graduate school and things

Friday, July 20, 2012

Amid all the endless opportunities of fun that Chicago offers and my adventures that I've been blogging about, I realized I haven't yet written much about, you know, the whole reason I am actually here

I'm currently in my first year of graduate school at DePaul University, in the Master of Arts Writing and Publishing program. So far I have taken three classes which I have really enjoyed, and have been working hard this summer in two more classes in the hopes that I can take less classes per quarter in the future (namely, next summer!). To summarize what my program is, with lines taken from DePaul's website:

"The Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing program offers advanced training in the art and craft of writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The program is specifically designed for students interested in careers in creative and literary writing, publishing, and editing, as well as for those seeking to expand their knowledge of writing for the purpose of teaching.

The primary emphasis of the M.A. in Writing and Publishing is the production of quality, publishable writing. The centerpiece of the curriculum is the writing workshop, and students may choose workshops that focus on one or more of the following genres: poetry, fiction, and various forms of creative nonfiction (such as travel, magazine, memoir, and science writing, the personal essay, the literature of sports, and the like)."

If you are familiar with the creative writing MFA that has recently gained so much popularity (one of my professor informed us there are over 900 MFA programs in the country! Insane!), the MAWP is like half of that plus half of the business aspect of publishing. If you ask any established or aspiring writer, they are probably of only two opinions about the MFA - hate it, or support it.

It's a polarizing topic that probably deserves its own post, but many literary people are skeptical of the creative writing schools and argue that writing can't be taught. I agree, and agree that MFA programs run the risk of teaching a very MFA-evident style of writing. And, of course, there's the whole NYC publishing scene v. MFA world debate, but again I digress...basically, say what you will about the  MFA, at the end of the day it's what you make of it. And hopefully you learn not to use cliches so much in one sentence.

Despite not being solely an MFA workshop program, I had to submit a 25-page portfolio of my writing for admission. This was really intimidating, because outside of the one creative writing class I took my freshman year, I've never presented or submitted my writing for scrutiny, let alone for application to graduate school. I also had to take the GRE (ask me about my math score sometime, HA) and submit letters of recommendation, and probably some other important things that I can't recall at this exact moment, like promising DePaul my first-born son or swearing a blood oath.

There are about 140 grad students in my year, and range in ages from early 20s at the youngest and 50s/60s at the latest. I've met a lot of varied, interesting people in my classes so far, and I really enjoyed my first workshop this past June, a small studio in scene and vignette writing clarity. The nice thing about graduate school (and there are nice things about graduate school, contrary to popular belief) is that, for the most part, you get a lot of competitive, eager, and intelligent folk together toward a common passion. I never really encountered this in undergrad.

There is also an abundance of what you might call Type A's (which I don't consider myself at all), but these are universal I think across higher ed programs. The majority of students in the program are already in established careers, especially education.

Some examples of the classes I've taken/I'm going to take:: Independent Press Seminar, Stylistics, English Romantic Poets, Scene & Vignette, The British Novel, Writing Fiction, Travel Writing (desperately trying to get into this class on the off-chance that I get to go to Morocco...).

Anyway, that's what I'm up to academically, in a nut shell. So to answer that ever elusive, obnoxious question posited to legions of postgraduate young adults: what do I want to be when I grow up? Well, obviously, I would like to be a writer, specifically fiction, more specifically a short essayist and/or novelist (forgive the pretension). However, I have definite career ambitions. I want to break into fiction editing, or even publicity as related to the publishing field (specifically trade publishing).

I'm BEYOND excited because, after a semi-stressful month of interviewing, I obtained a development internship with Young Chicago Authors, a non-profit that "transforms the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication, and performance education." I really wanted this position, and I am so excited to begin in a few weeks.

I really wanted it, because it's right up my alley at the moment as far as a direction I would like to someday work--it's community outreach through the arts, deals with a large number of youth (particularly underprivileged), and the position itself is writing intensive. In dreaming of and planning my career, I've never really thought about the money in terms of being wealthy over living at my means (hello, I picked Literature), but rather of in what possible way I could be a writer and someone who helps others. It's cheesy, but I feel it's what I've been called to do. I feel like this opportunity is the perfect taste and starting point toward that eventual goal. 

In development, I'll be supporting the fundraising aspect of YCA through drafting/writing sponsorships, foundation grants, individual giving, the newsletter, appeal letters, developing proposals, and more. As I've stated numerous times, I am beyond excited and so thankful for the opportunity, and I will definitely be updating on this blog as I progress through the internship. Depending upon my performance and if YCA gets funding, there's the potential for this to develop into a paid assistanship by the end of the year. Fingers crossed, not only because that would be, in a word, AWESOME, but also because I desperately need to start making money. Yay!

More posts to come, thanks for sticking with me, and if you read that whole thing, kudos. I'm trying to make them more concise, but if you've ever spoken to me in person, you know how I can ramble/talk endlessly about things I'm excited about. Which are a lot of things. Okay, until next time!

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