By: Emily Smith

Emily Smith: Hi Will, thanks for doing this! Let’s start off with an easy one. You entered the MFA with a fiction concentration. Is that still the genre you find yourself most drawn to?

Will Schick: The short answer is no. I’m most drawn to “poetry” at the moment. But, I’m also drawn to the idea that all written word is a form of poetry.

ES: What is it about fiction (and other genres if applicable) that compels you to write?

WS: I think I came into this program thinking about writing in genre-specific terms; however, I have come to realize that thinking in terms of “genre” hasn’t really helped me much. And so, I don’t give it much thought. I still write like I always have, except now, I don’t put too much effort into thinking about genre.

ES: Which authors have been your biggest influences? And who have you been reading lately?

WS: I learn something from everyone I read, and I feel like there are just so many influences it would be unfair to list just one. The last book I read was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. It had me in tears from its very opening pages. It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Two other books that come to mind that I’ve recently read are Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien. Both of these are also excellent. Right now, I’m reading a poetry collection called The Carrying by Ada Limón.

ES: Your background is a fascinating one. You’ve lived in multiple countries, you’re a former Marine, and I want to say you’re a pentalingual at this point! How do you think these past experiences have influenced your writing?

WS: Every story or poem or essay I write is based on a real life experience. I think when I was younger (I’m still young, I’m only 34), but when I was in my twenties, I had a lot less empathy for others. And now, I feel like it’s so much more interesting to try to understand people. And, speaking the same language helps.

ES: All this being said, what made you decide to change course and pursue your MFA?

WS: I don’t know if I think of myself changing course necessarily. I always wanted to be a writer, but I don’t think I was ready to write seriously until just a few years ago. I left the Marines for many reasons, but one of the major reasons was so that I could dedicate myself to writing. I made a conscious and deliberate decision to become a professional writer, and so I’m using the time during this MFA to help me transition into this new career field.

ES: Where do you see yourself having grown the most in your writing since beginning the program? What skills are you still working to develop?

WS: I now know when I’ve written something that is not up to snuff. I’m a better judge of people’s work, but most importantly, I’m a much better judge of my own work. And, I know I still have a long way to go.

ES: What does your writing process look like? How do you factor workshop and revision into this? When is a piece finally done for you?

WS: I work everyday on the same project until I’ve completed it. I write on my phone, on yellow legal notepads, in a journal, and on my computer. I generally work in fragments, and then I try to piece them together and make something of it. I haven’t finished very many pieces, so it’s hard to say when something’s done. I’m starting to think that writers never really finish their projects, they just get to a point where they feel comfortable sharing them.

ES: If you had to pick one course and/or professor you have taken so far in the program that has influenced you the most as a writer, what/who would it be? 

WS: I learned something in every class I’ve taken. I learned about the importance of time in stories from both Dolen and Rachel. I learned about keeping audience in mind from Kyle and to think about my writing as a way to be a part of a conversation. I learned how to examine a literary text from Roberta. And, I learned how to read from Stephanie. All these skills, especially how to read like a writer, have been extremely valuable to me.

ES: You are actively involved in several writing communities outside of the program. Can you talk a bit about those?

WS: I lead a weekly writers group for people experiencing homeless at a place called Miriam’s Kitchen in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of DC. We meet on Monday mornings and talk poetry and share our work with each other. This summer, I worked for a local paper called Street Sense. The paper is focused on reporting on issues related to homelessness and many of their vendors and artists are also people experiencing homelessness. This semester, I’m doing a journalism fellowship with Greater Greater Washington, and an internship with Voice of America.

ES: You still have a year and a half to go, but have you considered what could be next for you post MFA?

WS: I’m going to write professionally, duh. The plan is to complete my novel and get a job where I get paid to write.

ES: You’ve had work published and you run your own blog! Where can we read your work and follow you?

WS: My blog is still a work in progress. It was initially meant to be about language learning, but now it’s about much more. You can find it at: My last fiction story was published in Cleaver Magazine, and you can also read some of the work I did for Street Sense this summer here.

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