Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hello, Fellow MFA Students!

My name is Matt Renfer. Born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I have had an interest in reading and writing since I can remember. I came to WestConn undeclared in 2003 and decided on a major in my third year after writing for the student newspaper, The Echo. I wrote as much as I could, and found the experience of being published highly rewarding. I worked my way up the ranks as News and Managing Editor where I discovered a hidden passion of mine: editing. During this time, I also highly enjoyed WestConn's writing department with professors such as John Briggs and Ed Hagan. I'm especially fond of writing short stories and flash fiction. I graduated this past May with a degree in English: Professional Writing.

My goal is to make it one day on the editorial board of a political magazine (such as, Time). I want to be able to write for a magazine and have a say on its content.

I’m absolutely enthralled about starting a career in my field. For the past few months, I've been sending out resumes to numerous publications around CT. I went for an interview with Penny Press (they do crossword puzzles and word games) for an editorial assistant position last week! They will be calling me back this Thursday with a decision.

I have an extremely curious mind and absolutely crave learning. I’m the type of person that can literally spend hours in Borders perusing through books. I love museums and trips to somewhere new. I highly enjoy history, namely military, as well as politics, sociology, and psychology.

As far as reading goes, I feel that a greater sense of humanity is acquired by reading short stories, essays and novels than by studying a field such as history or psychology. While I do enjoy such fields, I feel that they are limited to factual knowledge, whereas a piece of literature or poem can really tap into the human spirit.

If I were to give writing advice, it would be something that I have trouble with: getting started. When I’m having trouble writing, I try to get a draft down without caring at all how it sounds. Then I go back and essentially rewrite that first draft a great deal. It’s an evolving process. For me, I need to see words on the page in order to formulate further thoughts.

I am a big fan of Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird,” where she argues that “shitty first drafts” are the most effective way to begin the writing process. I will close this introduction with a few of my favorite quotes from her book:

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”

“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here- and, by extension, what we're supposed to be writing.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

I look forward to meeting everyone. Good luck!


scribbler_kate said...

Hello, Matt! I am excited to see your love of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I, too, loved the book and totally ate it up! Have you read The Writing Life by Annie Dillard? It's another great one. I look forward to meeting you in a couple of short weeks!

All the best,
Kate Meadows

claude le monde said...
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ACW said...

Welcome, Matt. I grew up right next door to you in Fairfield! I think getting started and keeping up the discipline of writing everyday is a chronic condition for many writers! I know a few of us grads of the program kick this around all the time -- but the important thing is we just can't NOT write. I always liken writing to exercise - I couldn't live without it but, boy, you pay a price if you stop doing it everyday!

Hope to meet you in person at the BBQ this afternoon.