We’ve all run into times when we’re just not willing to let something go. I had my experience with this recently during residency at Lesley University. This is the place where I’m always pushed out of my comfort zone. Always. It happened at the first two residencies, and I should’ve known it would happen at the third.
Because I’m a writer and I love what I do, it’s always been especially hard for me to stop working on something, to set it aside and start something new. Especially something as large as a novel. It’s a big investment, and as many people know, I’ve been working on a specific one for quite a while now. It was dismantled over the spring semester, but I was ready to get back into it–to bring it back to life and push it forward. That’s what I do. When times get hard, I push on. We all do. It’s part of writing.
This time, it wasn’t in the cards. And I’ll be honest–that felt awful.
After talks with my new mentor, I learned that this novel is “too ambitious” and “too big” for a first novel. I disagreed and fought for the right to keep working on it. What I hadn’t realized in my crusade to keep this novel afloat within the program was how much I was missing within the novel itself.
There were questions that I couldn’t answer. There was research I hadn’t done that should’ve been done a while ago. Perhaps most importantly, I wasn’t able to fit this novel into a basic plot graph. And that is a clear indicator that something is wrong.
The story that I’ve loved so much for the last seven years had wounds that I knew I wouldn’t be able to heal right now. This realization happened about a week ago. The novel that I’ve loved for seven years is being put aside now. I’m still a little upset, but for the purposes of the program I’m in, perhaps it is too big. Don’t get me wrong–this novel isn’t dead in the water. It’s simply on vacation while I try to find the answers to the most important questions surrounding it. I’ll work on it in my spare time because I still love it and I’m going to get it out there. Just not right now. And that’s okay.
A shiny new project has been plotted and graphed. I feel good about this one. After a messy spring semester and an awakening of sorts at residency, a new leaf is being turned over.
It feels damn good, too.
I’m two days removed from the end of my third residency in Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. I’m back in Wisconsin and sadly away from my writing friends and all things literary in Cambridge and Boston. And now that the classrooms are dark and empty, the seminars are over with, the workshops have ended, and the general atmosphere has returned to something resembling normality again, there’s still one question that burns at the back of my mind:
What do I do now?
I already know the answer to this question. The answer is a simple one: Write. This has always been the answer. It always will be.
So, why is this questions still at the back of my mind? It’s a funny thing, really. In the few days following my return from Cambridge, Boston, and Lesley, I go through these feelings of being lost, of wondering not only where I belong, but also if I have what it takes to get through the upcoming semester. A few more days go by, and I’ve settled back into a routine of reading, writing, and a general malaise of missing my school friends and the literary atmosphere that surrounds Cambridge. But the good thing about getting to this is that I’ve begun to write again.
And that’s exactly where I need to be. At that point where I can write again.
I’m looking forward to it. This semester is bringing new work. I’m starting a new novel and setting the old one aside for a while. I’m still a bit upset about this, but I’ve come to understand that it needs to be done and that it’s part of the process. I’m excited about this new work. I’m excited to work with Jackie Davies this semester. And I’m looking forward to where this semester will take me both as a writer and as a person.
So, while I might be feeling rather friendless in an area of backwoods, small-town Wisconsin where all things literary do not exist, I know that I have writing to do. And that is enough to keep me going for now. Because without writing, what else is there?
Ah, residency. That blissful nine-day span where nothing matters but literature and writing. I love it and am freshly home from my second residency in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Lesley University. While this residency had its obvious differences from the first one back in June, it was still exactly what I needed–a huge push to get back into a writing routine.
Here’s a quick look at the seminars I went to:
- The Past Coming to You Live (A seminar on historical fiction in young adult literature.)
- In Cold Print: The Cross Pollination of Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Poetry
- Indoor/Outdoor Writing: The Inspiration and Imperative of Place
- An Afternoon With Mark Siegel, Author/Illustrator, Director of First Second Books
- Chiarscuro: Darkness and Light in Children’s Literature
- The Art of Juxtaposition
- What’s So Funny? Exploring Appropriate Humor for Children for and Young Adults
- In the Smithy of My Soul: When Writing Takes on the World
- A Place Like No Other: Crafting a Compelling Setting That Readers Will Remember
In addition to these, I also had nine hours of workshops to attend.
Overall, this residency was another great learning experience. I made some great new friends and learned so much more than I thought I would. I will admit that the seminars weren’t as exciting as the first time around, but I still wouldn’t trade them for anything else. The faculty at Lesley is amazing and my work is better because of all of them. My new mentor, David Elliott, is a great guy. I have a great feeling about this semester with him.
And so it begins.
In less than two weeks–On January 3rd, to be exact–I’ll be leaving for Boston to attend my second residency in Lesley University’s highly-touted MFA in Creative Writing Program. Like the first one last June, I’m nervous, but I think this second residency will go much smoother, mostly because I know what to expect now. In certain ways, I’m looking forward to it.
Because we change mentors each semester, throughout this second semester I’ll be working with children/YA author, David Elliott. That’s him above. A friend in the program worked with him during our first semester and had nothing but good things to say. He’s a nice guy and he knows his stuff. I think this second semester is going to be a productive one. I sent in two chunks of different manuscripts this time, so I’m looking forward to his comments in the workshops I’ll be participating in.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been printing, reading, and commenting in order to prepare for this second residency. It’s been difficult as a result of being diagnosed with occular neuritis and other pre-multiple sclerosis symptoms. I’ve tried my hardest and am hoping it will all end well once I get to Boston. There are some great workshop stories both from new students, as well as the “veterans.” I can’t wait to get into full days of discussing writing again. That’s something that I’ve continually miss over the past six months.
During this second semester, my Interdisciplinary Studies project is a class. It’s online and is called “Psychology for the Creative Writer.” It’s taught by Dr, Jorge Amenteros, who is a psychiatrist, as well as a creative writer (he got his MFA from Lesley University, too). The one book I’ll be reading for the class is The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. I’ve already started reading it and I love it so far. I think it’s really going to help my main work, the story regarding the school shooting. Much of what I write has psychology ingrained, so this class is really perfect for me. I’ll be meeting with Dr. Amenteros during the residency, as well.
This is one of the few things i’m looking forward to in the coming months. Barring any major health shifts, this residency will be a great one. I’m so glad I decided to stick with it after a rough semester. Stay tuned for a full report on the event after I return on January 13th!
In the meantime, Happy Writing!
This post is a bit late, but I’ve had so much going on since returning home, and this is better late than never, right? Right.
As most of you know, I was accepted into the Writing for Young People track at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts back in February. The program is a low-residency one, so twice a year, we all meet on the campus for ten days of residency–intense, writing-focused days full of seminars, workshops, and readings. My first one as a new student took place last month, from the 22nd to the 30th.
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Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com.
As you know, I’ve been waiting to hear back from UMass about my application to their MFA program. This morning I received an email telling me that a change was made to my application status. I logged in to check it out.
I didn’t get accepted.
I found the entire process odd, since UMass usually send out a letter and then waits 21 days to change the status online. I don’t know if I just never got my letter or what, but none the less, I wasn’t accepted.
I’m strangely okay with this. It leaves me with no decision over which school to attend. I’ll be going to Lesley University. I’ve heard nothing but good things, so there’s no reason that I shouldn’t be happy about going there. I still wish I could know why UMass and PLU didn’t accept me, but there’s no use wondering about it. It’s over and done with.
As a side note, I’m in the middle of moving, but I’ll be back to write again soon. A post on dealing with rejection may be in order.
Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com.
As most of my readers know, last fall I applied to three MFA programs. I was never really sure when I’d be hearing from any of them, so I’ve just been anxiously waiting since the beginning of the new year. Waiting can be a bear sometimes, am I right? I thought I wouldn’t hear back from any of the programs until at least March or April.
I was wrong.
Last night when I got home, I checked my email and there was an email from the director of the program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I’ve been accepted in their Writing for Young People track.
Lesley University has the 6th best low-residency MFA program in the United States according to Poets & Writers. That’s part of the reason why I applied there. There were three main reasons:
- The high ranking of the program. I wanted a program that was known for the faculty and for the kinds of writers it turns out. I wanted to work hard to get in. And I did.
- The fact that the program is low-residency, meaning I don’t have to move if I don’t want/can’t afford to. I have to be on campus for ten days twice a year, with the first residency being this coming June. However, if I decide to move to Cambridge, there’s a possibility of getting a teaching assistantship, which is something I really need.
- Chris Lynch, and award-winning YA author (and one of my favorites), is a faculty in the Writing for Young People track. In this program, after your first residency, you’re matched up with a faculty member (mentor) in your specific track and that is who you work with for the duration of your time in the program. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get to work with Mr. Lynch, but I hope I get to. I feel that he could be a great fit for me, especially since the main characters in my writing are always male. I think he could really help me find voices and stick with them, thereby making my writing stronger.
Out of the three programs that I applied to, this is one that I really wanted to be accepted to. I’m beyond happy that I’ve earned the chance to be a part of the program. I don’t know much about it yet, as my information packets are still on the way, but I can’t wait to learn more.
I’m going to wait until I hear from the other two programs before making a final decision on where I should go. Right now, though, I have at least one guaranteed option and I love that. Words really can’t properly express how excited I am that I’ve been accepted. I worked really hard to get this far and it’s such a wonderful feeling to know that it all paid off.
I have two programs to wait on, but that’s okay. This was what I wanted. I’m very happy.
It took a little while, but I decided to apply to MFA programs. I had originally planned to go for my PhD, but as it stands, I’m unable to pay for the GRE tests I need to take to do so. Once I find a full-time job, I’ll look into taking them. For now, though, I’m going to MFA route.
I decided to apply to three specific programs. I have my reasons for applying to them. All three are on the list of the Top 15 MFA Programs.
- UMass-Amherst: I chose this school because of my love for Boston. The program is intense, but also offers numerous courses in creative writing and theory. There are also teaching assistantships available. If I get accepted, I’d start in the Fall of 2012.
- Pacific Lutheran University: This school is number five on the list of the top low-residency programs in the country. I love Washington and PLU is located in Tacoma, close to Seattle (hooray!). The program is a rigorous one, but they offer everything I want in a program, plus the location is wonderful. If I get accepted, I’d start in the Summer of 2012.
- Lesley University: This school is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of my favorite YA authors, Chris Lynch, teaches here. The program offers a concentration in Writing for Young People and if I get in, I’m hoping to study with Mr. Lynch and the rest of the great faculty. This program is also low-residency. If I get accepted, I’d start in the Summer of 2012.
Why I Chose Low-Residency
PLU and Lesley are both low-residency programs, which means I don’t have to move if I don’t want to or can’t afford it. I’ll only need to be on campus for ten days, twice a year, and the rest of the work is done from home. UMass is a traditional program and if I get accepted and choose to attend, I’ll need to move to Boston.
I chose low-residency programs mostly because I’m not sure I can afford to move. If I happen to find a good full-time position here in Milwaukee, I can stay and work, but still pursue an MFA. I could still move to Tacoma or Cambridge and go to school if I so choose, but with the way things are, the odds of that happening are slim. I like low-residency because these programs allow me to focus on family an work, but still earn a degree. Plus, I don’t have to uproot myself if I don’t want to. Lesley offers teaching assistantships, so if I get accepted and decide to go there, I may consider moving.
The application process is done for all three schools. Now, I make sure my recommendation letters are sent and I wait. it’s going to be a long couple of months. Until then, I’ll keep writing.