Each year, the Creative Writing program hires four exceptional young writers to work alongside the administration. They infuse our public programs, student readings, and weekend workshops with their wonderful talents. This year we were fortunate enough to have graduate assistants who brought so much of themselves to their positions that they not only enriched their peers’ experience, but also inspired The New School community of faculty, staff and alumni.
In the short week between thesis readings and commencement, we sat down to discuss the program’s impact on their writing. We also chatted about the ins-and-outs of the office, the New York City writing world, and the next steps in their writing journey.
This year’s Graduate Assistants:
Joyce Chen, Nonfiction ‘15, Weekend Workshop Coordinator
Paul Florez, Fiction ’15, Readings Coordinator
Demetri Raftopolous, Nonfiction ’15, Chapbook Coordinator
Kyle Lucia Wu, Fiction ’15, Office Coordinator
Creative Writing Program (CWP): What brought you to The New School?
Joyce Chen (JC): I had been living in New York for about 4 years or so. I decided to come to The New School because when I was looking at programs it really stuck out to me in terms of having a lot of diverse voices, much more than a smaller program. Plus it’s in New York and I wanted to stay and work at the same time and be in the middle of everything.
Paul Florez (PF): I was really impressed with the faculty and the facilities. I mean I thought the facilities were absolutely gorgeous.
Kyle Lucia Wu (KW): When I was applying to programs The New School was not my first choice, but when I came and visited and saw the campus and met students and staff, that was what convinced me to go here.
CWP: How has your writing changed since studying at The New School?
KW: It has changed everything about my writing. This is the only time I’ve ever devoted this much time to my writing. It allowed me to really believe I am a writer and call myself a writer.
PF: Being at The New School has given me a good sense of self. It has allowed me to share my work with other people and get really honest feedback and know not to take feedback personally.
Demetri Raftopolous (DR): I definitely found my voice here. Thinking back to my first submission in workshop makes me nauseous. I think all the things I write now have a unified voice.
CWP: What was your experience with The New School faculty?
DR: I think I had a nice transition from one professor to the next in all three workshops. I think that’s what helped my voice develop so much.
JC: My thesis advisor could recognize the areas that I could grow. Sometimes the things you really need to hear are already the things you sort of know, but that doesn’t make it less challenging
PF: On the first day of classes my professor walked in a said, “Pull out a sheet of paper and start writing your book.” It was a lot of pressure on the first day of grad school, but he really broke us into the program and I’m so grateful for that.
CWP: What was your experience with your peers and the community in New York?
KW: Before I moved to New York I didn’t know anyone who was a writer. Before I started the MFA I knew one person who was a writer. […] Now so many friends of mine are writers, I would say almost all of them, and it’s changed everything. The writing community in New York is so strong and there are always a million readings, events, and things to be involved in.
PF: The New School is such a large community for writers and I’m really grateful for that. After class you’re able to go out with your contemporaries and talk about your ideas. It’s just amazing.
CWP: Did the legacy of The New School writing program, or The New School at large, inform your writing?
PF: The school has a very political atmosphere and you can really run with any idea. Nothing is off limits and everyone had an open mind.
JC: The cross-genre aspect of the program is also really important. You can write something that’s partially nonfiction and partially fiction, partially prose and partially poem. You can really use any means to get your thoughts on paper.
CWP: How was your experience working in the office?
PF: It was such an amazing experience [as Readings Coordinator] to give people a platform to express their voices. One of the things I enjoyed most was going up to people who were timid and scared to read their work out loud and encouraging them come to a student reading and get over that fear. It was so great to do that.
JC: I enjoyed it so much. I was able to interact with the different writers and agents that came in. I enjoyed seeing others in the program and putting faces to names.
DR: As the Chapbook Coordinator, it was nice to see that the school gives you the opportunity to publish your work after the program. It was great working with the judges and the alums that submitted. Working side by side with Paul on all the events has been invaluable because we’ve met so many authors and people you wouldn’t normally get to work with.
KW: Aside from our really great reading series, we have had some amazing authors come this year through the award shows. It was really great to see and be part of those events.
CWP: What will you miss most?
KW: I’ll miss seeing everyone each week. I know some of us may lose contact so I’ll miss that community here which is very strong. I’ll also miss going to readings and Treehouse.
PF: I’ll miss being able to be so immersed here and being able to dedicate so much time to my writing. I’ll also miss the strong sense of community.
DR: Even though we’re all still getting to know each other after two years, it’s such a comfort to walk in and sit in a room with these people that have become family.
KW: Yeah, we are still getting to know each other, but many of us know much deeper stuff about each other than our other friends do since we’ve been much more vulnerable here.
JC: I’ll mostly miss Treehouse. But seriously I think all of you have said it really well. I’ll miss the community and having a haven.