DIYMFA Introduction

I’m a whore for learning. School, especially college, was a blast, and not because of the crazy parties (which I never attended). Unique and insightful classes made my college experience memorable. I took courses like “20th Century Black Poetics,” in which we spent the last month of class examining hip-hop as a poetic form. In “19th Century Russian Literature,” we holistically studied the history, art, culture, and literature in 1800s Russia. Countless other classes made literature come alive for me, and kindled my love for the written word.

My only regret is that I did not directly enter a PhD program in literature or MFA in creative writing. Now, with the economy (grumble grumble), it may be a few years before I can return to school. In the meantime, I’m putting together what Iggi & Gabbi calls a Do-It-Yourself Master’s of Fine Arts, or DIYMFA. She started an online community for others who are taking on the onus of independent, informal study (visit it here) and has guided her blog followers and community members through the components of the MFA program in which she participated.

My personal DIYMFA has five components: reading books on the craft; reading books in my genre (romance), also known as competitive books, not that this is really a competition; reading works outside my genre (classic literature, fantasy, mystery, pop science, etc), or non-competitive books; daily reading of one short story and one poem; and writing (daily writing practice, works in progress, etc).

Each Tuesday, I’ll be posting an update on my progress in these four areas–what I’m reading, what I’ve been writing, and–most importantly–lessons I’ve learned.

Yesterday, I finished reading Jack Hart’s A Writer’s Coach. While this is geared toward journalism students, I found it helpful in learning how to craft powerful sentences and and infuse syntax (sentence structure) with appealing forms and words.

For competitive books, I am reading Jennifer Haymore’s A Season of Seduction, a hot historical romance. I don’t normally read historicals, but I’m really enjoying this. Jennifer has a true skill for writing vivid imagery and creating empathetic characters that I want to see happy.

My non-competitive book is George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy A Feast for Crows. He’s a master at world building and character development. This is the fourth book in his series “A Song of Fire and Ice,” and I cannot wait for the fifth to be released…sometime in the future.

Today, I’ll be reading the short story “An Upheval” by Anton Chekhov and “Wild Nights–Wild Nights!” by Emily Dickinson. My short stories are taken from Fiction: A Pocket Anthology (ed. R.S. Gwynn), while my poems are from Essential Pleasures (ed. Robert Pinsky)

We’re hitting the home stretch in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where writers take the challenge of crafting a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s a book the size of your typical Harlequin romance. I’m still behind in my word count, but I’m hoping to catch up before November 30th.

Check back next Tuesday for a more in-depth discussion of what I’ve learned.

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