Graduate Student Profile: Nick Knittel

Submitted by Web Communications on September 7, 2011

Talk, talk, talk to your faculty. Never forget this. They are wise, dedicated, and extremely talented writers that want nothing more than to help you with your work … their drive and passion for writing will push you to reach places you never thought were possible on your own.

Nick Knittel MFA ’11

Town: Madison, Wisconsin

Program: MFA in Creative Writing

Occupation: Medical Editor

Bio: Nick Knittel is Fairfield University’s first MFA Book Prize winner for his work, Good Things, a collection of short stories that delve into the lives of people struggling to survive. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and pursued studies in video production at Ohio University. He worked on numerous student-produced television programs and short films, as well as co-writing and producing a feature-length film based on the book Trailer Park by Russell Banks. He received his MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction at Fairfield University, and currently works as a medical editor in Madison, Wisconsin.

fairfield’s mfa stand-outs

The Fairfield MFA program allows students the time to pursue their literary talents with highly respected and talented faculty, while also giving them the free time to work, create, and do whatever needs to be done in their personal lives. Experiencing the semester residencies on Ender’s Island in Mystic, CT was also magical. It’s hard not to be inspired by the students, faculty, and location of the program.

I will truly miss the friendships that I have created over the past two years. There are people that I wish I could see on a daily basis in order to toss around ideas, workshop each other’s work, and simply talk about the joys (and frustrations) of our writing. Community is a supremely important factor with the Fairfield MFA, and knowing that there is a support system among the current students and alumni makes the whole process that much better. This, as well as the stunningly beautiful Ender’s Island where the semester residencies take place, make the whole program truly special.

greatest challenge – greatest inspiration

The road to the final MFA thesis was a long and difficult process, but I believe my biggest inspiration came from the other students in the program. There is such a wide spectrum of people involved, from every age and background imaginable, that’s it’s impossible not to learn from them. The conversations and stories that were swapped every day during the residencies, as well as our vibrant online presence, helped keep us connected and were a constant gentle reminder to push myself harder every time I sat down to write.

first fairfield mfa book prize winning thoughts

I think it’s safe to say that the whole experience of winning the book prize was a mishmash of happiness, anxiety, and outright surprise. When I first submitted the manuscript, I was in the middle of making a lot of radical changes to the stories. I was searching for the right narrative thread to connect all of the events and characters together, and I wasn’t entirely sure at the time I had found the ‘right’ one. So the overwhelming thought in my mind was “This is definitely not ready for submission.” My close friend in the program talked me into submitting what I had, and if it wasn’t for her encouragement (and extreme persistence), I definitely would not be in the same place I am now.

Meeting Charles Simic was an unforgettable experience as well. He was extremely nice and encouraging to me as a writer, and to be recognized by someone of his immense stature was more than I could ever hope for. It was a pretty crazy and surreal experience, but it’s one that I will never forget.

mason’s road Fiction co-editor experience

Any experience a writer can have with a literary journal can be hugely beneficial. It allows you to detach yourself from the writing, to turn the tables and critically examine how and why a certain piece works and why it doesn’t. When you examine you’re own work as a writer, you’re often caught up with all the personal details and literary ambitions that you have infused into the piece, but as an editor, you don’t have those worries; you’re examining a story that isn’t yours, and that allows you to look at the broader focus of the narrative without distraction. A bigger plus is that you come out with new appreciations for what other editors have to go through on a daily basis. These people may look at dozens of stories a day, making it crucial for you to find a way to make your story stand out. By putting yourself through that same process, you give yourself an edge into what works and what doesn’t, and how to keep a stranger engaged with the world you’re creating with your work.

best advice for fellow MFA’ers

Talk, talk, talk to your faculty. Never forget this. They are wise, dedicated, and extremely talented writers that want nothing more than to help you with your work and provide all the advice and feedback you could ever handle. They are your strongest advocates, and often enough, their drive and passion for writing will push you to reach places you never thought were possible on your own.

what’s next for nick

Writing, writing, writing. One must never stop.

Tiny URL for this post: http://tinyurl.com/82ro9cu