the hardest part about deciding to go to grad school

So deciding I want to get my MFA was easy. I mean, it was a big decision, but it just felt so right. I want to immerse myself in writing, as well as explore teaching. So an MFA just made sense. And since MFAs only really enroll for the Fall, and well, 2013 Fall semester is starting now… My next opportunity to join is Fall 2014.

I’ve always had the why. I have that what. I have then when. The how is something I’m working on. But it’s the where that has been driving me crazy. I have no idea what program to apply to.

Trying to choose which MFA program is right for me

There are a lot of good MFAs out there. There are a good handful of MFAs with full funding too. However, full funding in Chicago… not really a possibility. Because funding is important to me (it’s the how of all of this), I’ve had to come to the realization that staying in Chicago just might not be an option if I really want to get my MFA. Or at least if I want to be able to afford an MFA.

To say that this has been hard to come to terms with would be a terrible understatement. I love Chicago. I’m near my family. I love the city and its personality. I love being a part of Mucca. I just don’t feel ready to leave yet. But… my options are very limited here.

I’m researching my options. I’ve got a list of about a dozen schools. Some definitely have full funding, others I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m trying to remind myself it’s just going to be for 2 years. 3 tops. I can always return to Chicago when I’m done.

I never thought it would be this hard. And I’ve got 3 months to figure this out.

choosing writing

So, I know some of you might be wondering about why I’m choosing to go to school for writing after working so freaking hard to get into Portfolio School for design…

I’m going to start off by saying I, in no way whatsoever, regret going to portfolio school or choosing to go or think it was a mistake. In fact, I still firmly believe that going to CPS was exactly what and where I was supposed to be last year. I learned a lot, not only about design but about myself, during my 6 months as a student. Yes, I still technically have 6 months left in the program. However, had I not been a student and not been asked to leave, I would not be working the current job (that I enjoy so dearly) right now. All those things had to happen for me to be where I am now. I’m incredibly grateful and still feel indebted to those who helped me get here.

But still, why writing? Well, if you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know I love writing. Hell, even if you haven’t, on the right side of my blog I identify myself as a designer AND writer (and rock star). I’ve been keeping a journal since I can remember, and have always been writing down some sort of story (or for a short time on and off, attempting poetry) since … well, probably since elementary school?

In high school and college I focused mostly on creative nonfiction as well as journalism. I still really love CNF, particularly editorials and essays. (Yes, I was that student who was not only okay with but actually enjoyed those 10-page paper assignments.) But it was also in college that I took a creative writing class. When I got to Chicago, I started thinking of writing more… And in talking with a colleague and friend, Dani, I decided to switch focus to fiction.

I’ve since taken a workshop course in fiction at Story Studio, attended Northwestern University’s Summer Writers’ Conference, and took (for credit) a short story course from Stanford University. I’ve applied once to an MFA program (denied, obviously), and I’ve been thinking about applying again for a while… However, that’s not what I’m doing.

University of Chicago has a certificate program that actually has a short story focus–which is what I want. The two year program actually cost just slightly more than only one quarter of portfolio school. I’m in a place in my life right now where I’ve got a good job that I like, my social life isn’t booming but it’s enjoyable, and well, because it’s something that I really miss. I know I don’t need a class to write, but I know workshopping will help me a lot, as well as having the accountability of a class to sort of force me to write more. Plus, it’s only one night a week. What better time than now?

Application progress (deadline: March 1):
Personal Statement: notes for the outline complete
Work Sample: I’ve picked out 4 short stories to revise/edit (thanks to some insights from a friend


Part of my grad school application process involves writing 300 words to five pages of what is known as a Statement of Purpose.  Basically it’s the school’s way of asking what the hell makes you so special that we should admit you.  (Okay, so they’re also wondering why you chose their school over the others…)

So. Why the hell do I want to be a writer?  Why do I am an MFA?  What do I want to accomplish?

Honestly… I’m not sure.  I love writing.  It’s a part of who I am — just like blogging, doodling, and eating cupcakes.  The problem is, writing is a part of the hundreds of other people all fighting for very limited spots at these institutions of higher learning.  Hundreds of other people trying to explain in limited pixel space why they are the shit and why they should be picked over everyone else.

I know that getting my MFA is important to me right now.  That my main goal is returning to the world of academia, networking and collaborating with other writers and artists, and taking large steps forward to whatever this direction is.  Whether it’s towards a small press, a community education center, or a life of writing…  … a continued passion for learning is the root of this.  And that’s what I have to go on — and to try to use to scrounge up enough words to impress the admissions committees.

What’s your statement of purpose?  What are you trying to accomplish?

school daze

So fall is coming.  Awesome.  It means tolerable weather, leaves changing, a wardrobe that includes more pockets.  One thing it hasn’t meant for the past 3 years is returning to school.

Yay, right?  Well, actually no.  Call me a nerd, but I love school.  Something about that academic setting makes my heart flutter and gets me all weak in the knees.  I wasn’t even a 4.0 student… not close.  But I love learning — I just can’t get enough.

So now that I’m entering this third year of educational hiatus… I’m getting twitchy.  It’s time to change this.  Working at the University helped.  I was still surrounded by all that research and stuff.  But it was an unfortunately unhealthy situation, and I had to get out.

My goal?  Grad school.

I know.  I know.  Haven’t we heard this before?  Record on repeat?  But I’m determined!  I’m going to get my act together.  The deadline for my first choice school is November 1.  I’m still looking at MFA in Creative Writing programs.  I might consider something else, but the (main) program I’m applying to is probably the closest to a perfect fit for me that I could ever dream of finding — AND it’s still in Chicago.

I have to go for it.  Even if it means bringing all my portfolio and application stuff to the bar with me for all those hours I end up spending there anyway.

class act: my life as a student – two weeks in

Last week I dropped that I’d enrolled in a writing class… It’d been wanting to do something of the sort for a while, and thanks to the generosity of my boss, I am.

Like I said, I’d been a little nervous about it.  People were going to be discussing my work, possibly to death… twice!  As much as I really do adhere to my “Damn cute, damn awesome, I win” mentality, it’s writing that definitely knocks me down off that high horse.  (But we’re told if we fall off a horse, just to get back up in that saddle.)

I have been out of a writing scene* for about eight months or so.  A decently long time.  Enough that any courage or esteem I had built was faded and shaky.  I actually had to seek out some opinions on whether I should attempt to continue pursuing writing in a formal(ish) setting.  (I know, I know… do what you love, who cares about others opinions…)  After getting a couple affirmations, my self-confidence was restored enough that I then looked for a class and bam, here I am in class.

What have I learned thus far in my life as a student?
– I need to read more.  Like, seriously.  Maybe it’s because I’m one of the youngest in the class, by my word.
– the memoir trend is still running hard.  Memoir is an interesting genre.  It’s not really an autobiography, but it’s not really fiction… but that’s just where it’s going to get lumped.  But you put that label “memoir” on it, and people want to assume it’s all true.
– I’m definitely going to be that girl in class who says stuff like “the fish represents God.”  Of course, without the piece and reference that really doesn’t mean much to you… but suffice it to say, I miss being in my post-colonial lit class and feeling like what I have to say is contributing and holds academic merit and what not.  I don’t want to sound lofty and snobbish, but I’d like to come off deeper than a mud puddle.

My piece is getting workshopped next week.  After that, we’ll see how I feel about wanting to apply to grad school.

*I don’t consider blogging to be anything near the writing scene.  To me, being a blogger and being a writer are two different aspects of who I am.

getting ready to geek out.

Okay, maybe getting ready to nerd out is a little more appropriate… but still.  Geeking out and nerdery is about to commence.

Here’s what’s about to come up:

  • I’m hopping a train this afternoon and will be visiting my super amazing boyfriend, Jaron, for a few nights.  (So excited!)
  • Jaron has an invite to Lego Universe.  It’s in private beta right now.  And um, yes, I am going to make sure I get to check it out too.  (Girlfriend perks, right?  I mean, I showed him Glass before sending him an invite…)
  • Jaron is also having a super awesome party on Saturday.  It’ll be a day of gaming.  Different games in various rooms.  Sadly, though, I’ll be missing this.  (boo)
  • …HOWEVER… I get to see Jaron that night and for the whole day Sunday, which happens to be his birthday!  So we’re going to spend the day celebrating.
  • I now have a book of the complete works of Charles Perrault — the French writer who did all those fairy tales before the Brothers Grimm…  You know, back when fairy tales didn’t always have the “happily ever after”…
  • I also got a book of Grimm fairy tales… and for good measure, a collection of H.P. Lovecraft.  (I’ve read a handful of Cthulhu graphic short stories, figured I need to read the original.)
  • I’m talking with a writing program here in the city.  There is a good chance I might be starting a course next week.  I’ve felt this ever stronger tug at my heart that I’ve neglected my writing for far too long.  I’m tired of ignoring that.  I want to work on my craft and get back in the game.
  • Writing = researching = AWESOME.  I love researching.  I love learning.  If I could continue taking course forever, I would.  In an instant.  One of the main reasons I’ve been getting fairy tale books is because of a story I’m working on… it’s inspired by Perrault’s Petit chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood).

Also other things I’m excited about… Attempting to distract Rachel long enough to steal her new copy of Endless Ocean.  It’s a game that lets you explore the ocean waters.  It’s prompting kids and adults to think more about things outside of their community bubble.  Wildlife conservation is a HUGE thing to me.  Ocean conservation is a very, very large part of that.  We ignore our ocean ecosystems, and we’re going to seriously f- up our world because of it.  Anyway.  The game looks awesome.  (Yes, I’m jealous that Brand About Town isn’t sending me things like this.  I mean, come on, huge nerd here.  I love video games.  Grew up on them.  I’ve got a Nintendo track jacket — and not just the Wii Fit Plus one they gave me — and for 2/3rds of college I carried around a Nintendo remote messenger bag.  They’re missing out on a great nerd right here.  But that’s not the point.  The point is I’m going to attempt to snag Rachel’s game, and return in one piece.)

my life compass might be broken… or at least slow

So, going to take a little bit of a break from all the gushing OMG Jaron is soooo great posts — which, by the way is still very much a fact… But I thought it was time to check in on what I’m doing to live my dreams.

Honestly, some days it feels like a whole lot of nothing.  I get up, go to work, come home exhausted, dick around on the interwebs, then pass out anywhere between 10 and midnight, only to do it all over again.  I spend my days off lounging around the house with the cats.  So seriously, how do I expect to accomplish any goals or reach for any dreams if I’m just sitting on my ass?

You should know that I let the deadline for the MA in Zoology slip by without applying.  Why?  Because I was surprised with a promotion at work and thus began working 45-50 hour weeks.  Doing anything beyond surviving that and just enjoying the down times wasn’t really on my radar.

More and more I’m finding that I’m back in that indecisive about what I want to do stage.  I’m waffling.  I still feel strongly about wildlife education and conservation.  But I’m starting to feel that I’ve neglected my writing for too long.  That I need to continue to work on my craft.  That maybe I should attempt to get my portfolio done and apply for grad school at the end of the year.  And then I go and redesign a blog and create a new one and rediscover my love for all of that!  (Don’t even put me in front of audio, lighting, or video equipment, it might doom me.)

The question of “what do you want to be when you grow up” is still apt.  I mean, holy hell.  What do I want to do?  Everything I’ve liked is so varied.  I’ve never felt like anyone needs to limit themselves by becoming so focused that it does allow the freedom to explore all of your passions and interests.  But have I become so broad that choosing a direction is such a daunting task that I’m shutting down?

I still love working at the toy store.  I’m settling in to my new role in management.  My boss is tapping into some of my talents, and that excites me (just as much as getting awesome new toys — yes, I am a giant kid).  I have no real answers, but I am not taking this lightly.  I’m not going to stop just living and enjoying everything life’s thrown at me thus far just so I can get some direction… But I am working on taking steps towards paths with might lead me somewhere awesome.


you want towel?  …  you want mint for pillow?

Okay, for the first time in a while, this actually feels like a Monday.  And well, as the start of the week, I feel like I need to do some organizing and thought gathering and just some general housekeeping.  (and please tell me you get the reference above.)

  • 2010: Year of the Cupcake – I’ve been slacking at starting this.  Which, yes, is totally lame because, hi.. CUPCAKES.  I have indeed consumed my first (second, third, and fourth) cupcakes for the year.  However, I’m not counting them for YotC.  I do however have a great bakery picked out for my first trip and am very excited about visiting them this week.
  • Some personal news – I don’t want to talk about work too much, but I had to share this… I got a promotion!  I know I just got this job, but I’ve already been promoted to Assistant Manager.  Feel free to congratulate me with cookies, cupcakes, drinks, or meals.
  • Triple-A – still going steadily…  We also have a facebook group now that you can join (this is just a way for us to sort of be able to see all the members at once.)  I’m going to continue working with Lovely about maybe a giveaway… and I’d like to work with 20sb on some projects too.
  • BOYS. – okay this is the update that you all (*cough*cmigs*cough*) want.  I am going to be working on The List post(s?) during my days off this week.  (When I’m not finishing freelance work.)  I know you’re all dying to know about the Macedonian (*cough*cmigs*cough*)… However, while, yes, I still talk to him some, there’s someone else.  I’ve been reconnecting with someone from my past (from college, not a previous hookup or relationship or anything).  Well, let’s just say it’s been the highlight of a lot of things (weeks, days.. yeah..) .. And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this could go — however, he’s not in Chicago… so…
  • Grad school – I know I talked about living your dreams… and wanting to apply to the MA in Zoology… but with the promotion, I’ve been going back and forth about whether I should apply for this year.  Classes would start in the summer.  I might see if there’s any conservation or environmental education courses I can take online this year…  I need to find a way to work full time and still get this degree.

Anyway… said guy from above is IMing me… and I have an email from him that’s burning a hole in my inbox (MUST READ NOOOOWWWW!)… so…. sorry… BOY.

I'm at a loss. …again…

Damn it.  I thought I had this figured out.

I’m questioning my grad school decisions… yet again

I thought I had settled on Creative Writing.  But now that I’ve sat for long enough without completing an application*… I’m starting to wonder if what I want to do is indeed study writing.

I’ve got a lot of interests, and a lot of things I love doing.  How do I know which one to focus on for grad school?  Or, at least, which one do I choose first?  (Hey, I can get multiple Masters…)

One of the biggest issues, Columbia has a few degrees I’m interested in — and you can only apply to one of them.  This past year I applied for what I thought was my long shot, Film.  I was right.  But now I’m wondering if I want Creative Writing or Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management…  Why can’t I have both?  Even if I choose AEMM, which discipline do I choose, because you’ve got to have that figured out before you apply.  Media Management? Music Business Management? Performing Arts Management?  I’ve got interest in all three of those!  And each program only picks anywhere from 3-10 applicants every year.

DePaul is also in the picture.  They’ve got a Masters in Writing and Publishing, and it’s the latter part of that program that interests me.  I’ve really enjoyed working in publishing, and know I could make a good editor.  The idea of starting up a small press just sounds awesome.  But I don’t know much about the program and if it’d be worth my time (and money)…

Lastly, there’s the School of the Art Institute.  I’d be studying writing there.  They’ve got such a great program that really seems to be a good fit for me.  It’s a interdisciplinary approach to writing, incorporating other arts — and it’s one of the few programs in Chicago that has a comics/graphic course.

There are a lot of other schools in the city that I’m sure would have programs that I’d be interested in…. But those are the leading ones right now.  It’s mostly writing programs because that’s what I thought I wanted for the past however many months.  But AEMM has come back into the picture.

I want to teach about wildlife and conservation, write til my fingers fall off, publish new and great writers and illustrators, plan and coordinate events, work with bands I love, document anything and everything on film, get lost for hours writing and designing websites, operate sound and lighting equipment, be on the radio again….

Can’t I just do it all?

*I did apply to Roosevelt, but well, obviously didn’t get in.

I should be stressed.

It recently came to my attention (by myself) that I should be stressed.  Or more stressed than I am.  I mean, I have my days… but overall, I almost feel like a hippie with all this carefree-ness floating around.

  • I’ve been unemployed for about a month and half now
  • I didn’t get the writing job in Madison, let alone an interview
  • I’m practically a hermit
  • Credit card debt? Yeah, um, hi.
  • How many times can I get rejected by guys each month?
  • I’m on a month-to-month lease
  • If I pay my cell phone bill, I don’t know if I can buy food
  • I can’t afford rent next month
  • I can’t afford the medications I was previously taking
  • I have no idea what’s happening with grad school — as in, if I’m going to apply or if I’ll be able to finish a portfolio in time
  • Oh, and yeah, if I do apply to grad school where’s that money going to come from?
  • Someone I know in real life has threatened legal action against me (they have no case though)… and there might be awkward, if not potentially frustrating and miserable times ahead (depending on this other person’s actions)

Those are just the things off the top of my head.  I have no idea what’s going on with me or many of those things listed above.  Sometimes I wonder why I’m not stressed — me, the Queen of Stress, who’s been hospitalized with acute, temporary paralysis thanks to stress… How am I calm?  I feel like I should be freaked out.  (And yes, I know, why am I complaining? Shouldn’t this be a good thing?)

Well, for one… My mom’s talked about loaning some money so I can stay in Chicago another month.  And also, something about my cell bill and helping make sure that the kittens and I have food.  I’ve got a freelance web design job lined up for next month too… It won’t be much, but it’s something.  And I am still applying to jobs.  (I’m awesome, someone will hire me.)  And, um, yeah, flirting still.  I sort of have a little bit of a crush on someone… and I honestly don’t care if it develops into anything.  Truly.  It’s just been fun talking to someone and giggling.  (I’m awesome, someone will date me.)

I may not know what’s going to happen, or how things are going to be taken care of… I don’t even know how long I’ll stay in Chicago.  Things will work out though.  Somehow.  Right?