- It was a great way to spend $8000 a semester of student loan money (and if I can’t get a job I will not be able to pay it back, so I am not obsessing about it, yet).
- I will have a terminal degree (which I thought was going to allow me to teach at college level – but I seem to be competing with every out-of-work teacher in the entire world).
- It will be packaged in a nice blue padded folder. (That’s nice, isn’t it?)
- Even though I never cared for titles, I will be able to put those three letters after my name…
- It taught me to be a better writer, to know a lot about literature and to conduct heady diatribes about Bruno Schulz, Clarice Lispector and Raymond Carver.
- I am more broke and displaced than I was when I started but at least I am out of the South.
- I met some of the most talented and original writers in the world and I will forever be part of their cohort.
#7 is the main benefit of any graduate program and mine is no different. One through six are just a rant. Though I do love writing and found all of my reading time (and all of my creative writing time) very fulfilling – I even learned how to hammer out critical work, though I dislike it. I went to a self proclaimed progressive college called Goddard. Some interesting people have come out of Goddard: Mathew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook, Phish, David Mamet, William H. Macy, Piers Anthony…It is a pretty open program where you get to create your own courses. Don’t think for a moment that this is in any way easier than a traditional MFA – it isn’t. At the same time, they did not do much for my ability to teach. And my self esteem suffered while I tried to figure out if I was shit or not – but I figure every program does that to you.
While I was in my Undergrad I got to work with some pretty amazing people, Walter Butts (who’s iconic voice I can hear whenever I read his notes to me), Ryan Boudinot and Bob Braille among them. I am officially still a student in the MFA program, so in keeping with the adage that one not shit where they eat, I will withhold all comments about the graduate program until I have that diploma in my hot little hands.
The main reason I wanted the MFA was so I could teach college. Sigh.
So looking over the precipice of my impending commencement, I have been occupied with the big beginning and ending question: What the fuck am I gonna do now?
I have been sending stories out and I got some published. I have been trying to meet some writers in my area and get out to read more. I am editing on a couple of journals – this is highly recommended. But none of these activities are paying me anything and I don’t expect much to change even if I were to get an agent or a publisher. ANd I have been working with both, but it is a long long road.
I just don’t have enough information to predict.
Before I went back to school in 2009 we ran HillHouse Writer’s Retreat for about 8 years. Here is a link for a video we did as part of our failed KickStarter grant attempt back in December of 2012. It shows Karen’s enthusiasm and love for our farm. It also gives you a little visual information to put with HillHouse Writer’s.
But if there is one thing that living on the planet Portland for the past 2 years has taught me, it is that Tennessee is much more alien and twice as hard to make a living in – and we have been nearly homeless here.
No, if we are going to run retreats, we are not going to be able to use our house. We are not going back. But, what if we ran one week retreats in other more exotic locations around the world?
And with a nod to Goddard, the college that both Karen and I got all of our degrees from (up till the end of this year when Karen will get her Master’s in Education from PSU), we have been talking about running a 15 week packet and follow up. I guess that I should explain that a little better for those of you who have never attended Goddard.
The idea is that you figure out what you want to learn and what you are going to do to learn it. Then you create a contract with yourself and the school called a study plan. Then you spend a week talking to your assigned advisor and the other people in your advising group, attending workshops and eating meals (HillHouse had the meals thing down) and listening to other visiting writers and industry folks. Then, every 3 weeks (for 5 sessions or 15 weeks) you send a packet of your creative work to your advisor and the advisor marks your writing up and sends it back.
At the college, you do this for a few years and you get a degree (along with #1 above).
We are trying to keep it affordable, maybe around $2,000.
We are just in the planning stages, but the first retreat might be as soon as November.
I want to open the advisor positions up to others from my cohort who have their MFAs – We would all be in charge of marketing (which is a much needed writer’s survival skill that no one seems to remember to teach) so we will all get plenty of experience trying to figure out what works.
It seems a little weird to me to be arriving where I left six years ago. Of course I am more qualified now, more knowledgeable and a lot more experienced, but really. I had to do all of this work to find out that I was pretty close to the right spot when I started. Even so, it has a certain ironic logic to it.
I am looking forward to feedback about this. I invite all of my friends to chime in with positive ideas (even if they are warnings). Use the comments section on the blog so we can interact with the widest audience.
I am, at heart, an entrepreneur. It doesn’t take much time for me working for someone else’s bright idea to realize that I have bright ideas too, and that I will be paying myself more than a poverty wage on contingency. Please join me for our latest adventure.
NOTE: I added sex to the tags for this post. I was not being disingenuous. Really getting down to the guts of writing is more like sex that you might want to admit. And sex is at the root of everything, without it, there wouldn’t be any writers or readers.