You’ve got this.
And we’ve got you.
Everything is weird (at best) right now. This is a difficult time to be starting your MFA. We’re here to help you as much as we can. Even though we can’t meet in person for a while, we’re here to support you as friends, classmates and colleagues, and we’ll help you find the university resources you need. Deep breaths. You’re going to be fine. Read on for a quick (and unofficial!) overview of how to prep for the semester.
What to do before Fall
First, enjoy your summer. You don’t need to do any readings to prepare for your Fall classes, or anything like that. If you want to, you can check out CW faculty and read any of their books that look interesting to you. Our teachers rarely talk about their own books (except to share the process of writing them), and it’s a lovely insight into their minds to actually read their writing.
As we approach August, you will likely get a million emails. Pay attention to the ones from Katherine Kwid, our department’s admin angel extraordinaire. Look out for the date of your New Student Orientation.
Get to know your classmates via our weekly writing sessions, or by reaching out to us; we’ll be happy to connect you with others who share your interests.
Stay in touch with us. If you’re struggling with something–anything–tell us and we’ll try to help you find the right resources. We can’t literally find you an apartment or a job, but we can point you in the right direction. And, at the very least, we’ll be your moral support.
Preparing for the semester
Get vaccinated and boosted. Look for email info from SFSU, or contact the Health Center.
Get your physical space ready. Even your in-person classes could shift on short notice to online, depending on how the plague is going. For your online classes, the most important thing right now is your ability to get on Zoom. Make sure you have a functioning computer (or other device) and reliable internet access. (If you don’t, contact the Katherine Kwid.) Set up, if you can, a designated space where you’ll take your Zoom calls. Test your setup ahead of time. Are you comfortable sitting in that spot for an hour or two at a time? Are you reasonably shielded from noise/distractions? If you are new to Zoom, try it out with friends ahead of time.
Plan your note-taking. People take notes in different ways during classes. Some people mostly listen; others like to write things. Grad classes are heavily discussion-based. You’ll do most note-taking when you are being workshopped: that is, when your classmates are giving you feedback on writing that you submitted. Keep pen/paper handy, or set up folders/files on your computer for notes.
Dress reasonably. There isn’t a formal “dress code.” We’re a pretty casual bunch. Some students go the t-shirt and jeans route; others dress up a bit more. No one shows up in pajamas, disguises, or Met-Gala-type outfits. No explicit rules banning them, though, so…
Ask for accommodations. If you need any accommodations of any kind in your classes, you can reach out directly to your teachers or to the department at email@example.com, or you can contact the Disability Programs and Resource Center.
Read some books. Your teachers won’t tell you to read their books because that would be gauche of them. But go read their books if you have the time. (You can use your public library.) It’s not required, but it’s definitely one way to gain deeper understanding and appreciation of a teacher’s style(s). As for assigned readings: your teacher will give you a reading list on the first day of your class, and you’ll have time to get your hands on the first reading. If you need extra time and want to start reading in advance, contact your teacher and ask for the list. Fair warning: it might not be ready–some teachers might still be adjusting their reading lists to account for, you know, the absolute madness that is the world right now.
Connect with your classmates. Come to events. Write “hello” emails to your teachers. Or drop us, your friendly neighborhood GWC, a line. We’re physically apart, but our souls? Hella connected. (If you’re shy, introverted, or awkward, fear not: so are many of us. Start by writing to us with just the codeword “meep” and we’ll take it from there.)
Relax. Seriously. There’s a lot of stress and madness. But your MFA years? This is your time and your space for your art. It’s amazing and wonderful and magical and restoring. Your teachers and your classmates will support and encourage you. They will help you build out your ideas. We’re not a cut-throat, mean bunch; we’re warm and friendly. We take care of each other. Wherever you are in your writing journey, we’ll honor that. You’re going to have so much fun immersing yourself in incredible writing–your own and others’–and in thinking and talking about books and narratives and art. You’re going to love it.
We can’t wait to meet you!