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All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 64

When I get older, losing my hair, many moments from now... Today I read several short stories in The Best American Short Stories 2008 (and yes, full disclosure: if you buy that book using that link I will make around $0.03). I was stunned and awed by a couple of them, as one should be at the end of a story, sad to see them finish. All I wanted to do today is read. I forget how a great story does that to me. Good nonfiction makes me think, and want to have conversations and want to learn things. But quality fiction wraps me up in a cocoon of story that I don't want to leave.

This morning, I started my day by working on the "Personal Statement" for my Texas Tech application. It's an agonizing process, trying to distill one's whole person and potential into 500 convincing words. It is also no way to start the day. So, I printed out some materials, made some stacks of manila envelopes. Then, on a break at work, I called Kansas State to ask about the "critical writing sample" requirement.

The University of Washington website states that the critical sample should cover a topic that is important to the writer, ideally something mentioned in the student's plans for grad school. I decided that I wanted to do a research paper on bees: their decline, its possible causes and ramifications, and why and how to stop it. That fits in with science and nature, which are both important to me, and are mentioned in my statement of purpose. Plus I dig bees. I would enjoy writing a research paper about them.

But then, on KSU's site, the "other" (non-creative) writing sample is only referred to as a "critical/analytical sample." So I called to see if my plan for UW would work, or if they were looking specifically for a literary criticism-type piece. The head of the graduate department was very generous with his time and attention, but the conversation left me feeling extraordinarily unprepared for an MA. His program has never accepted anyone who didn't hold a BA or BS (I have a BFA). He said I may be brought on either on probation or provisionally, depending on how lacking in credits I am. He suggested I send over my transcripts so he could offer better advice.

I already need to fulfill a language requirement--which I want to do. My plan was to get at least a good year of Spanish in (well, starting now, I suppose). He mentioned that I would likely also need to take a literature survey and a literature "content" class, to catch up to everyone else.

The more I have been thinking about an MA program, the more attractive it sounds. Like going to architecture school to learn to build houses, rather than carpentery school. They are both valid routes, but if what I want to build is works of art, rather than just really cool buildings...

I don't have $500 to spend on applications if I am just going to end up not making the cut anywhere because of my transcripts. Already everyone is a'clatter with Seth Abramson's recent proclamation that it's easier to get into Harvard Law or your average Ivy League school than a fully funded MFA. And I can't afford to take two 300 level lit classes this spring (sadly, not offered by the affordable community college). Why does it always have to come to fucking money? How dumb, of all things. Abramson, the MFA stat-czar says that applying to less than fifteen schools is suicide. He says that one in four candidates is rejected by every school they apply to. There's no way. There's just no way.

And sure, to belabor the metaphor, I could just find a field somewhere and start building something, every day, after work, and then try to find someone who wants to live in it. I could do that over and over and over and maybe end up with a Sagrada Familia some day (though even Gaudi went to architecture school). I am supposed to be willing to do that. Just, forego an education, because debt from a previous life and a shitty economy that shows no sign of improving has made school unrealistic. I'm supposed to just soldier on.

So I am thinking all this, and reading these amazing stories, and thinking that I don't even know if I this in me, this ability to craft the "Wow, yes, wow" moment for a reader. I can write well, and sometimes I have some nice turns of phrases. ---[And just now, I had to erase a totally inappropriate and nasty dismissal of my work. I am TRYING to not descend into depths. Ok? I am trying.] I just don't know.

All I know is that what I am doing now: All this, is not right. It's not what I am supposed to be doing. It's not where I am supposed to be doing it, and it's not how. It can't possibly be, or it would feel better.

Publication score for today:
McSweeney's : rejected
@cnfonline: retweeted

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