Mar 25, 2014, 6:45 PM
Post #2593 of 2667
Re: [Kyla_S] Low-Residency MFAs
[In reply to]
I could use some advice/a sounding board with regard to applying to a low-residency MFA program.
Here's my story:
I know it's a cliche, but I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote all through grade school and high school, even writing a YA novel (greatly influenced by S.E. Hinton). At about age 20, I stopped. For the next 10 years, I worked at a job I hated and didn't write. At around 30, I went back to school and wrote a few short stories. I decided to major in English. Since books were the only things I cared about, I thought I might become a librarian. But I still wanted to be a writer.
In 1997, I left the job I hated and my luck changed for the better: I became a writer at a small community newspaper. Within three years, I was a columnist. Within four years, I had earned my BA in English, summa cum laude.
In the aftermath of 9/11, I lost my job. While I was unemployed, I started (but never finished) a novel based on my father's coal-mining family. I got another job, this time doing PR for a college. I pretty much stopped writing fiction. I didn't really like doing PR stories, such as basic press releases. I did enjoy interviewing the alumni, as I've always liked learning people's stories.
Fast forward a bit: I lost my job in 2009, and it took me almost three years to find another one. I'm working in my alma mater's library. I gave up on the dream of becoming a librarian. Librarianship seems to have much more to do with technology than it does with books themselves. I have a lot of downtime at work, and I've made a few starts at short stories, but haven't finished them. I'm having a bit of a hard time developing a "writing habit."
The school where I work offers an MFA in creative writing. I would get free tuition. I've felt the program calling to me, on and off. I know it would be a lot of work. It's low residency, so relocating won't be an issue. When the students have their residency, I watch them wistfully, wishing I were a member of the "club." I can't join a writing group b/c of the odd hours I work. I have no one to read my work. I never really think of teaching, though I know the MFA is a terminal degree. Sometimes I think about leading a women's journaling group. (I am also a mixed-media artist and art journaler; I had a story published in Stampington's "Art Journaling" this past fall). I keep thinking that it might be a shame to waste such an opportunity--a free master's degree.
I spoke to the program director about my application package (she is one of my former professors). She said I could submit my news stories/journalism pieces, plus anything in my genre that I'd like them to see. I could send part of my novel. I don't have to produce new short stories. I also have to do a 5 to 10 page personal statement, which I've started drafting.
The next residency starts in June, and the deadline for submission is May 15. The director seems to think I'm ready. I'm not so sure about that!
I keep thinking I should take an online course in short story writing. However, I feel guilty about spending money on a course (I'm pretty poor). The director said I will learn more in the MFA program than in any of these courses, but I thought I could use a brush-up/refresher course.
What do you think? Is it too soon to apply to an MFA program? Should I take an online workshop first?
Thank you for listening!