The Growth Chart is a new series that intends to mark and celebrate the presence, progress, and evolution of our current Fresno State Master of Fine Arts students. During their graduate studies with our program, they will be gaining new professional skills and experiences. This occasional series is an effort to capture and acknowledge their development and give space for them to reflect on their MFA years in progress. In sharing their journeys, we hope that it will make visible what it means to grow as a writer.
Compiled by Nou Her
for The Growth Chart series
A native of Fresno studying fiction as a first-year graduate, Yia Lee says her “spirit fruit” is a mango.
What do you hope to accomplish in your graduate studies at Fresno State?
I hope to learn a lot, gain more confidence in my writing, and connect with other writers.
What’s your current writing process like?
Write like mad in big or small chunks, whatever I can force out when I have time, mostly during the weekends.
What writing styles or genres are you curious to experiment with?
Nonfiction. Right now I’m taking the Experimental Literature topics class and I have learned that creative nonfiction can take on many forms such as the lyrical essay, the hermit crab essay, and other experimental designs that veer away from traditional narratives. It is interesting to think of nontraditional forms of storytelling and trying to incorporate that into my fiction writing, too.
How do you hope to grow as a writer?
I hope to grow a lot, learn a lot, and be open-minded. I also hope I will grow more consistent as a writer and by that I mean how much I can produce, the quality of what I can produce, and the time that I put into my writing. I don’t want to say, for example, that I have writer’s block and fail to write anything meaningful for a long while and let myself get away with that, as I have in the past. I want to find a momentum and keep it up.
In her second year of graduate studies, writing toward a collection of short stories, Mani loves the smell of fried food and freshly baked bread. She enjoys them so much that if she could, she would constantly inhale the smell of either with a tank and mask.
What so far are you trying to accomplish with your thesis manuscript?
I’m attempting to demonstrate how the perception of one’s own reality can materialize into something greater than themselves, typically more dangerous and at times even life-threatening, as a way to illustrate how what’s all in one’s head doesn’t necessarily stay inside their head, but instead manifests as something that can affect other people.
What concerns you the most about the process of writing your thesis manuscript?
The greatest concern I have about my manuscript is that it won’t ever be ready for publication after its completion since there’s always something about it I want to change and revise.
How have the things you’ve read so far shaped you as a writer?
The things I’ve read for workshop as well as the fiction form and theory course inspire me to use the various craft techniques published writers use to tell an otherwise ordinary story well.
What reading experience do you hope your writing will give to readers?
I like to invite my readers to look at the emotional truth of realities that they perceive to be unlikely or false as if they were their own in a parallel universe.
Beginning her creative nonfiction graduate studies in August 2016, Beth Linder Carr plans to graduate by May 2021. She would like to have the ability to stop time for everyone else but be able to continue working and playing in the meantime.
Looking back, what moments stand out to you most about your MFA experience?
The moment when my first essay was up for discussion in workshop stands out, giving me the confidence to continue writing. The moment when I, having attended so many readings in the same space, stood up at the mic in the Alice Peters Auditorium on campus, stood up there myself to read from my own work—that stands out too.
What do you think your next step will be as a writer after the MFA?
I’m not thinking that far ahead yet, since I’ll be continuing to work on my degree in the next two years, after retiring from my Sierra High School teaching job at the end of this school year.
What’s something you wished you may have done differently?
I can’t think of anything.
How have you grown as a writer?
Under the influence of very helpful and encouraging teachers, I have learned to appreciate and explore my life stories, complicated and nuanced. I’m still learning.