MFA in Fiction student Jessie Morrison has “always loved to write,” but she also felt that she “needed guidance” to truly dedicate herself to her craft. This desire for guidance and structure brought Jessie to Columbia College Chicago in 2008. A native of Chicago, Jessie received her BA in English Literature from the University of Illinois before becoming a high school teacher. She later received a Masters in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and currently teaches both English and creative writing full time, while attending Columbia.
For Jessie, the amount of support that the Columbia Fiction program offers its students was apparent from the very beginning. “My acceptance letter said ‘Dear writer’,” she says, which encouraged her to identify as a writer. “You are a writer, you write, so you should start owning that and calling yourself that rather than saying ‘I am going to be a writer’,” Jessie adds.
Professors dedicate time in and outside of the classroom to discussing and helping to improve students’ work. Jessie says that the support and involvement of the full-time faculty is one of her favorite elements of the program.
Jessie found that the Fiction Writing program emphasizes positive reinforcement in myriad ways. “We always talk about what’s working in the story,” she says, “rather than tearing apart what isn’t working.” Professors dedicate time in and outside of the classroom to discussing and helping to improve students’ work. Jessie says that the support and involvement of the full-time faculty is one of her favorite elements of the program.
For Jessie, the Fiction program’s Story Workshop technique was extremely helpful, although it was a bit surprising at first. Story Workshop is unlike traditional workshops in that it requires students to do far more in-class writing, which results in the students producing much more work in a semester. Jessie found this technique very useful, because “you generate so many ideas in class” and the emphasis on journaling has changed her writing habits.
Since entering the program Jessie's work has been published in numerous prestigious publications, including McSweeney’s, Word Riot, the Copperfield Review, the Chicago Reader Fiction issue, and Columbia’s Story Week Reader.
Studying writing and writing every day has “changed my mindset of how I look at things,” says Jessie. “I’m constantly looking for ideas, whereas before writing was just a hobby, now it’s something I have incorporated into my daily life.” Jessie encourages future students to enter the program fully committed to it and passionate about writing. She says if “you just trust the process, including the Story Workshop method,” then it will help you to reach your goals.
Jessie has been very successful during her time in the Fiction program. Her work has been published in numerous prestigious publications, including McSweeney’s, Word Riot, the Copperfield Review, the Chicago Reader Fiction issue, and Columbia’s Story Week Reader. During the 2010-2011 academic year, Jessie wrote a blog for Writer’s Digest called MFA Confidential, which chronicles her experiences as an MFA student.
Jessie will complete her last class in the summer of 2011 in Florence, Italy, as part of one of Columbia’s study-abroad programs. She will complete her thesis project, a novel told through a series of short stories, in the 2011-2012 academic year. She looks forward to continuing to write and teach, perhaps at the college level, and hopes that future MFA Fiction students will benefit from the program as much as she has.