Sunday, December 17, 2006

Writing - a do-over

Today as we were wandering through the local Barnes & Noble looking for some very last minute gifts, I saw a book on the front table that surprised me. It was the Glimmer Train Press guide to Writing Fiction. Not everyone out there knows The Glimmertrain Press, so here is a brief introduction. Glimmer Train Press is a quarterly magazine that publishes short fiction by mostly unknown authors, either through contests or direct submission. This is one of the magazines to which I have been considering submitting stories. But here is the rub - I haven't gotten up the guts to do it.

About three years ago, I was looking for a change. I was still employed by the Postal Service, something I never thought would last that long as none of my other positions ever had, and I got itchy. This itch led me to consider a master program for the first time - an MFA in Creative Writing. The MFA in Creative Writing is the ticket to becoming a professor and being allowed to write full time. (At this point, there were no accredited PhD creative writing programs, there may be now.) I was extremely serious about this plan - I had even managed to determine the financial implications of going back to school full time. I figured out how I could manage for a two year program. I took the GREs, filled in the applications, wrote the stories, sent them off and prayed.

I only chose four schools - three of the best and one as a back up. University of Iowa - the number 1 school in the country. University of Virginia - top 10. University of Colorado, Boulder - top 25 I believe. Virginia Commonwealth Universty - great school, but a back up because I wanted to go to the other three. The thing about applying to a graduate creative writing program is that the professors don't pick the students who should be considered for the program. That task is left to the students who are in their final year and are working on their master's piece, some of which will be published and land the authors agents. They must concentrate on that at the same time they are reviewing the stories sent in by eager, potenial new worshipers at the feet of the all-mighty professors.

It should be said that I worked incredibly hard on those applications. I managed to get a perfect score for the essay portion of the GRE and ensure that my two other scores were above 500 which was a requirement for each school. I then spent the better part of two weeks writing stories and tweaking them so they would be perfect. That was my downfall - perfection. It seems that graduate programs don't want someone who is a polished writer, they feel there is nothing to teach when the author comes in with polished stories. In fact, one of my refusals came with a comment "Try sending them out." So...now my do-over.

As you can tell, I am writing again. I love to write. It is one of my favorite passtimes, whether it is email, a poem, a story, journaling in a scrapbook or privately it doesn't matter. I love to write. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would always come up with answers of some sort, but I would never really say I wanted to be a writer. Those who knew me and how I write asked why I would consider learning by listening thrrough cracked glass. When everyone heard about my desire to go to grad school, they were shocked. When I got all four rejection letters they were even more shocked, mostly besause I had never really mentioned wanted to get published as anything other than online. Now they understand the need I have to have words flow through me and onto a page. It is amazing to see characters grow during the inception of the story.

So that is my current do-over wish. To be able to create in my scrapbook and to spend time wriiting, to eventually be published by someone I am not related to. I will keep trying. That is my resolution for the coming year - try to sell the stories.

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