Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Writing Program

College-level writing programs. There are a number of them available about the country and I debated for some time about whether or not to apply to one. I do not profess to be an expert on college writing programs, but I can tell you about mine. Perhaps this information might help you decide if you should make the plunge.

Let's start with the facts: I am currently enrolled in the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University. I am working towards earning an MFA. I'm planning to graduate in January of 2014. Seton Hill University is a tiny liberal arts college located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania (about 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh). The WPF program is low residency, which means that for a week every January and June we attend on-campus residencies, and the rest of the program is conducted online. The program begins with a residency and ends with a residency, so students attend six residencies in total. The writing popular fiction aspect means that this program is structured for genre writers--fantasy/sf, horror, mystery, romance, young adult, etc. And the goal of the program is to finish with a complete novel, which is ready to be shopped around to agents or publishers. The focus of this program is obviously writing, but there is also a strong emphasis on the business of being an author.

Why did I decide to apply?

Truthfully, I decided to apply on a whim. I needed encouragement. I needed people to read my work and to give me feedback. I needed a reason to keep pushing forward and an excuse to put my writing first. I used to obsessively rewrite chapters, pulling them apart and putting them back together over and over, basically stopping myself from making any forward progress. For many years, I kept my dream of being an author on the back burner. It was my safe "someday" dream, the one at which I still hadn't tried and therefore hadn't failed. I say that I applied to the program on a whim, and that's partially true. I applied to the WPF program at SHU on whim, but my decision to shoot for an MFA in Creative Writing was one I'd been thinking about for quite some time, and as a genre writer, the program at SHU called to me in way that no others had before.

Now that I'm in the program, what do I think about it?

I love it.

As I said, I was hoping for encouragement, but the level of encouragement I've received from my professors and classmates has been through the roof. While there is a small amount of competition, there is mostly a strong sense of camaraderie and togetherness. Perhaps it's because we're genre authors, and therefore used to being looked down upon by the snooty, literary types, or maybe it's just the continuing effort of the students and staff to encourage inclusiveness, but it's an incredibly supportive environment.  

Another benefit of the program is connections I've made within the industry. During my first term, a classmate pointed me in the direction of an editing position with an online publisher. I have now been working with that publisher as a junior content editor for about 10 months, and I couldn't love it more. While I can't promise that attending an MFA program will lead directly to a job, I think I can promise that if you put in the effort, you will make some amazing connections. I've only attended two residencies, but I have already met a wide range of agents, editors, and authors, and I've had a chance to talk to them about my work and my experience in a fairly relaxed and informal setting. For someone like me--I can be a little awkward around strangers--this sort of environment is a godsend.

One of the best part of the program is the residencies. Residency is like a a week of college mixed with a week of summer camp, where everyone gets together and spends time attending modules, going to guest lectures, participating in workshops, drinking, eating, talking, laughing, and pretty much just having a wonderful time. In addition, every June the alumni also plan a shadow residency that takes place at the same time as the program residency, allowing a chance for students to meet and talk with graduates and the speakers that those graduates bring to campus. Residencies are always a little crazy, and I usually end the week completely exhausted, but it's more fun than you could possibly imagine.

I realize this might read like an advertisement for Seton Hill's program, but I swear it isn't. I just really do love my program this much. Whether or not you decide to join a program is up to you. Do you need to join one in order to become a published author? Obviously not. Did I need one? Yep. To be clear, I am still living the student life and I am accruing thousands of more dollars in student loan debt, but I am working very hard and making connections in the hopes that this will lead to a career as a writer, and if I do manage to make that dream come true, then it will be worth all the money and time in the world.

If you have any questions about my program, please feel free to send me a message or to post a comment.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bad at Blogging

For the record, I am total crap at blogging. I have started many blogs, all with the best of intentions, but I post once or twice and then never again. I think it's because I'm an insecure perfectionist when it comes to my writing. I fear putting stupid or poorly punctuated ideas out into the world. This can be a crippling debilitation for a writer who someday hopes to be published. Pursuing publication is about making a decision, that decision being that I write stories and I have ideas worth sharing. I have come to that conclusion, so now it's time to start putting myself out there. Will every post be brilliant? No. Will I do my best to be honest and to put out ideas and thoughts that I think are interesting and worth sharing? Yes.

Okay. I'm going to try and do this now for realsies. Let's see how that works out...