A Baltimore transplant, Melinda is a Poetry MFA candidate at the University of Central Arkansas. She is an Oxford Americanassistant, and a poetry reader for Arkana. Melinda has pieces published in The Emerson Review, Pleiades, Red Earth Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and more. When not writing, Melinda enjoys good coffee, expanding her artistic tastes and late nights with her dog.
GL: As a first year candidate, why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What do you hope to gain after three years with the Arkansas Writers Program?
MR: I decided to pursue my MFA because it is a stepping stone towards my main goal, which is to become a creative writing professor, particularly a poetry professor. I chose this program because of the multiple opportunities it offers that will help me achieve my goal. I’m hoping to leave this program with a strong foundation in teaching, editing and publishing, as well as a full length book of work that I can send out and hopefully publish.
GL: You’ve recently made the transition from fiction to poetry. Has that affected your MFA experience so far?
MR: I transitioned during my third year in undergrad. I had a fantastic professor who stepped in and challenged me to take his poetry workshop because he thought I had potential, so I did. It ended up being life altering, and I never went fully back. My decision to be a career poet influences the classes I take, as I want to build the best portfolio possible. It adds a different perspective in theory courses, and will no doubt help me in other genre workshops.
GL: Tell us about your creative work and writing process—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic?
MR: My process is all over the place. Sometimes I sit down and work at a prompt to problem for a long while before I get to a place I feel content to stop at. Other times I’ll be rushing to grab a pen and paper to record the idea that pops into my head, most often at the most inopportune times. My work revolves around the deaths of people close to me and how that absence changed me. I interact a lot with memory, myth and culture, playing with time because each poem brings that death back, but because memory isn’t often reliable, the events are blurred. My work ends up becoming a historiographical retelling of events, becoming, in a way, their own myths.
GL: What goals do you hope to accomplish during your time here? How do you hope your writing will be developed and challenged by our students and faculty?
MR: I have many personal goals that I hope to accomplish. This semester I am working on creating my own chapbook to send out to contests and publishers starting next semester. I’m also hoping that through MFA related events, I can become a morse confident public reader. I want to go to as many concerts and readings as possible to build up my writing network, and be part of contests to get judging experience. As far as my writing, I’m trying to branch away from my current project, and wonder into a more political type of poetry. But mostly, I’m hoping that the faculty will continue to challenge me in their courses to break past my writing boundaries and become a more diverse and skilled writer.
GL: What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
MR: The best advice I was ever given was to devote a minimum of twenty or thirty minutes a day to your writing, whether it’s drafting, revising, submitting, reading, what have you, as long as it is something that you are doing with writing to help you accomplish your goals. Not that I’m good about following advice, but it helps to have a flexible structure in place.
Visit our blog again soon to meet another graduate student from the Arkansas Writers Program.