Oct 22, 2013

Letters of Intent

I'm applying for grad school right now. It's a little stressful, but exciting at the same time. I'm hoping that in the next couple of months everything comes together, I do well on the GRE, and I have everything turned in by the deadline. The thing I'm not looking forward to writing is my letter of intent. I'm just not good talking about myself in a professional way (I really have no idea what that says about me . . .), so I thought I would write what I wish I could say here on my blog to maybe get it out of my system, and then I can write a professional letter to send to the University.

Dear Admissions Board,
Yo, I like to write, let me into your program.

Okay, okay, that's probably not the best way to phrase it, even for this kind of thing.

Dear Admissions Board, 
I love stories. I love stories told in the form of art, music, movies, theatre, and dance, but mostly, I love stories told by the written word.  
From a very young age, I started creating stories in my head. At first I used books and stories that I already knew, and I would insert myself into them as a character. As I got older, I started writing things down: character bios, lineage, even a few sentences. I started creating my own little stories, spending Sunday afternoons writing them down in notebooks, on the computer, or on loose pages of notebook paper. Some of these stories I submitted to my elementary school's "Reflections" contests, and then later to my high school's literary magazine, Tabula Rasa, where I was also the prose editor my senior year. 
Sometimes I would forget how good writing would make me feel, until I would stay up late at night writing down my ideas, or pieces of stories. Once I got to university, I became an English major because I wanted to learn about more stories. And I did! Diverse stories that I never thought of reading before. I started deciding for myself what I liked about different types of story telling, and I branched out in how I read. Even when my schoolwork became overwhelming, I always made time for personal reading, because, like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, "until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." Stories are like breathing to me--an essential part of my life that I take for granted until they are not there anymore. 
While at university, I took two creative writing classes. The way these classes made me think about creating stories and characters, it was an eye-opening experience for me. And being able to get honest feedback, not just from a professor, but from my peers, that was something I had never experienced before. In my "Writing for Children and Adolescents" class, I heard from published authors who had written the kind of books I would like to write, to the audience I want to reach. I learned by trial and error, so different from the lecture and test routine I was used to. It was inspiring and challenging. It was hard.  
This is why I want to be accepted to your program. I want to learn even more how to tell the stories that are in my head, and to be able to grow stronger and more confident in my writing. In the three years I have been away from school, I have felt the lack of the learning environment in my life. I had been searching for knowledge through other means, which is satisfying in itself, but I have felt the desire to be back among my peers, sharing the learning experience with them. In my work as an editorial intern, and a part time worker, I have learned about telling different kinds of stories, and how to make them better. As I aspire to become an editor, I think it is important to know how writing works, to experience the kind of criticism that someday I may be giving. The most exciting thing about your program is that you encourage your MFA students to write the things they want to be writing. I want to make my career in young adult fiction, and learning to write it will help me in my career goals. 
Thank you for your consideration of me to the Creative Writing MFA. I hope that you can understand my passion for stories, and that I plan to bring that passion with me to your university.  

That's better than the first, but still not what I think the admissions board is looking for. Guess I'll keep trying until I get it down pat.

Oct 5, 2013

Dreamland and Other News

These past two weeks I have been having some weird dreams. Have you ever had a series of dreams that are all related to each other? That even take place in the same "dreamland"? The majority of my dreams always did seem to take place in the same world my brain created, but not it has shifted to something much worse.


Yes, I have been having school dreams. The school is a strange amalgam (sidebar: I love that word and try to use it whenever I can) of my high school and BYU. And for some reason I am taking art and math classes. But I can never find my classes, and I've forgotten my schedule, don't know my locker number or combination, and then there are all these people from high school or TV shows/movies I watch. Basically, they aren't the most comfortable of dreams.

Anyway, in other news.

I've decided to take the GRE. I'm looking into grad schools, but I haven't really decided if that's what I should do, but since the GRE lasts for a few years, I decided I should take it, and maybe even apply to a program or two and see what happens.

This has been about 6 months in coming. I received news that I would need to find a new job by the end of the year, which was heartbreaking but at the same time I knew that it is best for me. I'd been feeling for a while that I should start looking for a new job, but something would happen, and I would just brush the feeling away. But, here's the thing, Heavenly Father doesn't give up. In a way, I feel that everything that led up to me having to be let go (which no one really wanted that, but things happen and departments need to downsize) was really just God being like "Okay, Whitney, you wouldn't listen to me before, so now I'm forcing you into it. It's really for your own good." There was definitely some comfort in that, until I started looking for a job.

At first it seemed that I had a lot of options. I even applied for a great, entry-level position. But I kept getting turned down because other applicants had more experience and higher education. Which kind of got me started thinking about going back to school. And now I'm only coming across part-time jobs, even though I've broadened my search terms. The only thing I know is that I want to work with books, in some way or another; they are my passion.

This past week or two I've been thinking more and more about getting my MFA. Maybe it's because of these school dreams I've been having, or maybe because Roommate M has decided to go to grad school, but whatever it is, it's a different path I'm looking down. I feel as though the paths are dark and winding, and I have no idea of which I should go down or where they will lead. But maybe opening myself up to going down different paths, one will become more clear.

Growing up I never thought I would get my master's. That was back in the days when I thought I would be married at 21 and be having kids. My senior year of college, that thought changed. I found out about a creative writing MFA, and I became really interested in doing that. But even then I thought that I would do it once I had a job (hopefully one that would help pay for it), or maybe even years down the road. To be thinking about it at this stage in life is not what I was expecting, even though I know I should stop expecting things to happen when I think they should.

The good news is that my work has decided to keep me on (with reduced hours) until next June, or I find a job. I'm so grateful for them to be willing to help me and give me a lot of time to find something. They have even been working with me to sharpen my skills by giving me different tasks, and telling me about any job opportunities they know of. General Minion, my mentor, has even offered to help me on the GRE, and listens to me when I get down because I can't find a job. She was the one who proposed keeping me on for another 6 months, and she has sent me job listings I qualify for. It's been stressful, and it's been hard, and sometimes it makes me wonder about my talents and whether or not I have what it takes, but there are so many people in my life who are there to support me and to give me encouragement. Everyone goes through this at least once, right? It's just my turn and I know things will be better for it--if only I knew when!

Oct 1, 2013

September Book of the Month

I spent a lot of my reading time in the Regency period this last month, including this month's book. The book comes from an author I have read before, Georgette Heyer. A girl I work with suggested this book, knowing that I had enjoyed other books by Heyer.

Heyer basically created the genre of historical romance, but her books aren't heaving bosoms or shirtless men. Instead, they are exactly true to to period. In fact, Heyer became known as an expert on the Regency period, including a lot of information. Sometimes there is a bit too much information in some of her books, but the book I'm recommending, Arabella, is just right.

Arabella follows the oldest daughter of a Yorkshire vicar to London for her season, but on the way there, her impetuous nature causes her to make an influential man think she is someone more important than she is. Now all of London believes she's a rich heiress, which could get in the way of finding a good match.

This book, like my other favorite of Heyer's, Regency Buck, is very fun, with dry English humor.  I wouldn't say that people who like Jane Austen would like this, because the style is very different, but I would definitely recommend giving Heyer a go, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.