pm – Heatherlie Allison, Patricia Cram at the Coffee House Theatre
May 3, 7:15 pm – Seth Blake, Oscar Moralde, Chelsea Trescott
May 10, 7:15 pm – Zoe Etkin, Tiffanie Hoang, Lan Pham !!!
May 13, 7 pm – Showcase: all graduating class read at REDCAT

Be there!! For at least mine! :p


In Wonderland: Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists at LACMA

Happy Mardi Gras, all! It’s been many years since I lived in New Orleans, but I’ve always loved the holiday since I was little. At my Montessori school in Memphis, TN, each year we put on our own parade, built floats, dressed up, ate King Cake. It was a lot of fun. Then I lived in NOLA for a semester in college and got to go to the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras. Was really interesting. But that’s a story for a different day.

Los Angeles is a town full of museums: The Getty, The Hammer, MOCA… but one of my very favorites is LACMA (LA County Museum of Art). They have a great permanent collection of classical and contemporary art, and always have interesting special exhibitions. This season’s is called In Wonderland: Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists. The main draw, for myself included, is the Frida Kahlo paintings. Frida is the patron saint of my family. Since childhood images of her, her work, Diego’s work, have graced the walls of my home (usually in the form of postcards or tin folk art). For Historical Halloween the first year of attending Montessori school, I dressed up as Frida. My hair up, flowered, my real little-girl-unibrow darkened, flouncy skirt and monkey on my shoulder to boot! I grew up with many artists represented in my home, both famous and local, but Frida was always most prevalent. Our home decor pulled a lot of inspiration from Mexico anyway. Retablos, sugar skulls, paper flowers, chile lights all around.

Sadly though, I had, until this weekend, never stood before Frida’s actual paintings. The exhibit was packed with people. Many taking photographs of the work, which I find obnoxious. It was hard to get close to the paintings, which I like to do to see the brush strokes up close. Some of her most famous works were there. Many were smaller than I had previously thought. They still had great impact on me. But it wasn’t until I walked into the room containing the massive Las Dos Fridas painting that I teared up. I felt overwhelmed by the work, and I felt like I was finally with her a little bit. These were the images I grew up with, cherished, wrote poems about, and here they were. The buzz of the crowd was distracting, and I didn’t want to make my boyfriend stand around all day, so I didn’t take as much time as I would have liked with each piece. Perhaps toward the end of the exhibition run I’ll go back alone and take more time to soak the pieces in.

The work was so beautiful, so comforting, and I feel blessed to have seen it. Someday I hope that I can go to Mexico to see her house. I want to take my mother there–Frida means a great deal to her too.


So I sent that work out last night… and got an email this morning from Deep South Magazine saying that they will accept my poem “Waking Up” in the April issue, which is also the National Poetry Month issue! Wow! I’m so excited.

Submitting to Literary Magazines

Every so often I send work to literary magazines. I get a lot of rejections, but sometimes I get a poem or two accepted. Last year I started seriously submitting my work. I sent the same (give or take) batch of poems to around 50 journals. I don’t recommend this strategy. Now I send things to maybe 1, 3 or 5 journals at a time. This is much more manageable. Tonight I sent work to a few magazine that had previously rejected me but asked me to resubmit. This is a good strategy. You can personalize your cover letter by saying something like, “Thank you (name of editor), for your encouraging words last time I submitted. I hope you’ll enjoy this new work.” That lets them know that you care that they took the time to be encouraging. I don’t know if anyone will be interested in my new work, but trying is important.

I’m waiting until school ends (in May) to submit my entire manuscript to first book contests. That means the ones that are accepting work now will have to wait until next year. But that’s okay because I want this semester to refine the book with Amy and really get it ready for publishing. At the moment, it isn’t ready, so I don’t want to waste my time or money on contests. After May I will begin the process and hope to all the gods that someone will like my work and think it worthy of publishing.

Submitting work is no easy task. It takes time to find journals that you think are appropriate for your work, to collate the best poems, and follow all the guidelines. But the feeling you get when an editor tells you they love your work and want to publish it has no equal.


Upcoming Readings

As this is my final semester at CalArts, there are various events coming up where, if you wish, you can hear my work read…aloud!

The CalArts MFA program encourages us to read off campus, to expand our audience to the greater Los Angeles community, therefore we host 4 off campus readings. I am curating and reading at the first venue: Mandrake Bar in Culver City, CA. There will be three events proceeding this one; the locations are: Skylight Bookstore, Pop Hop, and China Town.

Secondly, but most importantly is my Thesis Reading. At this event, I and two friends/classmates (Tiffanie and Lan–excellent writers) read larger excerpts from our theses. Each will read for about 20-30 minutes, then answer questions asked by our mentor, then answer questions asked by the audience. Afterward we will have a lovely reception. This reading takes place at CalArts in our dear Butler Building (home of the MFA writing program). This event is open to the public.

Lastly, the CalArts MFA writing program hosts a culminating event for its graduating students: the Next Words Showcase. This event takes place at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. REDCAT stands for Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre. REDCAT is a black box theatre and gallery space attached to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This venue not only hosts CalArts events, but also many well known artists, writers and performers of various forms. We are lucky to be able to read at this space!

Here are the details…

Next Words
Mandrake Bar
2692 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Sunday, March 18th, 8pm

Thesis Reading
California Institute of the Arts
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355
Thursday, May 10th, 7pm

Next Words Showcase
631 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sunday, May 13th, 7pm (I think!)

Hope you will be able to join me for these important events!

Revision Pangs: The Ouch-ness of the Revision Process

Last friday I had to turn in some new poems to my poetry class. I’m taking poetry this semester with poet Amy Gerstler, who is a visiting professor while Maggie Nelson is away on leave. Not only is Amy my poetry professor this semester, but also my mentor, as Maggie was before her leave. Although I miss Maggie’s guidance greatly, Amy will bring a new perspective to my work. She is also really plugged in to the contemporary poetry publishing scene, from what I understand. I sent her the entirety of my thesis and we are going to discuss it one-on-one this Friday, after class. I feel a little overwhelmed by my thesis at this point–it feels unruly, a mess.

I think it feels that way because I know it is in need of revision. Revision is so very difficult and can be one of the most excruciating aspects of my writing process. I got some strong feedback the other week on a poem previously titled “Pulsar.” The poem needed radical revision, which felt disappointing while in the workshop because I was feeling like I was on a roll, really getting some good work done. Sometimes workshops can stymy me. Actually, they usually do. I am left with all of this information about how my poems aren’t working. People ask for things I don’t feel capable of doing. Etc. However, I set myself the task the other day of revising “Pulsar,” now tentatively titled, “Waking Up.” I moved some lines around, cut some things, wrote some new lines. Hopefully the work has improved, at least somewhat. We’ll see what they say in class on Friday. I hope the workshop will be fruitful.

I keep wanting to write more poems. If one poem fails, rather than revise it I have this impulse to just try and write a better one next time. That’s great in a way because it keeps me going with writing new work, but makes it hard when I need to go back and work on the older poems. And many of the older poems are worth revising. I think it’s just something that I’ll get better at with time.

Goodnight for now…