Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A Writer Takes on Grad School and New York City… and Lives To Tell About It

Deonne Kahler

Not that there’s anything wrong with spreadsheets.

I moved to New York from Taos, New Mexico two weeks ago, and suddenly it feels like I’ve gone from Just Visiting to Actually Living Here. I can pop out of the subway and walk in the right direction versus having to turn around halfway down the block, I’ve quit looking both ways before crossing because most streets in Manhattan are one way, and bedtime has shifted a few hours later to true New York night owl style. Perhaps most tellingly, I’ve quit cooking almost entirely and have started accumulating takeout menus like business cards at a mixer.

Up until now I’ve been in vacation mode, traipsing willy nilly all over the City, not thinking about my classes – and the challenging work they’ll entail – that start at the end of August. That is, I wasn’t thinking about them until I went out with three of my new classmates and one woman, over white wine and Thai chicken, started asking me all about my novel as in, you are working on one, right? And you’re ready to have it critiqued in workshop, right?

Picture me, fork raised halfway to my mouth, eyes deer-in-the-headlights wide.

Um, I am working on a novel if working on it means opening the Word file every couple days, reading a few paragraphs, then closing it again. I’ve been feeling unsure about which way to go with it – novel or linked stories – plus the writing I’ve done lately has been as uninspiring as a spreadsheet.

I managed to mumble an unconvincing Oh yes, working on a novel, of course, then suddenly became fascinated with the carved radish on my plate. The conversation then turned to the giant reading list we have to “be familiar with” in preparation for oral exams, plus the fact that one of our professors is an especially tough grade-giver. (Grades? For some reason I thought it was more of a pass/fail situation, but nope, there are actual letter grades just like in my undergrad years when I had, ahem, a less than stellar academic record.)

So at that point I did what anyone would have done – I went out in the parking lot and sucked on an oxygen tank.

Let’s just say that vacation is over and reality has arrived, but that’s okay. I love to write and know I’m going to love being in school again. Getting my MFA in New York has been a dream for so long, a few moments of panic aren’t going to diminish my experience. Unless of course the oxygen runs out.


Deonne Kahler has been a freelance writer for seven years, and decided it was time to move to New York and get her MFA. And really, why not? Contact her at deonne [at] deonnekahler [dot] com, or check out her blog at www.lifeonthehighwire.com.


"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." -- Catherine Aird

Yep, another writer with a blog:


mikkelina said...

wow! you seem to have chosen the right path...what you wrote was really funny and honest. I'm very excited for you to not only be back in school doing what you love but, shoot, to be doing this in New York City! yoohooo!

Jill Dearman said...

Where are you getting your MFA? I went to the New School. Excellent!

deonne kahler said...

Mikkelina - Thanks for the kind words, and the encouragement. Yoohooo is right!

Jill - I'm getting the MFA at Queens College, they have a new, small program that seems pretty exciting. I've heard great things about the New School.

Jill Dearman said...

I would love to hear about it! I grew up in Queens, and Queens college is always full of good surprises.

deonne kahler said...

Jill - I'll be talking about QC more than anybody can stand on my blog (ha). Since the program is new and small, it seems like the students get a lot of attention, and the faculty is outstanding. I can't wait for classes to start in a month.