The Growth Chart: Volume 6

The Growth Chart is a 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

Mariah Bosch
Poetry, 1st year

From Fresno, and also having an affinity with Fresno mandarinas, first-year graduate student Mariah Bosch studies poetry.

What do you hope to accomplish in your graduate studies at Fresno State?

I want to gain confidence as both a poet and an instructor. By the time I graduate, I want to feel equipped to teach poetry. I also want to read and write as much as I can. When I decided to get an MFA, it was partly because I saw it as a time to be able to write and dedicate my time and space to that.

What’s your current writing process like?

Spotty. I have a running scroll of fragments and poems I’m working on, and I try to add to that and build poems from the things I jot down. I’m also trying to translate some poems, which is a new and strange challenge.

What writing styles or genres are you curious to experiment with?

I want to push the boundaries of my poetry as much as I can so within that, I’m curious about forms that are more experimental. I’ve been reading a lot of poems that work with white space and the page and what that can do for a poem as well as poems that lean more on surrealism. I want to write poems I wouldn’t normally write.

How do you hope to grow as a writer?

I think I just want to go for it. As a poet, I feel like I’m trying to take in as much information as I can, whether that means reading a lot or writing when I can. I’m also interested in community and what that means for me as a poet, so I hope to grow in the sense of connectivity and community. So far, I’ve been lucky to find that community and connection at the Laureate Lab and with CWAA.

Nou Her
Fiction, 2nd year

Writing a collection of short stories, second-year fiction graduate student Nou Her loves the smell of freshly cut grass.

What so far are you trying to accomplish with your thesis manuscript?

I’m trying to explore gender and power dynamics in love, within the context of my Hmong identity. Specifically, I’m drawn to looking at women and how they/we navigate and negotiate love within social norms, and what happens when, or if, they can’t.

What concerns you the most about the process of writing your thesis manuscript?

It’s funny, but I’m worried about running out of stories. I can’t remember what triggered that specific thought to cross my mind but sometimes I worry that I’m writing about the same things over and over again. However, the more I write, the more I’m also recognizing the complexities of the content that I want to address and so it’s been an emotional re-awakening of sorts. I have moments where I wonder how I’m going to capture all the nuances and subtleties and so I often end up worrying if I’m simplifying or glossing things over.

My next concern is just how sad I realize my stories are. I don’t like reading tragedies but I feel like all my stories are tragedies in some form or another, and it depresses me sometimes. At some moments, writing these stories makes me sad and emotionally drains me, but because this is important to me, I’m also glad that I have these years and space in the MFA program to write and share about things I probably would not have done on my own.

How have the things you’ve read so far shaped you as a writer?

Growing up, I read a lot of romances. In hindsight, perhaps the topic of love, and what is love, has always drawn me in, so now writing about love seems to be an inevitable effect of that.

What reading experience do you hope your writing will give to readers?

I’m hoping to make readers feel, but I’m also hoping to create a sense of solidarity and empathy. I often feel like there is this tug of war between older generations and younger generations within the Hmong community. It’s probably something that happens within many communities where the young and old are often in bafflement with and estranged from each other. As the oldest in my family, I feel this most strongly between just my parents and younger siblings. It’s an odd place to be, stuck between them, where I understand both sides and although I may disagree at some points, I think it’s never a wasted effort to empathize and acknowledge the ones I don’t agree with. In my writing then, I would like readers to experience that sense of empathy to my characters, and also to draw strength from any sense of solidarity they may receive in reading about characters who may share similar circumstances as them.

Krystal Cantú
Fiction, 3rd year

Beginning her MFA graduate studies in fiction in August 2016 and ending this May 2019, Krystal Cantú wishes for the superhero power of teleportation or omnilingualism.

Looking back, what moments stand out to you most about your MFA experience?

I feel like that’s a tough question to answer. There have been a lot of awesome moments in my time in the MFA. However, the thesis readings, working with The Normal School magazine, and the John and Connie Hales parties probably stand out the most.

What do you think your next step will be as a writer after the MFA?

I’ll definitely be looking for an agent and sending my manuscript out to try to get it published. I’m also gonna start working on my second book, which will be nonfiction. I’m really excited to really get that going.

What’s something you wished you may have done differently?

I can’t really think of anything I would’ve done differently. I think I took advantage of almost every opportunity that was given to me, which made my experience here so great.

How have you grown as a writer?

I’ve grown a lot as a writer here. I’ve learned to be less rigid about things like genre and form, which I think has made me more creative.

Any additional comments?

I just love this program. I’m really glad I decided to come here.

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