Quihubo. Hi. Welcome to Dos Aguilas’ Random Strands blog. This one will contain everything from the life of a writer to the 2016 election and whatever else I can think of. The other blog, naturally, will cover sports and only sports. I will do my best to update regularly instead of sporadically. I know there are entire servers of words written about how best to market your stuff and I’m here to tell you that I’m not going to contribute to that. Even if I find success, it’ll be through my own methods and I’m not going to come up with a section on my page where I describe some get-rich-writing-lol-no-really-lol scheme. The point of this blog is just to give you, the audience, a glimpse into the life of a writer.
My stuff will also be cross-posted through my social media pages so be sure to follow me! Now, by means of introducing myself to you, here’s a few short snippets. I’ll of course elaborate on them in later posts, but for now, just a small sample.
Long story short, I was born in Mexico and I’ve now spent close to half my life in the US, both countries have eagles as national symbols, so…two eagles, Dos Aguilas.
DO YOU WORK AS A WRITER
No, and honestly, I think even if I became a full-fledged, money-making writer, I’d still like a day job where I'm not hunched over a desk 24/7. I want to be out and about, doing STUFF and THINGS. I’ve managed to incorporate writing and editing in each of my career stops so far, so that’s good.
DO YOU NEED AN MFA TO BE A GOOD WRITER?
EL James has more money than God right now and all she has is a history degree. Sure, we’re probably going to agree that her misogynistic primer/Twilight fanfiction bestseller is terrible. But in the end, if you’re honestly going to tell me that you’d settle for “not being a hack” instead of $80 million, I’m going to call you a liar to your face.
OKAY BUT IF WE ASSUME THAT MONETARY SUCCESS ISN’T = GOOD, DO YOU NEED AN MFA TO BE A WRITER?
A degree’s actual worth is what you’re putting into it. I’m sure there are people that go to Iowa Writer’s Workshop just to say they went there. So, no, you don't need one.
SO WHY’D YOU DO IT?
I wanted to refine my writing and get a graduate degree with the hopes of diversifying my career paths moving forward, and I don't regret getting it as it made a profound impact on what I wanted to write.
The main reason is the convenience. Fully-accredited, completely online program, the only one of its kind in the nation. I could stay in Houston and get an excellent MFA degree for an affordable price
WHAT WAS YOUR MFA EXPERIENCE LIKE?
Very rewarding. There are two blogs that capture the essence of being in an MFA program in simple gif format.
But, getting an MFA at UTEP through distance education spared me from most of the worst MFA workshop stereotypes (follow @GuyInYourMFA for a hilarious look at this). My classmates weren’t fancy shmancy full-time writers, most of my cohort were teachers by trade with busy lives. They understood that we were there to learn and not sit around and engage in one-upmanship against the other, and it was a great experience for that, even if Blackboard could be notoriously difficult most of the time.
And I’ll put some of my cohort’s work on par with the graduate work of anyone in any other MFA program.
WHAT WAS WRITING YOUR THESIS LIKE?
Physically exhausting. A lot of sleeplessness, a lot of stress-eating. I gained 30 pounds in the span of five months. It was also mentally draining, especially given the intense nature of the short stories I was writing. When I was done, it wasn’t a joyous occasion. I felt hollow. Writing is a very self-destructive-process because I believe in the phrase that every act of creation is first and foremost an act of destruction.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED IN YOUR MFA?
For my poetry, it was one of the things Sasha Pimentel said during one of the first workshops I had with her, and I’ll paraphrase: “Your submission is not a baby, it’s not a human being. It’s a piece of paper or digital file and treating it like a baby is a good way to take rejection hard.”
For my fiction, it was Daniel Chacon’s mantra during my thesis work with him: “Where is the conflict?!” Now, whenever I’m brainstorming another short story, I’ll write a sentence describing the idea and then in big letters: “CONFLICT?!” If I can’t answer it, the story is dead on the water.
HAHA YOU GOT REJECTED HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT
When you’re a geeky kid with zero game, you become intimately familiar with rejection. So, when I turned into an adult and started getting all these nos, I was prepared. I figured two things were certain: Either my writing was crap, or it wasn’t. If it’s crap, then it’s crap and I edit it and make it better. If it’s not crap (and crap is truly subjective), then they made a mistake and in the words of Muhammad Ali: “I’ma show you how great I am!” and I push forward.
But expect rejection. You’re going to suck. And that’s okay. I started writing poetry in 2012 (officially, since I’m not counting my angst-ridden high school LiveJournal/Xanga entries as poetry) and I’ve since then written close to 100 poems. I’ve submitted to maybe 30 different journals and publications and have only been published 8 times (1 print, 2 e-book anthologies, and 5 online journals) so that’s a “success” rate of 26%. I can look at and think, man, that’s a lot of rejections so I probably suck OR I can think, wow, I’ve only been doing this for four years and I’ve already gotten things published? AWESOME. It’s really a numbers game. I’m sure if I took the time to double my sending out poems, that percentage would drastically drop, but still, if you don’t play the game, you’re not going to win.
WHAT DEFINES GOOD POETRY?