So here we are, the month of letters and e-mails, phone calls, thin envelopes, apologies, and congratulations. I’ve heard from six of my twelve schools: four rejections, one acceptance, and one waitlist. The acceptance, to the University of Memphis, was the first school I heard from (O happy day). While it’s a terrific up and coming program, they cannot offer funding (their usual eight to ten TAs have been slashed to just one) until perhaps the second semester, or the second year. Out of state tuition runs upward of $19,000. When I set out to apply to MFA programs, I knew one thing was sure: I could not pay for it. I’m still paying off my undergraduate; getting into debt for an MFA is just impractical.
The incredible part? I’m not really bummed. Sure, nobody likes to get a rejection letter; and, yes, if a school accepted me and could give full aid I’d most likely go. But there’s a giddy sense of relief in knowing that I’m not done with Brooklyn and Brooklyn is not done with me. I knew in applying to 12 schools that anything could happen: I could not get in anywhere; I could get in somewhere; I could get in somewhere and decide not to go. And, yeah, I have six more schools to hear from; if, say, Purdue or U of Florida called me tomorrow and said, ‘You’re in! Full funding!’ I’d most likely be scouring for boxes to pack up my room and planning on good bye parties. (Side note: most schools, I think, have sent out acceptances by now, and what I might hear is only a rejection or a waitlist. Even without visiting the MFA Blog (my hiatus suits me well) I’m still pretty sure).But otherwise, my current life–a happy gig, grand apartment, swell friends, bike rides, dreamy urban grit, freelance gigs, the center of the universe–is the best plan b anyone could ask for.
My thinking now has turned to what a writing life in Brooklyn will continue to look like, with more discipline (lord how I need more discipline), more craft, more finished stories. In an offhand Facebook post regarding another rejection, I joked about creating a makeshift MFA for myself here. Now it sounds like not a bad idea. The DIY MFA, as I’d like to call it, is probably not so hard to whip up: a rigorous writing schedule, a workshop group, peer readers and revisers, a reading list, book club, craft discussions (The Paris Review Book of Interviews alone could substitute as an MFA in craft studies), field trips to the dozens of literary events in the city, organized readings, zine publication, lit mag submissions.
It could work, couldn’t it?
I’m also obsessing about Where to get more writing done (it’s avoidance, I know; the desk doesn’t make me a writer, writing makes me a writer). A new Brooklyn endeavor called PowderKeg, a women’s writing space, is inviting (albeit out of my price range). I’ve heard of some good space swaps between creatives: using your friend’s desk and less distracting space while they use yours. And as far as sharing work, there are promising spaces cropping up on the internet, like Fictonaut, a community of high quality fiction and other writing.
I know that just five months ago I was completely embroiled in applications and my MFA fate. It seems far away now, less weighted, just something I did. A marathon (an expensive and risky marathon). And while it’s not completely over (I’m anticipating more thin rejection letters, which I read in the bathroom with my cat Professor when I get home from work, then add to a haphazard pile of papers below my desk), I’m committed to just keep plugging along, writing, opening the mailbox, then writing some more.