June 21st, 2008

Open Book

On Yet Another Note . . .

This past week, I came to a decision on a matter which highly impacts my immediate plans for professional writing. Since I hope for this journal to be interesting (and perhaps useful) in different areas of writing, including professional development, I will explain what happened even though it bears little relevance to my actual day-to-day writing.

My plans had been to attend Bath Spa University this fall for an MA in Writing for Young People. The program accepted me way back in fall of 2007, and I'd thought my plans were solid. This summer, my parents and I began to plan specifics (including travel, etc.), and found it very difficult to get hold of information we needed. The people with whom I communicated were pleasant and tried to be helpful, but continued to mail information that never reached me. I confirmed my address repeatedly and sent multiple e-mails - and made some phone calls - to let them know that nothing had arrived via courier mail. Eventually, I was able to find most of what I needed on the website or by e-mail queries. At this point, I determined that the one-year MA, with living costs and travel, would cost nearly $50,000.

After some figuring and some sadness, we realized that this simply would not work well. Not only would I end up with thousands in student loan debt, I would have a degree not sufficient to become a professor. I would still need to get an MFA. Not only would this mean more costs - my dad, an art professor, told me that it might actually be harder to get into an MFA after having had an MA elsewhere! He had this problem himself. And I couldn't pursue an MFA at Bath Spa University, as they do not offer one.

In the end, I decided not to attend Bath Spa University this year. Instead, I will go this fall - with some close friends - to work in England for six months using this program. This will allow me to get a Britain fix - including traveling with my college roommate, also a writer, to sites mentioned in her novel, and possibly to see places from Dragons Over London, though I was mostly less specific than she about locations.

My new goal is to enroll in an MFA program directly, starting next fall. I am investigating schools now, and mean to apply soon.

Much of what made this situation tough was the similarity to one I encountered when applying for colleges: I was accepted by my first-choice school, Bard College, where I wanted to major in Creative Writing, but then could not afford to go. When I went to the College of William & Mary (which has no Creative Writing major), I majored in Chemistry, intending to become a Chemistry professor who wrote YA fantasy on the side. After two years, I realized that going the practical route was killing me. Though my grades were good and I liked theoretical chemistry, I couldn't stand labwork. I switched to a Psychology major, hoping to use what I learned there to write the best possible characters.

This seemed like another incident of life telling me that, while I might be talented enough to follow my dreams, I do not have the money. It helps to know, though, that things came out for the best at W&M - I had a fantastic time, made wonderful friends, learned a lot, and would not trade my experience. Besides, I learned from the post-Bard fiasco. Hitting a wall doesn't mean to stop trying; it just means to find another way to get where you want to be.