Sunday, October 11, 2015

From Awareness to Acceptance in Two Months: MFA Bound

I apologize to you, my awesome readers, for writing infrequently the past two months. This is why I have slacked, with some added fiction because, well, it fits.

July 23: I tell JD I’m considering becoming a part-time barista so I have more time to write.

Over the last decade I authored two books. I have spent my time writing, marketing, taking marketing classes, speaking, receiving training in public speaking, starting a company, and creating a super-sweet spreadsheet to track my inventory and expenses. In exchange I have sacrificed or neglected undergraduate grades, video games, television and pop culture, dating, probably friends, and definitely the news besides staying updated on everything related to Miley Cyrus. After my dedication to my health and fitness and current full-time job, and unless I experiment with polyphasic sleep, I have limited time for my true passion.

JD says, “I'd be happy to sit down and discuss your future plans. For what it's worth, I think it's something that would make you happy and help you to focus on what means the most.”

July 25: I meet with the Whiskeys over some whiskey to pick their brains on how to accelerate my writing skills. Mr. Whiskey is also a writer and even attended Viable Paradise, a prestigious writing workshop. Mrs. Whiskey is currently working towards her MBA. They know shit.

I take notes as we discuss and compare a master’s in literature, writing classes and workshops like those offered at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing. I tire of taking notes and Mrs. Whiskey continues for me. She also writes all the books I should read, and draws pictures.

Our brainstorming leads me to conclude that a two-year low residency MFA program is perfect for me. This would allow me to rapidly learn and improve my writing, work towards a goal (a master’s degree), and stay in the Washington, D.C., area, except during the two-week residency each semester which is either on the university campus or in Europe. And in D.C., there’s always a new Starbucks that is hiring part-time workers.

July 29: I spend hours at Starbucks to study baristas and low residency MFA programs. I create a new super-sweet spreadsheet to track programs and their rankings, costs, requirements and application deadlines. I filter out any program that requires applicants to submit GRE scores. I don’t have time or intelligence for that shit.

List of low residency master's of fine arts in creative writing programs
Mr. Whiskey connects me with his friend who graduated from the Stonecoast MFA at the University of Southern Maine. “I spent two years at Stonecoast's low residency program, got my MFA, and had an utterly delightful time,” she emailed me.

Stonecoast’s website, faculty, and nearby breweries are so welcoming. That is my number one choice with everywhere else a distant second. The application deadline is September 15. I have seven weeks to write a super-sweet 15+-page short story. Ready, set, go!
Stonecoast MFA in creative writing at the University of Southern Maine
Sept. 1: I finish my first draft and send it to Mr. Whiskey who will review it for me. “Took me forever and taught me that I know nothing about writing,” I emailed Mr. Whiskey.

Have you ever begun doing something without having learned the proper way how, and you continued doing it and improving? That is how I became a writer. When I was 20 the idea to write a book flew into my head and like a bird stuck in a chimney, it wouldn’t leave.

I’ve been writing for 11 years and will continue writing forever but I can’t describe how; I don’t know the basic writing techniques that all graduate-level writing students probably learned when they were small children.

I don’t believe I will get into Stonecoast, a top four ranked low residency program in the country.

Sept. 14: I complete my short story after days of back and forth with Mr. Whiskey. I really owe him lots of whiskey. I also complete my two shorter essays and online application. Just before Rosh Hashanah dinner, at 6:01 p.m., I email my materials to Stonecoast’s admissions department. “Thank you for your consideration. I can't wait to be a student at the University of Southern Maine,” I write.

Sept. 25: I list other programs to apply to that all have an application deadline of September 30. My literary agent is leaving the country and won’t be able to submit her letter of recommendation through the schools’ online systems. Ahhh!

My phone beeps. I have an email which I open and read. “After reviewing your application, the Stonecoast faculty believes you have the talent and drive necessary to succeed as a writer. We feel strongly about your work and about your ability to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by a Stonecoast education. We look forward to the possibility of welcoming you to our community of writers.”

I temporarily black out from excitement and shock and when I revive, I scream non-English sounds at my dad who is next to me driving.

I begin at the Stonecoast master’s of fine arts in creative writing program, in fiction, at the University of Southern Maine on January 8. Over two years that will include five residencies in Portland, Maine, and possibly Ireland, I will probably get kicked out of many coffeeshops for “camping,” especially if I camp on the job when I become a barista. I am MFA bound. Ready, set, go!

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