Briget Laskowski is a third year MFA candidate, writer and retired teacher.
Rachel Hoge: Hi Briget, thanks so much for agreeing to share your thoughts on our MFA program. You have such a strong background in both travel and pedagogy. How have your professional and cultural interests benefitted your writing?
Briget Laskowski:I find I still lean backwards into my English roots when I write. As Heather was just pointing out to me those Britishisms slip in. I’m appreciative there is someone there to catch them! I have moved around quite a bit, even when I lived in England we moved around. I never lived in a house longer than five years when i was growing up. All this moving gives a writer so much fodder. I know that things I wondered about and witnessed as a child still creep into my writing. I lived in Freeport, Grand Bahama for almost five years and that is still very much alive in my mind. Then I came here with my husband and was the “alien” with a green card. I’ve been a teacher for more than twenty years, doing both public schools and college teaching. I must have read thousands of papers! While I was finishing up my M.A. from UALR my husband was sick with cancer and eventually died. I wrote my first thesis about the experience of living with a terminal illness and how it affected my daughters and me. His death threw me out into the workplace and put a lot of ideas about creative writing out of my head. Now I have a second chance and I am seizing it with both hands.
RH: What did you find most appealing about our program?
BL: After retiring from teaching and spending two years “floating” and wondering what was next in my life, I came across a brochure for the program and knowing Stephanie immediately asked her about it. It was exactly what I wanted to do. I had almost finished my degree while working at Philander Smith College, but I changed to teaching at public schools and that idea had to be put on hold for a while, but I never put it aside completely. I’m finding it rewarding and encouraging to be part of this program.
RH: How has the faculty of our MFA program impacted your writing?
BL: So much more than I hoped. The faculty here is wonderful in that they obviously care about this program and the students. I feel really listened to and strongly encouraged. I find I can take chances and feel safe with “exposing” my writing. There are not many places where that is true. I’ve written into a vacuum for years, but now find I have freedom to express myself as I am, not as someone thinks I am or should be. My “voice” is cherished.
RH: In what ways has our MFA program transformed you as a writer, artist, or professional?
BL: I’ve received encouragement to be the best writer I can be. ( Lots of emphasis on that “I.”) I’m not sure that transforming is the word I would choose, I find it is more that I am cherished as a writer and everything I struggle to put into words is focused on and given attention. That is so important for a writer no matter their age. When we, as students, are taken seriously, then we, in turn, take our writing seriously. That’s the great benefit.
RH: Why would you recommend the Arkansas Writers Program to an MFA applicant?
BL: The attention we get in this program. The classes are generally small enough to be given a lot of individual time with peers and professors. Both of which are essential. After spending a lot of time with very little encouragement in what I was writing, I find it is a heady experience to be taken seriously and receive the feedback I get from everyone. We are all in this together, we are all learning, we are all steadily improving and benefiting from exposure to well-qualified professors who know their business. I have so much more confidence in what I write and I feel I can give valuable advice on what I read of my peer’s work.
Stop by next Friday to meet another graduate student from the Arkansas Writers Program.