Thursday, December 10, 2009

madison, oregon, vanderbilt, greensboro

Do you know what these places have in common? They're each home to a university with a competitive, kick ass, and very selection MFA program in creative writing.

And I just applied to all four of them.

Here's the thing. I have a Life Plan, which is very detailed and specific. My Life Plan says that in the fall of 2010, I will begin the process of applying to MFA programs, will be accepted into a program, and will begin said program in 2011, at the tender age of 29. This was a sound plan - it would give Nathan time to finish his Masters and get a job, which would give us a full year to enjoy the perks of two incomes, save a little money, and pay off some debt.

About a month ago, I was having a bad day at work and thought that looking at different schools and programs might life my spirits. I'd always been intrigued by the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which accepts only six people a year, alternating between fiction writers and poets. It turned out that they were accepting fiction applicants this year, which meant that according to my Life Plan, Madison would have to be taken off the short list. Unless I applied this year - as in, right now, because the deadline is December 15th. It would be a shot in the dark, as they're one of the most selective programs in the nation, but what the hell, right? At the very least, it would be good practice for when I applied to schools for real.

You can guess what happened next. Applying to Madison gave me such a feeling of excitement and hope that I couldn't stop there. I added the University of Oregon to my list. Then I saw that Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, was waiving their application fee for anyone who submitted the entirety of it online. I love submitting things online! And Greensboro - well, North Carolina seems cool, the program there has all the main things I'm looking for (good reputation, small program, low cost of living, full tuition, teaching fellowships) and it's close to New York (compared to Texas, anyway). Why not? And so I did.

I paid my fees this weekend and mailed the last of my application materials out on Tuesday. I'm nervous and hopeful, but also realistic. I can't stress how competitive these four schools are - my chances of getting in to any of them are slim. And yet, I can't help but feel it's time. I've been putting off an MFA for years, distracting myself with things like library science, roller derby and debt. More than anything I want to devote myself to writing full time, to become a better writer, a better editor, a better reader. I want a change, and what better way to shake up your life than to move across the country for the degree of your dreams? I'm excited, but I'm also terrified. I don't know what scares me more - the idea of not getting in anywhere, or the possibility of getting in somewhere and uprooting my (not to mention Nathan's) life. Mostly, though, I am desperate to be accepted. I don't know if my fragile ego could handle four rejections at once.

I'll find out my fate by March. Until then, cross your fingers and wish me luck!