Grad School Acceptance Woes

It has been awhile since I’ve written in this blog and as a writer, that is probably not ideal. I really need to keep up with this thing more often. On the other hand, I also have lots of things to finish before I receive my diploma on May 11th. May 11th, ya’ll! I am FINALLY graduating with my Bachelor’s degree at 39.

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So here is my anxiety-ridden life at the moment. I applied to ten MFA creative writing programs. I was accepted into four of them (which is a huge accomplishment, I might add) and waitlisted at one (I have yet to hear back from this school, five days past the deadline). Unfortunately, none of them have offered me enough funding, as of yet. SO yesterday, I applied to an MA Creative Writing program that has extended their deadline until May 6th and they said they are looking for worthy candidates for full-funding. I didn’t want to do an MA, and certainly not in Mississippi, but it’s only a 1-2 year program and then I can apply to an MFA again with a little more clout and some experience/stronger writing samples under my belt.

Hence the name of my blog, I’m a bit of a mystic so I pray about these things that are sort of making me lose all of my hair in the shower. I don’t want to rack up even more student loan debt than I already have. One of the reasons I chose to go to grad school was because I discovered I can do it and not have to take out more loans– if I do it right. So one of the things I have heard God speak to me is that whatever I choose to do, He will make it really obvious that I am supposed to do it. In other words, I will choose the program where I am getting full funding, or I won’t go to school at all. I want to be a part of a program that chooses me because they think my writing is worthy enough to receive tuition remission and a stipend. I think sometimes these MFA programs exploit student dreams of becoming a writer, not taking into account that the writer’s life is typically one of impoverishment. I already have $50,000 in student loans. Do I really need $50,000 more? Not really.

So even though I’ve gotten into programs with a 6-12% acceptance rate, I’ve struggled with this feeling that maybe my work doesn’t deserve the validation of a fully-funded offer; that somehow, my failure to obtain the necessary funding has something to do with my worth as a person. When I discovered this was at the root of my intense anxiety this week, I had a literal “come to Jesus moment” about it. And you know what He said?

This isn’t what I love about you. Your worth has nothing to do with your accomplishments. You are fully-accepted, fully-loved, and fully-liked by me.

It was one of those truth-telling moments when I had to surrender this notion of not knowing what was in my future and however it turned out, it was okay because it just meant there were other plans in place for me. This process of learning to accept that things just “are what they are” is a new concept for me. I’ve always been one to bend and twist until I get what I have laid my eyes on but this time, it really matters to me that He is in all of this with me. I don’t have to make anything happen. And if I don’t get everything I hoped for, it just means he has even better hopes for me.

The First Time I Played Hookie

I was five years old, living in a blue collar suburb of Minneapolis and it was the middle of winter. I remember trudging through snow as high as my hip, which in actuality wasn’t very high since I was, indeed, five years old. The idea started from a Jack London story entitled, “To Build a Fire”, about a man that attempts to survive in the wilderness of the Yukon. I can’t actually remember why I was listening to a Jack London story as a Kindergartner. I can only assume that I saw it on television without my parents realizing it. I’m certain my parents would not have read this story to me since the main character fails to actually “build a fire” and succumbs to the elements. It’s strange how memory works; how I was able to fit bits and pieces of my memory of that story and recall how I found something like this so exciting. This seems like a kind of inappropriate story for someone of that age to be listening to but the idea of surviving out in the wilderness was appealing to me and for someone as independent as I was, it sounded like a grand adventure.

And so I left the house that morning, fully convincing my mother that I was headed to school, and found a large pine to camp under for the morning. I almost retracted my decision to play hookie from Kindergarten because, as all Minnesota winters are, it was very, very cold. But I was a stubborn creature. I was determined to do this. I was determined to prove myself. I guess that sort of stubbornness remains as I begin my last semester as a middle-aged undergrad (ewwww… did I just use the term middle-aged? I’m only 39. I don’t feel middle-aged).

I don’t know why I can remember all of this so vividly but I recall trying to build a snow fort to protect me from the biting winter wind. I had built these snow forts plenty of times with my dad. It was the one survivalist skill I knew, or at least thought I knew. It turns out dad was the one who had the skills and he just convinced me that I was doing a “great job” but he was, in fact, lying to me all along. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Thank God my mom had dressed me for the task. She bundled me in a snowsuit so stuffed with warmth that it was difficult to bend my knees to crouch under the tree.

I stayed in the cold for what must have been three hours. This was in the 80’s when Kindergartners only stayed for half a day. I was close enough to the school that I could listen for the school bell to dismiss my class for the morning. I would be able to see the school buses and cars drive past and I would know that it was time to walk back home. When I look back at it now, I wonder why I didn’t really want to go to school that day. I did not like having to sit in the alphabet circle and listen to the teacher and be bored out of my mind. I didn’t like sitting next to the boy whose ear was so full of wax that it nearly spilled out of his ear. I didn’t like the noise of 24 children herded into a small room. I wanted to be alone and not have to deal with people. Yes, adventure was appealing, but so was isolation, it turns out. Unfortunately, isolation didn’t feel as great as I thought it would.

When I heard the second bell announcing that I could return to my warm suburban house, I marched back home, tight-lipped about my day of secret rebellion. My mother silently helped me unwrap from the layers of fabric that encased my small body; the layers that prevented me from being frozen to death that day. She kneeled to my height and asked me, “Brooke, did you go to school today?”

“Yes.”

“Brooke, are you lying to me?”

“No.”

“Well, your teacher just called and she said that she saw you on the side of the road under a tree.”

Busted.

 

 

 

 

 

5 On: Russell Rowland — Jane Friedman

For all of you budding writers. Another really great post from Jane Friedman.

In this 5 On interview, author Russell Rowland discusses the big mistake he made with HarperCollins, whether the journey of writing is truly its own reward, why his Indiegogo campaign worked so well, and his experiences with publishing–from one of the Big 5 to self-publishing. Russell Rowland has published four novels, all set in Montana.…

via 5 On: Russell Rowland — Jane Friedman

You Be You

It is sort of a vulnerable act to put the very roughest of drafts on your public blog for all to see. After re-reading my rough draft, before I begin writing again each morning, I have said to myself on occasion, “you know, I could probably write this better”. I think the challenge of displaying these rough versions of my writing is that I am forced to swallow my pride but I am also hearing feedback (from a few of you) which reinforces my drive to continue. Rough drafts are just that: rough. They are just the frame for my story and can be polished and revised later.

But the greatest sting is all of the fantastic reading I am doing this semester. Can we all agree that Toni Morrison is one of the most talented writers of the modern age? I just finished reading her first novel The Bluest Eye in a seminar class I am taking about her and by golly, it was absolutely incredible. Her narrative skill is impeccable and her writing thoughtful and intelligent. Paul Yoon’s book of short stories, The Mountain is written with such simple narrative texture, I am surprised at how good his stories end up becoming. Think a more modern version of Hemingway, with language slightly more soft and sensual. In summary, after reading such incredible material, it is a bit intimidating when I wonder if I would ever be able to replicate such skill.

On the other hand, Toni Morrison is not Paul Yoon and Paul Yoon is not Toni Morrison. And I will never be either of them because I am a different kind of writer. And that’s okay. What I need to learn is how to be Brooke Turner. How do I put words together to form a story that displays my style and technique? What are my characters like? How do they speak to eachother? What sorts of themes do I write on?

And what about you? What kind of writer are you? What writers have influenced you the most? What makes you different? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Re-blog: Writing for Connection Brings Both Hope and Fear — Jane Friedman

This is a topic I have been thinking a lot of so I decided to re-post. Last semester, we read some of Jane’s book Publishing 101 so I started following her blog and have found the content to be packed with some fantastic information for writers. Check her out through the link on the bottom if you have time.

Photo credit: auspices on Visual Hunt / CC BY As a creative writing student—both undergraduate and graduate—I encountered two predominant philosophies among my professors. (This is stereotyping to some degree, but stick with me for a moment.) One philosophy says: You have to write according to your own internal motivations or creative impulses. If you’re…

via Writing for Connection Brings Both Hope and Fear — Jane Friedman

Weekend Review

I think my body knows it’s Labor Day. I woke up this morning and felt the need to lay in bed all day. My brain needs rest. I read in a book once that a creative mind needs silence every once-in-awhile in order to create room for new ideas. We should go running without music in our earbuds, have a day without television… even skip out on reading and practice a little meditation or prayer.

The last couple of days have been exhausting. For those that don’t know, I work at a bridal salon part-time. I make pretty good money but it wears my body out. I have to lug heavy gowns all over the store, sometimes three or four at a time and help the bride put the dress over her head, tighten corsets, fetch accessories. It can be a bit much but it pays well, which is especially nice for a full-time student in her thirties who is trying to make life work and still fulfill her dreams. It’s a fun job, though. Yesterday, I sold this Vera Wang.

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I mean, isn’t that the coolest dress you have ever seen? I sold it to this cute hippie girl with long, wavy blonde hair. She’s gonna look stunning.

I decided to reserve Saturday nights, even if it’s after work, to do something fun. During the week, I plan on working myself to the bone but Saturday nights… I just need at least one night to remind myself that there is a life outside of school and work. So this past Saturday I went to Copeland’s of New Orleans, a great little eatery in Shackleford Crossings, and enjoyed a great meal with some girlfriends. I’ve never been a big fan of Cajun food but I picked out a dish with crabcakes, shrimp, alfredo sauce and zucchini noodles. So yum. And their rolls were ridiculous. Just ridiculous. I had heard great things about their cheesecake as well and picked out a white chocolate raspberry. I was the only one out of my friend group that ordered cheesecake and I ate it right in front of them. It’s their loss.

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Once my brain wakes back up again, I will work on some writing. For now, I give you a window into my life.

Writing Fiction

I’m taking a fiction writing class this semester and as usual, with anything I’m inexperienced with, I’m a little intimidated. I have much more of a background writing creative nonfiction, than spinning a story out of thin air. The most looming fear I have is not sentence-level writing, which I am somewhat strong with, but actually coming up with a great plot. Also, I don’t read a lot of short stories; mostly novels so I’m not sure how to condense the information I need into 20 pages. I guess that is what the class is for? Obviously, reading more short stories is a priority.

So in my attempt to conjure up a good story, I’ve been praying a lot because God can give us creative, ideas, right? Fiction writers, what do you do to come up with a good story?

How is this for a beginning?

Molly awoke from a dead sleep but her eyes remained shut. She could sense that the light in the room was more bright than she could bear but when she heard the voice call her name, it seemed like the right time to find out what sort of predicament she was in. Gradually, her firmly shut eyes opened to tiny slits and Molly could make out a distorted figure standing at the foot of her bed. As her eyes adjusted to the epic light show in her bedroom, Molly bellowed such a strong reaction that almost anyone in her apartment building should have also been rising from their slumber. But they did not.

The figure standing at her window looked to be an incredible six foot nine inches and probably not more than 180 pounds. His hair was a large mound of tight, white curls, probably akin to something you would see on Saturday Night Fever in 1974 and his skin was sallow but bright. Most startling, however, was his ensemble. A pale yellow t-shirt with an emblazoned, metallic surfer and cut-off, bermuda-length shorts.

“I hate to be the bearer of good news,” he said with a wry smile, “but you’re pregnant and your baby is going to be the Savior of the World.”