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Posts tagged ‘Graduate School’

How I Feel About Getting a MA in Writing

I read an article today where someone racked up $100,000 getting their MFA. I couldn’t believe it! That’s a lot of money to study the arts. The author rationalized that they would be able to get a teaching job at a college and could then pay the money back. But $100,000 is still a lot of money and they will most likely take a good chunk of their lives. It’s like having a mortgage.

I can’t be too mad at them. I ran up a good amount of debt getting my MA, although it was around $12,000 instead. Still debt is debt. I paid a lot of money for something that wouldn’t necessarily lead to a higher paying job, or even publication.

Next month it will be four years since I graduated. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether my degree was worth it. I think it was because of where I am now. But I do have some thoughts about my experience.

Pick a program that will work for you. When I made the decision to go, it was during the Great Recession. After seeing people losing their homes and being out of work so long, I knew I would be a fool to quit my full-time job for school. So I looked for a part time programs and low residency. The school also had to be okay with me writing my speculative literature. No sense in going to a school that would look down on the work I would produce.

Be sure of your “why”. Ask yourself why you are doing this. Is it to get published? Make more money? Better think twice. I went because I wanted to know more writers and to get better at my craft. That’s it, nothing more. If the program didn’t do that for me, I would be in trouble. Luckily I met great people, whom I am still friends with today. I also grew as a story teller and became more confident in myself as a writer. You are investing a lot of time and money in this. Have a good why.

Be financially prepared. I’m not here to say whether student loans are good or bad. All I know is you should go in with your eyes wide open. I saved for a year before I even applied to grad school. Things went off the rails when I got to my last few classes. I had to take a pay cut and some unexpected furloughs took a toll on my bank account. When it came time to pay for my last few classes, I pulled out my credit card and charged it. The card’s interest rate was the same as Navient was offering and I didn’t want to get into the position of owing the money (Student loans don’t get discharged in bankruptcy court, but credit card debt does.) if something bad happened. I knew it would take me a couple of years to pay it off (It did.) But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

Overall, my experience was good. When I started the program, creatively, I was at a low point. Investing time and money into myself and my passion was one of the best decisions I made. It pulled me out of a semi-depression and gave me something to work toward. Sometimes I’m amazed I did so much: went to school, held a full-time job, and was able to have some sort of life. As I said, I grew as a writer and met some wonderful people. I had debt, but I was able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.

MA and MFA are a lot of work and may not lead to fame and riches. For some it may be wrong, leading to lots of debt and stress, but for others, it may change their lives. Only you can answer whether it was/will be worth it.

Creativity, Publishing, and Turning My Hair Blue

A few weeks ago, I had a snafu with my hair. Every 4-6 weeks I color it to cover the white(I don’t go gray. I go white.) and this time I picked a shade that ended up turning my hair blue. I thought it would be that dark, inky black that had a blue sheen. But that only works if your hair is black to begin with. If you are looking to cover a lighter shade than black, well, it turns your hair blue. I realized about halfway through putting the color on, but what was I going to do? My hair turned out okay. And the color is not too obvious. Frankly, I kinda like it. It’s a nice change from my typical dark brown/soft black shade. It’s already growing out a little and in a few weeks it will get covered up with the new color.

So sometimes a big mistake can end up being a nice change of pace. Sometimes it’s good to shake up your routine. Try something different and learn something new. Lately I’ve been watching some Youtube videos on creativity and entrepreneurship. That’s the new thing now, being creative and having business smarts. I’ll admit that learning about the publishing business is a bit boring at times, but I find myself getting more comfortable to more I watch. There is a lot of good info out there and I am grateful to the people that give it away for free.

In grad school, this was almost never mentioned. Not until the my last class, and even then it was near impossible to touch on everything. And I get it, most of my time needed to be spent learning my craft. That is important. After all, if you can’t write publishable material, you don’t need to worry about the business.

But what happens after that point. Maybe that is why so many people quit writing a year or so after they graduate. The business is too overwhelming? Or maybe they just don’t want to deal with it.

I don’t know…

It helps that a know a few who graduated before me that are continuing to write, submit, and get published. It helps that I still want to write, submit, and get published. I don’t feel burnt out, nor do I feel overwhelmed by the business aspect of publishing. Plenty of people are doing it. I heard someone say that publishing is simple, but not easy. Very true.

What else? We had our first really cold night and that means it’s time to break out the winter teas! Yum! Fuel for the early morning (or late night) writing.



Things I Did in the 36 Hours After My Thesis Reading

Things I did in the 36 hours after my Thesis Reading:

1. Stay up until 1 am because I am so amped from reading, I can’t fall asleep. Eventually, I get up eat half a peanut butter granola bar and drink a glass of almond milk. 10 minutes later I fall asleep.

2. Wake up at 6:30 am, because after years of getting up at quarter to six for work, it is physically impossible to sleep past seven. Even on my days off.

3. Go to CVS fist thing in the morning because there is a sale on that shampoo and conditioner that smell like coconuts. Decided I needed a new mascara too.

4. Go to brunch with cousin. Have yummy veggie quiche.

5. Run errands with cousin and end up in Ulta. Resist urge to buy more. Remember coconut stuff is sitting at home.

6. Answer “Write more stuff,” when cousin asks what I am going to do next.

7. Come home and veg by looking at pictures of reading on Facebook. Remember I took pictures too, but decide I can post later. Watch The Blacklist instead.

8. Go over to my Mom’s house for Mother’s Day. Give a small bravo to myself for buying gifts weeks ago. Give large thanks that my Mom is alive and well.

9. Hang out with parents. Gorge on Urban BBQ, Dad brings home. Eat chocolate cake I bring for desert.

10. Arrive home in time for The Good Wife season finale.

11. Call Dad after show is over, so we can talk about finale.

12. Fall asleep and wake up Monday at 6 am.

13. Took day off of work, so back to the mall to pick up a few more things.

14. Go to Target for printer paper (because I used the last of mine printing my thesis). Walk out buying paper, vanilla almonds, and a cupcake.

15. Tell myself I need the cupcake. Graduation present.

Graduation Treat.
Graduation Treat.

16. Make list of places I’m going to send stories.

17. Pull out notebook that has the first 500 words or so of a novel I started last summer.

18. Realize laundry is being neglected and clean towels are dwindling.

19. Realize four years ago at this time, I sent off my application for graduate school.

20. Write blog post about things I’m doing now that I am a graduate.

My grad class. I'm 2nd from the left.
My grad class. I’m 2nd from the left.

End of April 2015

Oh wow! What a month! My thesis is done, turned in, and returned with an acceptance! I took a big, cleansing breath and am ready to move to the next part. That is really about continuing my challenge. The rejections came this month while I worked. I was so busy writing, nothing was mailed out.

Here’s where I stand:
Rejections: 17
Acceptance: 0
Submissions: 1

Pitiful, I know. This weekend is looking quiet for me, so I will send out more. The hard part of school is over. Yet, I need to keep the pressure on.

I’m so far behind my writing goals, I think I may just scrap the first four months of the year. Better to not try and catch up and just write. I still have that longer piece I need to finish. It’s funny, but even though I’m not in school, I still give myself homework! Lol!

New Feature for Blog
Over the next month or so, I’m going to be adding a few new things. I want to add a (running) list of minority SF &F writers. Sparked by this article which ran in the Washington Post, I decided that I wanted to add another place for people to find these authors. Writers are out there, but they don’t get the same coverage that others do. There are no particular order, some might even be writers I don’t care for. If the writer has a website (if they are still living), I’ll link to it. I just felt like I hear too often, “I can’t find X” or “I didn’t even know about X.” So this is my little attempt to help you find X.

January Round Up 2015

Just a quick post here to update my writing challenge.

Rejections: 6

Acceptances: 0

Submissions: 10

I have two more pending for submission, but one still needs to be typed up and for the other, I am waiting until February 1 for the market to open. I think things are coming along nicely so far, but if I want to hit 100 rejections, I need to submit more.

My writing took a hit this month. A few days ago, classes started up and I am now in full swing for my final class for my degree. I spent most of my time this month working on my stories for class. New material had to be put aside. That’s a bummer, but I don’t think I would’ve changed things. I am learning there are times when you just need to focus on the tasks at hand and not worry about the perfect situation. In a perfect world, I would have time for everything… but we all know that doesn’t exist. So I get done, what I get done.

And the next day, I try again.

Goal Line in Sight

I’m looking at you December. You’re almost gone and I’m trying not to notice. The fall has gone quickly and now I am staring at the end of the year in my sights. This is the last week of classes for me. I’ve completed everything for the class, save showing up and having one last discussion in class on Bluebeard. (Side note: I had no idea there were so many stories about Bluebeard! Really, it is a bit nuts.) So the pressure is off. I have registered for my thesis class, worked on my stories, completed the form for the class, and have a few short weeks before I will begin my final work.

In the beginning of the year, I laid out some goals. Currently, I have 11 completed pieces and I have no doubt that I will get the last one done by the end of the year. I have 15 days of vacation in December, so I have lots of time to write.

Other goals might not happen. I left the goal of buying books wayyyy behind earlier this year. But I won’t meet my reading goals. In truth, school just kept my too busy. Even though I read books for class, I just didn’t get to all the other books I have on my list to read. The class I’m in now is for short stories and those handouts came first. So it’s hard to read for pleasure when you have to get through 100-200 pages of short stories for class. All in all, I’ll get through about 20 books. My goal was 25, but I’ll take the 20.

I got one story published. So that goal was hit. Yay!

Ah the credit card… Yeah, grad school is still expensive. If I hadn’t gotten furloughed this might have been a kept goal, but two weeks with no pay hurts. Writers need all the money they can get.

Finally, I have my goal of completing one longer work. I haven’t finished it, but I have more words than I did before. I don’t know if I will finish by the end of the year, but I am not disappointed. It is coming along. Maybe I will get to it too over vacation.

It is vacation after all. I gotta hit some of those after X-mas sales!

Looking ahead for 2015, I still think I want to try the One Year, One Hundred Rejections. I have lots of material now, so time to submit more stuff. Also, I want to keep up the pace of one new piece each month. I can speed up after I graduate, but I want to keep it low for now.

Back at the end of December with final numbers.