1) It gives you a chance to re-evaluate your position and tactic. (Why in the world did I tell them in my bio about how annoying high-heeled women were in Kiev?)
2) It gives you a challenge. (As Rocky Balboa so eloquently said, "Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place. And I don't care how tough you are - it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't not about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now, if you know what you're worth, now go out there and get what you're worth but you got to be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying because you ain't where you want to be because of him, or her or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!)
3) It builds character - if you let it. (See above, and really, there's nothing like humble pie to keep the belly from getting too big.)
4) It's a blessing in diguise. (Maybe it really is good that I got rejected because my alternatives have suddenly increased. I mean, there were lots of things I didn't seriously consider before. After all, I only applied to 2 MFA programs. They probably rolled their eyes at my statement of purpose - I did say that I only applied for their school because it was my cheapest option. They were probably like, yawn, tell us something we don't know and that we'd be interested in. Now, I'm attacking my Russian language class with gusto. I'm applying for an MA in English at another CUNY program and I'm seriously considering applying for a grant to do research abroad. So it isn't as terrible as I initially thought.)
5) Things can only get better from here. (Because I got a taste of "defeat," I automatically have the choice to use this and re-direct this energy in a positve way or a negative one. Self-preservation dictates that I do something uplifting that will make me feel like I'm worth something. Now I KNOW for a fact that my writing samples were too experimental and not polished enough in their eyes. Now I KNOW for a fact that there are just things you don't say in a bio or statement of purpose. It's like going on a first date and telling a guy telling a girl, I'm only going out with you because you're a cheap date. That's just insulting. So really, things are looking up for me - now more than ever.
Yes, I was going through post-MFA rejection doldrums. There is no shame in admitting that. But it's a good opportunity for me to look at other avenues. So I've decided that I'll try out for College of Staten Island's English MA program. I MUST go back to school this year. I don't know how much more of the hospital I can take. Just this week-end, one of the Filipina nurses was shaking her head at me (again), saying that she doesn't understand why I'm working as a clerk. Then she has another nurse ask me where I graduated from. So the nurse humored her. When this Spanish-Arabic nurse heard *____*, she gasped. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE? she asked. I just smiled.
Life is circuitous - the way how I'm living it. It's not bad. I don't understand why some people think it is.
I think it's relatively safe to say that I got rejected by the two programs I applied for. I read several posts from the MFA blog about people getting in already and hearing about others that are waitlisted. Since I'm neither and know that both programs had over 400 applications for 15 spots, I expect the worse. I thought I wouldn't feel anything - I've been bracing myself for the results, going so far as to plan through the application process for next year for even more schools. But I still feel the sting, the hollow ache. Why don't you want me?
I just read an article from the Atlantic about MFAs, "Where Great Writers Are Made." Of all elements in the piece - the funding, the eminence of the faculty and the star power the graduates of a program possess - I am responding to what the director of Boston University's MFA program, Leslie Epstein, said. He is quoted,
Over the years, Epstein has condensed much of his teaching philosophy into what he calls his “tip sheet”—eight pages, double-spaced, beginning with a disquisition on punctuation, with special distaste for the ellipsis: “those three dreamy dots.” The tip sheet is a compilation of the specific—“Clowns, midgets, mimes and people wearing masks should be abjured,” he writes. “Nor am I a fan of wind chimes.” He moves on to larger perceptions about the process: “One must have in mind between sixty-eight and seventy-three percent of the ending. Any more than that percentage and the writer will be in a strait-jacket … Any less and the project will meander and find itself in danger of sinking into the swamp of indecision.”
Oh great. He is against clowns, mimes and midgets. I am currently working on an edgy YA book employing all three devices. After all, the working title is CLOWN. The ending I've envisioned for the work is about that percentage. Oh, but the clown!I have the satisfaction, however, as one of his former students felt, to read from the same article:
Christopher Castellani has published two novels with Algonquin since finishing BU’s program. He says Epstein “used to read my work aloud in funny voices.” While Castellani says such treatment “can have short-term benefits for people who respond to it,” he confesses to feeling a perverse satisfaction when Epstein’s most recent book got banged around by one reviewer. Ha Jin, whom Epstein calls “the only true genius I’ve ever known,” has helped leaven the BU program.
It just goes to show that writing and its reception is subjective.
Although, in Epstein's defense, I can understand the harangue about the circus types. The images can be disturbing and low-brow i.e. genre. Clowns are almost synonymous with Stephen King,Shakes and It. Even Tim Burton the king of the grotesque was afraid of Bozo the Clown. Clown = irrational fear. Clowns hate mimes and vice versa. And don't get me started on midgets.
Then again, rules are made to be broken. So anyone breaking Mr. Epstein's cardinal rules, break them well with uneven sharp edges. Make him weep. He did say that he likes being moved.
It's been only a few months since I've hit the send button for the MFA for Creative Writing program for Hunter College and posted my application for the Brooklyn College MFA. But since I sent my children to be dissected, judged and quite possibly rejected, I have been biting my nails in anticipation whether I was accepted or not. Now that it's March, the letters or calls for interviews should be coming in.
Meanwhile, I've been doing what 'normal' people do in this situation: writing, reading, working, eating bananas with peanut butter and visiting museums or indulging in things of the mundane nature. There's also this blog I recently started.
Anyway, why go to an MFA program? Here's a list that I recently read from Korean writer Alexander Chee's blog:
When a student tells me he or she is interested in pursuing a MFA, this is what I look for before I agree to recommend them:
■You write on a regular basis, even sneaking off to do so from whatever your job is, perhaps even becoming a bad employee.
■You frequently attend reading series at your local bookstore, college or university, you buy books to the point you have personal relationships with booksellers and you typically wander off to used bookstores at the drop of a hat.
■You talk about writing with friends and are friends with other aspiring or established writers.
■You have sent work out to magazines and journals, and have had work published or at least rejected with a personal note, or have placed as a finalist or winner in a competition.
■You have taken a writing workshop and found the criticisms helped your writing.
■You feel you’ve reached the limit of what the community around you can offer, or worse, that community is unsupportive or even hostile to the idea you want to be a writer.
■You seek a credential that would allow you to teach creative writing at a college or university level.
I don't necessarily fit into all the categories but I do most of them. Anyway, there's nothing to do now but wait. If I don't get in this year, there's always next year. Maybe I'll expand my horizons and apply to other schools. It all depends.