Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a longer limbo

Seeing as we're at the end of March, I felt I owed y'all an update on how I'm faring this MFA application season. Here's where I currently stand:

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Rejected. 
Vanderbilt University: Rejected
University of Oregon: Rejected

And... drumroll please...

University of North Carolina-Greensboro: ACCEPTED! 

Here's how it happened: SFA's spring break started on March 13th. On the 17th, we flew to Oregon to visit Kealy. UNCG said they would be notifying starting on the 15th. The 15th came... and went. The 16th came... and went. The 17th did the same. The whole time, I was obsessively checking my phone and email and the MFA blog, hoping to hear something. Then, on the 18th, someone posted to the MFA blog that the Director of the program at UNCG had called to tell them they were accepted. My heart sank. Over the next few days, more people reported acceptances. I still had nothing. I decided to stop obsessing and enjoy the rest of my time in Oregon - especially my time in the cabin, where I was totally disconnected from telephones, the Internet and electricity. For the first time since I mailed in my applications, I felt at peace with the whole damned process.

We flew home and on March 25th, I went back to work. It was then that I noticed a red light blinking on my office phone, indicating that I had a voice mail. I punched in the appropriate string of numbers and listened to my messages while scrolling through Twitter.

As you've probably guessed by now, it was the Director of the creative writing program at UNCG, calling to let me know I was in. The message was from seven days earlier - March 18th. Luckily, the thrill of an actual acceptance outweighed disbelief that I had suffered through a whole extra week of not knowing for nothing. It didn't matter. I was accepted! They liked me! I'm gonna be famous!

Not so fast. The acceptance came with a caveat - funding. The Director kindly informed me that the money situation is dismal and they currently have nothing to offer anybody. I am to email them this week and ask for an update - that's my plan for tomorrow. While I want desperately to attend an MFA program as soon as possible, and while North Carolina is a ridiculously good (not to mention competitive - ahem) program, I am not sure I am willing/able to pay my own way.

Here's the thing: this is my first year applying to schools. I didn't really put a ton of thought into this whole process and realized - sometime in January - that I was up against thousands of people who had put a lot of thought, time, money and energy into MFA applications. People with resumes, publications, stories that had been extensively critiqued, letters of recommendations from well known writers. I had none of that, not really. And I still got in. I'm not trying to be a braggart here - I'm trying to honestly weight my options. If UNCG comes back and says they can't offer me a cent, then maybe I should take this year to work hard at my writing, get a few more publications under my belt, maybe take a summer workshop somewhere (preferably exotic) and come back even stronger next season. Maybe I can snag more than one offer, with funding. Maybe my options will be better, and maybe my choices will improve. I just have to keep reminding myself that a year isn't that long, that the MFA is not a time sensitive degree, and that there are so many things in Nacogdoches worth sticking around for - namely great friends, lots of babies, free yoga, a decent paying job, and a good writing community.

But first I need to hear from UNCG and see what they can offer me. Once that is settled, the rest will fall into place.