How to Survive Graduate School and Other Disasters

Original price was: $14.95.Current price is: $12.00.

short stories by

Molly McCaffrey

280 pages, $14.95 cover price

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-053-4

Released: 2011


MMcCaffery_PxMolly McCaffrey teaches at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where she lives her husband, novelist David Bell. Her blog, I Will Not Diet, chronicles her effort to lose weight without unhealthy dieting and encourages readers to reject the notion that curvy women are not attractive. Her Pushcart Prize-nominated work has appeared in numerous magazines and books, and she is co-editor of the newly released Commutability: Stories about the Journey from Here to There (Main Street Rag, 2010). She is also proud to say that she is a five-year survivor of graduate school.


How happy I am to make the acquaintance of the characters in Molly McCaffrey’s stories—the girls and women who face the world with gusto, sometimes make unwise decisions, and sometimes find themselves put upon by circumstances beyond their control. The stories in How to Survive Graduate School and Other Disasters are gritty and tender. They are brave stories, written with grace and precision.

—Lee Martin


[Poetry] is the way of making one’s experience,
almost wholly inexplicable, acceptable.
—Wallace Stevens

Start the year fresh.

You’ve just concluded a leisurely summer of working happily on your dissertation and spending relaxing weekends at your parents’ lake house. This is what life is all about, you tell yourself. This is what you’ve always wanted . . . to finally focus on your writing!

But it’s clear that things are suddenly different. Your dissertation fellowship is not renewed—probably because you told the head of the committee that the idea of requiring fellows to do a presentation on their work every month was complete bullshit.

But that’s okay.

You stand by your words and prepare to teach for the first time in fifteen months. You decide to teach a new lit course, not because you don’t want to teach creative writing, but because you think it would be good to add another line to your C.V. You’re given your class assignment two weeks before the term begins, order the books a week later, and don’t finish putting the syllabus together until three in the morning the night before classes start, adding a little bit of Tupac to the poetry unit just to piss off the powers-that-be.

Because you’re still technically only a graduate student even though you’re A.B.D.,—All But Dissertation or Deceased, whichever comes first—you get the eight o’clock class that meets three times a week, but you tell yourself that’s okay too because you’ll be able to hit the gym afterwards and make it home by noon with plenty of time left to work on the dissertation. That is, right after you finish the prospectus you were supposed to have completed before you sat for your comprehensive exams ten months ago.

The prospectus should be easy. After all, it’s not like you’re writing a real dissertation. For God’s sake, this is just a creative dissertation. And besides, it’s all about you and what you’re writing, and, like most people, you love talking about you. But instead of being easy, you find it’s very difficult because you and what you’re writing about isn’t really that interesting at all—in fact, you’re not even sure why you’re writing what you’re writing, much less if there are any themes or ideas around which you can unite the collection—so you crib as much as you can from the prospecti of those who came before you and hope you’ve created a document no one will care much about, especially since it’s not one you care about at all.

This turns out to be an epic waste of time because when you finally turn in a first draft a month later and meet with your dissertation director, he—because they are always a “he”—says it needs to be a document that animates your committee and that you shouldn’t have looked at any one else’s because no one has ever done it right before. You laugh—because what choice do you have?—and ask in your most scholarly voice what you should do to fix it. Your dissertation director tells you to scrap the whole thing and start again. In as oblique a way as possible, he instructs you to talk about why you’re writing what you are writing and who has influenced you.

So you start with who has influenced you and go from there.

There must be some reason you like the writers you do. But despite the fact that you’ve been talking about this issue for the last seven years (two while doing the Master’s degree and five in the doctoral program), you’ve never really thought about this before—you just like what you like, and you can’t explain why. Much like your students.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story, order
How to Survive Graduate School and Other Disasters
by Molly McCaffrey today.

SKU: 978-1-59948-295-8 Categories: , Tag:


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “How to Survive Graduate School and Other Disasters”