Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas So Far

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, I worked from noon to five and then went home to find several packages freshly arrived and ready for wrapping.  While I worked on the gifts, Hannah and my cousin made chocolate chip pancakes from scratch which were delicious.  After dinner we went on a drive around Coeurd'Alene to see the lights near the boardwalk and around Sherman.  On the Dike Road we pulled over and made our way down to the cold lakeside.  It was a nice night, cold and crisp, and the Marina was lit up like the Vegas Strip.  We were rather eager to get back home and get warm after all of our running around.  The movie pick for the evening was 'Event Horizon' and then 'Land of the Dead.'  

My plans to stay up late and wake the family at 4 am for Christmas Morning shenanigans were foiled by a nice deep sleep which didn't let up till about eight or so.  We rose slowly and stiffly (most of us having slept on various pieces of furniture) and dug into the stockings.  I think that everyone was pleased with their Christmas swag.  A few of the fun and things that I received: a Loki collectible Bobble head, an awesome velvet wall scroll map of Germany, a Fluttershy brushable from MLP, a vintage crystal decanter, and an 8 gig bullet shaped flash drive.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Year's Resolutions/Goals

For 2013 I want to work on organization and time management which have always been two of my weak spots.  Now that I am enrolled in the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College both of these things are going to play a key part in my being able to not only succeed in Grad School but walk away with a new handle on craft and delivery and a possible future in teaching.  My main resolution, school wise, is to set up a schedule (weekly or daily) to assure that I am not scrambling last minute to read, write, analyze, or otherwise for various assignments.  As part of a personal resolution I am going to make it a goal to write a minimum of 500 words a day (this means EVERY SINGLE DAY) and simple status updates and texts don't count.  It has to be writing toward some kind of purpose, even if that purpose is nonsensical venting.  I've tried something like this in the past and did really well writing every day up until around late March early April.  This year there will be no slacking.  If I am really going to be a writer then I have to write.  Period.  Another resolution (a financial one) is to start saving all my receipts and important pieces of mail.  I need to keep better track of these things not only so I can feel more grown up in some respects but also to get into the habit of knowing where my money went.  Another financial goal is to start setting aside ten to twenty bucks out of every pay check for emergencies and end of the year Christmas expenses.  There are other things I want to keep in mind throughout the year as well and so, without further ado, here is the more visually aesthetic version of my New Year's Resolutions:

  • Create and stick to a detailed schedule concerning all MFA related activities and tasks
  • Write a minimum of 500 words per day, every day 
  • Work on various stories with an emphasis on finishing 'Very Un-Vampire'
  • Keep all receipts and organize them by type of purchases
  • Set aside a minimum of ten dollars from each paycheck into emergency/Christmas fund
  • Exercise for thirty minutes at least three days per week (make it a habit)

These are just a few of the things I need and want to become more aware of during the next year.  I want to continue watching my caffeine intake and I want to work on some art projects - maybe even do some painting.  2013 is the year that I will turn thirty and I think in order for me to embrace the big three-oh with some sense of dignity I would like to have accomplished something with my talents (or be in the process of accomplishing something), and so I would like very much to send something out for publication.  Even if it is rejected (and it probably will be as most first time submissions meet this fate) I will feel good just knowing that I have taken that step.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

General Updates and New Blog

EDIT: The other blog is now null and void.  My only blog that I update regularly is this one.

It's been a little while since I last updated here.  Things have been busy with work and busy with getting my act together for school.  I have a great many things I need to read, lots of pre-arrival paperwork to do, and I still have to finalize everything to do with my financial aide.  I am nervous, nervous, nervous to say the least.  As far as other updates go, you can find tidbits of my life via my journal blog entitled 'Skoora's Box' (a name that may eventually change) via igotcherback, a social networking site that a friend of mine launched.  The posts are called Office Christmas Party and The Yoda is Sick.  Please check them out if you have nothing better to do or are training to be a professional grade stalker and need to know every detail of my day to day life.

I'm sure I will have a plethora of things to report concerning my MFA strides as this month progresses.  In the mean time I hope that everyone is safe, warm, and filled with some of the general good feelings that this time of year tends to bring about.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Blues

The Annual Family Christmas Party is always hard for me.  It's hard for anyone who was a 'somebody' as a youth and becomes a 'nobody' as an adult.  I hear the same things every year: "You gonna sing for us?" "Why don't you sing anymore?" "Where are you working?" "You ever gonna do anything with that degree of yours?"  You get the idea.  Basically when I was younger I was a bold, song bird who excelled at the performing arts.  I would delight the family with songs, with stories, with manic shenanigans, and there was always an air of expectation, always the belief that I would do something with my talents.  And I did.  In college.  But that's as far as it went.  I suppose the development of vocal nodes during my second year at Mesa State coupled with my complete and utter lack of self-confidence didn't help.  But I digress.

Each and every year it's the same.  They ask me if I'm still doing my 'music' and still 'singing' because they enjoyed me so much when I was younger and I'm flattered, yes, but the fact of the matter is I'm very shy.  I sang at an Aunt's wedding once and I had to drink five shots of tequila before I could muster the courage to utter the first note.  When getting ready for karaoke I require whiskey sours.  It is rare that I am ever in a mood to entertain when it is entertainment that's expected of me.  And that's where alcohol comes in.

Tonight was the Annual Family Christmas Party and it began with me in the bathroom sobbing my eyes out because, yet again, I was reminded of how much of a disappointment I am to a family who wanted to see my name in lights.  This time however it came in the form of criticism of my BA degree and blatant distaste for the MFA I am currently working toward.  An older cousin pretty much reminded me that the arts are a useless pursuit and then he went on to laugh at me when I tried, poorly, to explain that I hadn't gone into music theatre thinking I would come out of it making money.  No, art (performing or otherwise) is not a lucrative career choice, but I never wanted it for my career choice, per se.  I'm just... too shy.  And because my defense mechanism is to be loud and outrageous and the center of attention, no one fucking believes me.  Some of my friends know, and Hannah knows, but to the rest of the world I am anything but shy.  

Singing is an organic thing for me.  I prefer bouts of song while I drive along the highway or while I'm cleaning the bedroom, but not under a stage light and certainly not before an audience.  I've been there, done that!  And even though I loved it, craved it, lived for it... the stress was enough to affect me physically.  Tonight I cried and then I drank.  It was pathetic.  My cousin - not the one who made me cry - noticed my plight and fixed me up with a hot buttered rum.  Things started to get better and then I found my nice little niche of teenage and twenty-something cousins and we talked about everything from Host Clubs to the Walking Dead.  It was pleasant for a time and then came the talent show.

I had originally planned to sign up and wow them all with my 'long lost singing talent' but I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't do it.  So, since I hadn't prepared anything I looked over the impromptu cards and thought 'well maybe I'll try something out of here' but all the prompts would require more alcohol than what I'd had to drink and so, for the first time in my life, I opted out of a talent competition.  It was such a relief to just step back and watch.  Strangely though I had this feeling of fading.  So many other talented people in the family, so many guitars, so many voices.  My own voice was/is no longer necessary.  I felt like the old clock maker retiring to make way for the young whippersnappers charging into the twenty-first century with digital time keeping.  I felt obsolete.  Sure, sure, lots of my aunts and cousins looked to me with a frown saying: "I thought you were going to sign up, thought you were going to sing?"  But I just sort of shrugged that away.  It makes me sad, in a way, to step back and seeing the disappointed faces of those who still think of me as 'the one who might make it someday' makes me almost wish I'd never stepped forward.   

The remainder of my time at the party consisted of a red solo cup filled with Chardonnay, lots of raffle ticket winnings, and a few good laughs with a few good cousins.  Happily and weirdly, I left the party feeling much better and lighter than when I had arrived.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A little nervous about things...

I have to send in two manuscripts for workshops.  These are due on Monday.  Needless to say, I have the jitters and even though I do have material to be sent in, I am scared it's not good enough, anxious that it will be too juvenile or predictable, worried that I won't make a good first impression, and terrified that I'll screw it up somehow.  I know that I am going to send in a portion of my novel and I think I also want to send in my  horror shorts.  There are so many things I've written and played with over the years and now that I'm faced with a chance for learning I feel that nothing is good enough!

There's so much reading to get done and so little time to do it.  Tomorrow is the family Christmas Party, then I have a very full week of work, as well as my mom's Birthday which is on the third.  On top of all of this I've had issues with my unemployment stipend.  Despite having a job, I've felt very poor and very restricted by lack of gas.  The Kia's clutch took a huge shit on us and is very much dead, which means we've been using Hannah's jeep.  It's a good jeep and fun to drive, but it is a big of a piggy when it comes to fuel.  And then of course there's Christmas.  It seems that the old saying is very true: when it rains it pours.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cookies and Charlotte

Work is going well and I am learning a great deal more about bras and underwear than I had ever had an inclination to know.  Still, it's all very valuable as I, myself, am an avid bra wearer - ah, the curse/blessing of having voluptuous boobies to contend with!  I have met all of the women who work at the store now and I mentioned to them today that my girl friend bakes.  They anxiously await cookies and treats from my significant other.  I was worried at first that being open about my relationship to Hannah would cause them to mistrust me in some way, that they would see me as a 'man hating, vengeful lesbian eager to take over the world one boob at a time!'  But so far, I think they find me rather adorable and that's good because I am adorable.

In other news, I finally received a letter from Queens University of Charlotte.  They rejected my application and made sure to mention that due to the volume of applicants they were unable to give me any personalized feedback as to my writing sample.  Well that's just fine.  It reinforces my decision to attend Solstice and it keeps me from getting a big head.  Hannah and my mother were worried that it would upset me to receive the rejection letter but in actuality it will be the first of many to come in my future as a writer and I welcome it with open arms.  Perhaps this means I am settling, but other than PLU in Tacoma, the college that I talked about the most, the program that I felt most drawn to, was none other than Solstice in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  I have already sent in my tuition deposit and all I have to do now is seize some plane tickets before Holiday inflation hits.  Thankfully my job has no issues with me taking time off to attend residencies.  In that I am very fortunate.  My manager's willingness to work around my needs and her patience with me on the work floor have definitely sealed the deal: they will be getting cookies!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gainfully Employed

I have a job.  Finally.  I am a customer assistant (and cashier) at the L'eggs, Hanes, and Bali store, one of the few surviving shops in a little strip mall down the road.  It's a very relaxed atmosphere and the women who work there, so far, have been pleasant and patient.  Today was my first day on the floor and aside from aching feet, it was a very good day.  I learned the basics of the cash register, learned a bit about a variety of sales and discounts, got to know my fellow employees, and got to see how the store operates on a fairly regular day.  Of the six other women who work there (me being lucky number seven) three of them are management.  There is always a manager on site and it seems that there is usually three people in the store at any given time.  This is a huge relief because in the end there is always someone there to help me throughout the learning process.

I've met five of the six women I will be working with (one of them is the one who recruited me and she is very sweet), and already I like them.  They feel very much like a little family and when one leaves at the end of her shift, they say 'love you' instead of 'see you tomorrow.'  I can't help but look forward to the day when they fully accept me into their close knit group and demand 'hugs' from me before I head out from my shift.

The two cutest things I saw today: One) there was a young man - he was tall and chubby in a cuddly bear way - who came into the store and spent over half an hour carefully perusing undies and bras until he'd selected several things for his wife.  He just seemed so determined and while he looked a bit shy about the whole ordeal, he never seemed annoyed or embarrassed.  We thought he was just precious.  Two) a tall, slender Mennonite girl (extremely pretty!) came into the store and picked out three pairs of wild and lacy underwear.  She was so sweet and polite.  It just goes to show that you really can't judge a book by its cover.  I thought she was absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Bust and Haunted House

We made an altar near our front door.  Upon it we set a forty pound pumpkin, several gourds, fake glittery skulls, mini tombstones, dried corn, fake autumn-themed flowers, candles (electric and regular), various sundry items from the dollar store (and no, sundry probably isn't the right word), as well as a squeaky rat.  It looks very cool.  Very.  And around the altar we have little bats pasted to the side of the building and our front door, hanging skulls draped in coffee-stained cheese cloth, and an inflatable cat (not that kind of inflatable pussy, you perverts!).  Hannah and I are sitting outside right now listening to Nox Arcana via the MP3 player hooked up to my laptop's external speakers.  There is a bucket of awesome Halloween grab bags for Trick-or-Treaters on a little circular table beside Hannah.  The set up is perfect - we even darkened the outside light to add to the atmosphere of our little Halloween corner.

Now you would think with all that fun stuff and neatly wrapped goodies just waiting for someone to come by and snarl/sing/laugh/or otherwise say "Trick or Treat!" that we would be quite the attractive mark for all those wandering the streets in costumes tonight.  But, no, we have had a total of two kids come our way.  And we made one of them cry.  Apparently Nox Arcana is just a tad bit too intense for that unmasked little goblin.  I think we made about forty gift bags.  We were hoping that we would run out and have to dig into the reserve candy.  Sadly that isn't going to happen.  We're packing up shop and going on a drive to try and find the mysterious Haunted House spectacle that a nearby family reportedly puts on every year to scare the locals.  I'm a local!  I want to be scared!  So it's off into the night with us.  Happy Halloween to all and to all a good fright! (Did I just come up with that?  I'm patenting it, dammit.)

Update: We never found the free haunted house but went instead to the Haunted House on 4th which is set up by the Lyon's Club.  For the most part it was just people popping out randomly and screaming as loud as they could.  But to get to those parts you had to go through a pitch black labyrinth with a floor that varied from soft soil, hard wood, squishy rubber, inclines, declines, and even vibrations.  There were times when the walls closed in and became very tight and other times when it turned so suddenly that I ran straight into the wall.  In the end a man with a chainsaw chased us through an open air coral.  He couldn't get the thing to work right away and I made a quiet comment about 'performance anxiety' and then hoofed it toward the exit.  It was worth the seven dollars.  After the Haunted House we went in search of a liquor store because it just felt like a liquor night but, lo and behold, all the liquor stores (the ones we knew about anyway) were closed.  So here we are now, back home and getting ready for NaNoWriMo.  Sober.  

Boobs and Boston

On Monday I went to the Premiere Urgent Care of Post Falls to do a preliminary drug screening.  The job for which I am applying for is that of customer assistant at a bra shop.  Unless something shows up in my background check or pee test that makes them dislike me (and there shouldn't be a damn thing in either of those that would make anyone dislike me), then I will be starting work for them very soon.  I'm happy because, aside from learning the cash register, I think that the metrics and pitches sound challenging but able to be met without too much undue stress.  On the whole it would be the perfect job for me because the work environment is professional (I would get to dress up a bit and wear some makeup and get in touch with my feminine side which gets lost a great deal of the time), has very little in and out customer traffic, seems very laid back, and is in a small, out of the way, strip mall.  Also I will only be working fifteen to twenty hours a week, thereby allowing me to keep the job even after I begin my MFA program.  I have to wait and hear back later today, but I am positive about it and if I end up not being hired it won't sour me on the store, but it will be quite a surprise.

As for the MFA program; I have already been accepted at Solstice (the college near Boston) and since it was my first choice for a long time, I am thinking that that's where I'm going to go ahead and attend.  I haven't heard anything back from Queens University of Charlotte and I never did get my application sent off for PLU's Rainier Writers Workshop.  I think that Solstice and RWW were tied for my affections and it came down to logistics.  Also, the RWW program has a very low number of new members they allow into their program every year and while I desperately wanted to know if I would have made the cut, I was also leery of facing a rejection.  I know that as I start to send out my writing to magazines, agents, and publishers that I am going to face a great deal of that and so I sort of figured why start now.  Wrong attitude I know, but it feels good to have made a choice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


On Tuesday I received a phone call from Meg Kearney, the director of the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts.  She told me via voice mail (as I didn't catch the call) that I have been accepted into their program!  She also informed me that my formal letter of acceptance would be coming in the mail very soon, that she had put it in the mail on that very day and today it arrived.  I just wanted to share a little of the acceptance letter because it really stroked my ego.

"Our Admissions Committee had this to say about your application: 'The stark/dark nature of Amanda's fiction is quite appealing.  She is developing a complex and evolving character whose mysterious background keeps us guessing - she has an excellent sense of pacing, and makes thoughtful use of detail.'"

I'm very excited.  I still have a good many things to do (another program to finish applying for) and many decisions still to make, but this news really made my day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Today is our fifth anniversary (the anniversary of our relationship as having started via a romantic phone call on October 13th 2008).  The traditional gift/theme for the fifth, is wood.  Coincidentally, today is also the anniversary of my cousin and his wife.  It is their twenty-fifth and the tradition is silver.  My girl is snoozing on the couch at the moment and I'm left to wonder what we might do tomorrow morning to celebrate the culmination of five years together.  The evening is spoken for as we will be traveling to the valley to celebrate my cousin's anniversary (ours taking a little bit of a step into the background).  After dinner and a bit of party-time with the cousin, Hannah and I will pick up a mutual friend and return to Post Falls for an evening of cake and, most likely, some scary movies.

I keep thinking about wood.  It is an interesting element to be attributed to an anniversary.  Of course, perhaps I shouldn't even be calling it an anniversary since it's merely a marker for for the time we began dating and not the date of our marriage.  We would like to get married, but until everyone in this country is allowed to get married, that isn't going to happen.  I know we could have a ceremony and say vows, but it reminds me too much of Rimrock Apartments when I was a kid.  We'd all meet up outside, all us kids, and go to the little dead end alcove between two of the apartment buildings which was definitely 'out of bounds' as it was blocked off by those stinky bushes that smelled sort of like sage and sort of like something else.  We would sneak through the tight gaps, decide quickly who was to marry who, and then stage a little wedding.  It was a fairly common occurrence; I was the bride several times, even the groom once or twice, and I was a very popular choice for the minister.  We would eat pilfered food from our parents' pantries.  I seem to remember Kellogg's Cornflakes.  And the berries off the sage-ish bushes.  We didn't eat them but we would squish them, throw them, rub them on our hands and arms as if it were part of our ceremony.  For the life of me I can't remember what the marriage signified which leads me to believe that it meant nothing.  I'm not going to extrapolate on this and say that marriage in general lacks all meaning.  No, the point of all of this is that there is a difference between a real wedding (and I'm using wedding in a broad term as we are most definitely leaning more toward a hand hasting ceremony) and a 'let's go through the motions for our friends and family' wedding.

I'm thinking about the wood again and thinking of the dowel mom bought to work as supports in the cake.  Hannah beat me with said dowel earlier today, thwacking my rump with it.  I'm glad I was wearing jeans; it could have been unmercifully distracting if I hadn't been.  What does wood mean?  It's the foundation of a house (or could be), and if you're the second little pig it's a false sense of security.  For me, wood is the forest and it's fire in a little pit encircled by rocks and soil.  It's divine in its construction and destruction.  It is scaffolding and it is the stake meant for a vampire's heart.  It is what makes it all possible and yet a creaky step in an old farm house can be the bane of superstitious person's existence.  It can bend, snap, burn, grow, die, branch out, polish up, fade, split and splinter and in all of that perhaps it is perfect traditional for two people coming up for air after five years of weirdness mixed with familiarity.  We've bent for one another, snapped at one another, burned with rage, burned with passion, we've grown as a couple, we'll die as a couple, we've branched out and someday, maybe, we'll branch out and start a family.  It's the split part that we've managed to avoid.  There have been some very close calls but just as faded wood can be revived with Old English so too can a blistering relationship be restored by sacrifice, appreciation, and lots of angry make up sex.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ten Rules I Don't Agree With

I picked up a book at the library today and read it in about ten minutes.  Considering that this book is 89 pages that might seem fantastical or impossible.  The book is Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing and while, just as I had suspected, I found that I already knew of these rules through various means, I learned something much more interesting through reading this book.  I learned of true pretentiousness.  Surely I am not alone in this assessment but even if I am, I stand by it.  This book is nothing if not a lesson in the snobbery of fiction writers.  On the very first page Leonard tells us: 
"These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story.  If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules.  Still, you might look them over."
This on its own would not strike me as overly condescending (perhaps a bit confrontational and accusing), but when combined with the rest of the book, I feel that, right there in the first blurb, he draws the line between what is wrong and what is his way.  The book continues on to list the ten rules while making extreme use of white space and drawings.  Sitting at the library and reading through it, I couldn't help but wonder why he didn't make it an essay or a pamphlet instead of a book.  The rules are terse and his thoughts and examples concerning them are just as terse.  But this does not annoy me as much as what he says after nearly every rule: don't do this unless you are (insert name of various authors whom Leonard respects).  If you are one of these people then the rule does not apply to you.  This is incredibly belittling.  What if I'm the next great Steinbeck, or Conrad, or Joyce Carol Oates?  What if I'm better than them?  What if my descriptions are paramount to anything Leonard has ever read?  Overall, I see the validity behind his rules but dislike greatly that he goes on to excuse others of these rules just because they are somehow better writers than I am.  

He speaks a good deal about removing himself from the writing and letting the characters do their job in showing and revealing the story at hand.  I agree with this, but I don't agree with him that we have to step back from describing places and things and even what the characters themselves look like.  My rule of thumb, forgive the cliche, is to make everything count.  When I describe the main character my aim is to give the reader some greater insight about him or her and not to 'listen to the sound of my own voice.'  

The Rules are as follows:

  1. Never open a book with weather.  (Unless you're Barry Lopez)
  2. Avoid Prologues.  (Excepting of course if you are John Steinbeck)  
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. 
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"...
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control.  (Unless you are Tom Wolfe)
  6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell breaks loose."
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.  (Unless you are Annie Proulx)
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. 
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.  (Unless you're Margaret Atwood or Jim Harrison)
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
Of these rules, the last is the one I actually do agree with, it also happens to be a suggestion that Monica Wood touched upon in The Pocket Muse.  It is important to cut the fat and keep the meat but why not make the meat as appealing or as mysterious as possible through use of adverbs and adjectives and clever turns of phrase and intriguing dialogue?  On the subject of adverbs, however, Leonard not only abhors the use of them to describe 'said' but considers any use of them to be a writing mortal sin.  I am confused by this.  I thought adverbs were a part of speech, modifiers which might facilitate understanding or add to the intensity of a scene.  Perhaps he had a bad experience with an adverb a long time ago and just hasn't let go of it yet.  It seems to me that these rules are not so much rules for writing, but a segregation tool attempting to place the principles of fiction on a pedestal over the lesser form of genre and bumbling genre writers, which is interesting since Leonard himself is a genre based writer.  It is important to remember, especially when looking at a list of rules such as this, that there is such a thing as 'bad' literary fiction and 'good' genre fiction.  The lines that divide the two forms can be blurred and even erased.  Rules are never absolute in writing.  Never.  You learn them to break them and then you break them as beautifully and startlingly as you can using the parts of speech that best serve to communicate the story.  Maybe that was his real goal behind this book.  Maybe he set out these rules hoping that we would break some of them, and, if that's the case, then I am more than happy to comply.

Some Sound Advice!

This is a link that was posted recently on the Creative Writing MFA Blog, which is a fairly informative writing hub concerning that ever pressing topic: the MFA and the various programs through which to obtain one.  Several of the blog posts speak of first hand experience in dealing with the Low Residency Program through Queens University of Charlotte and I found this to be particularly helpful in the decision making process.  However, enough promotion, and on with the good stuff:

How to Apply to an MFA Program is a blog post from by Seth Fried who writes for the TinHouse Blog.   It is a truly excellent piece that - had I known about it prior to having mailed out my first two applications to MFA programs - wouldn't have helped me in the least.  But perhaps it will soften the blow of any rejection letters that may be forthcoming.  Enjoy this small excerpt, but please, do yourself a favor and follow the link to read the entire 'how to' article.  It's very much worth it.


Much like the royal courts of the yestermillennium, MFA programs will not grant you an audience unless you approach them with proper letters of introduction. That is why it is of the utmost importance that you secure two to three letters in which your former teachers recommend you as a human.
When requesting these letters from your teachers, you must be sensitive to the fact that teaching is demanding work and leaves very little time for writing letters. A polite thing to do is to create a generic letter to which any teacher can simply sign his or her name. I have included an example below:
Dear College,
I am writing to recommend that you accept Seth Fried to your creative writing program.
Seth was a star pupil in my (please circle one) REMEDIAL MATH COURSE/ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASS/BASIC HYGIENE INTERVENTION. Based on his performance, I am able to say with a high degree of certainty that you would be a fool not to accept him.
I found his intelligence to be so intimidating that after grading his work I was often unable to perform sexually. Frankly, I’m not even certain that he shouldn’t be writing a letter of recommendation for me.
He would truly be an asset to your program. Not only is he talented and focused, but he also does not do hard drugs and has never been convicted of a violent crime.
(sign above)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Progress Update

Today I printed, copied, organized, labeled, and sealed away applications for two out of the three MFA programs of which I have decided to apply.  It's too late today to send them out, but both packets are complete with addresses and ready to go first thing on Monday.  Concerning Letters of Recommendation, my professor from college has already sent off two (one to each college), and I have two more writers on board (both to send their letters to one college).  One of those is already written and just needs to be sent.  The other letter just needs to be sent out sometime around October 10th to make sure that it gets there by the 15th.  The two applications that are finished are for the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College and the Low Residency MFA at Queens University of Charlotte.  I have another month to finish preparing materials for the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University but I already have two letter writers for that application and I know which novel I am going to provide a critical analysis for.  The director of the RWW has encouraged me to get my essay, writing sample, and critical analysis in as soon as possible and so that is going to be my next goal.  For now though I shall glory in the knowledge that  I have accomplished something.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reading Backwards

Perhaps it is because of my natural proclivity to look for other ways to accomplish rather obvious tasks, or perhaps I just like being difficult, no matter the wherefore, I have lately found that reading backwards is not only enjoyable, but preferable.  This does not work with novels, of course, but it works wonderfully for guides and reference books.  When I read through The Pocket Muse, I used two book marks, one indicating where I was in going from the beginning and one indicating where I was in reading segment by segment backwards from the end.  When I met at the middle, I was finished.  In reading Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones I read the foreword and the introduction, wherein Goldberg indicated that the book could be read in any order desired since each chapter is written as completely as possible, and then proceeded to skip merrily along to the epilogue.  I am a third in from the end now.

Earlier today I analyzed exactly why this reverse reading appeals to me and concluded that it all comes down to the bookmark.  When it is close to the end (or the beginning as the case may be) it makes it seem as if you are almost done with the book, and when it is near the beginning (or the end, you get it, I'm sure) it looks as if you're starting nice and fresh.  In the end it is nothing more than a mind trick that has, thus far, helped me to push forward (backward) with little heed to the logistics.  Something that I've picked up from reading these texts is that it is good to alter routine once in a while, find a new perspective, and shake things up and in reading backwards I am putting theory into practice in a small and tangible way.  In high school we were encouraged to edit for spelling by reading our own essays backwards thereby removing the context of each sentence and leaving the word naked and obvious in its errors.  Walking backwards works a completely different set of muscles, checking off the last item on a to-do list can make everything else seem more manageable, and starting a story at the end can free up a writer in ways they never imagined.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hobbit Day

A friend would like to celebrate Hobbit Day this year and, as it falls a day after my birthday, I see this as a perfect excuse to extend the party.  On the twenty-first of this month I will be making a trek down to Moscow to celebrate my twenty-ninth birthday with my girlfriend, my cousin, and my favorite twins.  The celebration will span the weekend into the following Monday.  We'll be going out to a Japanese restaurant, snagging a few drinks, playing Munchkin and other games, and enjoying a marathon of fighting girl anime.  The rest of the time the plan is to relax, maybe do a little shopping, and, of course, celebrate Hobbit Day.  My plan, and I shall run this by the weekend troopers, is to eat like hobbits (OFTEN! and dining on a menu of scrumptious cheeses, crispy bacon, hearty vegetables, bakery fresh bread, and nice hot tea), run around barefoot whenever possible, go on a quest (most likely to Lewiston), and have a reading from the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.  Maybe we'll even adopt Hobbit personas for the day.  If we do that, I demand to be Pippin.  And I demand beer.  Hobbit beer.  

For further hints on how to celebrate Hobbit Day like a true book worm (or movie buff) please visit these links:

MFA updates and another application in the works...

Last night was as miserable and restless as today was productive and enlightening.  After such a horrid and sleepless night I was surprised by the passion with which I attacked my admittance essays.  I finished not one, but both of the necessary essays for me to be able to apply to Queens and Pine Manor College.  The latter requires an essay up to, but not exceeding, five pages and, as a result, my hands became scissors as I cut and cut and cut until I am now three lines over the limit.  Three lines I can handle, but for now I am letting my beta readers have at it and when I get my feedback I'll set the essay back on the cutting board and trim it down to within the guidelines.  As for the Queens essay, I started and finished that earlier.

Another development has come up, however.  A few days ago I did a search specifically for low residency MFA programs closer to home.  This search stemmed from the logistical reality that paying upwards of $500 per plane ticket for five residencies is going to be difficult.  Even if I am awarded financial aide above and beyond the loans that I will taking out, the extra $2,500 is not a very pleasant prospect.  However, despite the logistical reasons behind my search, I found a very interesting program that has more going for it than location and cost.  I received a phone call today and spoke to the director of the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington for nearly an hour and a half.  This is the most time any program director (and I've contacted and been contacted by quite a few throughout my search) has spent this much time with me on the phone truly getting to know me.  I was more nervous than I ought to have been which is a clue that the program means something to me.  It is a selective, high-end program that appeals to me in many ways.  At first, I felt bad looking into the school (i.e. sending an inquiry to the program director) because I had already made up my mind to apply to two programs on the East Coast and my family and girlfriend are positively exasperated with my indecisiveness in choosing a program through which to get my MFA.  However, it's just as Hannah's father said; 'If you're going to put money into getting a useless degree, make sure it's the useless degree that you want.'  I counter by saying that an arts degree is only useless financially; for the soul it is the most nourishing of any course of study.  But it was good advice for in the end this is completely my decision and it would be an injustice to myself to settle for something less than the perfect fit - or a fit as close to perfect as possible.  And as my own father says, 'chose the one that will benefit you the most.'  There are perks to all three institutions and it looks like I will be applying to all three.  In the event that all three accept me (my ego says, 'of course they will' and my common sense says, 'not likely') I will make a secondary list of pros and cons and decide which is truly the best fit for me as a writer.

Solstice MFA @ PMC will cost approximately $27,455 including residencies and an extra $2,500 for airfare bringing the subtotal to an approximation of $29,955.  This program is a two year program (five residencies) and offers scholarships as well as auditing of classes during residencies.  It also has a great deal of opportunities for post grads.  If accepted I may be able to start in January but that is not guaranteed.  Cross genre study.  Does not offer screenplay writing.

Queens will cost approximately $26,380 plus any extra fees for residencies and an extra $2,500 for air fare bringing the subtotal up to approximately $28,880.  This program is a two year (five residencies) and offers scholarships.  It does not offer auditing but allows for guests to attend readings during residencies.  If accepted I will be able to start in January most likely.  Double genre focus.  Offers screenplay writing.

RWW MFA @ PLU will cost $31,720 for the entire program including four residencies with an additional $400 for travel via Optimus Prime (my loyal Kia), bringing the total to $32,120.  This is a three year program with four residencies.  It offers scholarships, fellowships, and need based financial aide.  I do not know about auditing but I will be asking.  No set genre - fluid genre program.  Does not offer screenplay writing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

I recently came across a neat little book.  The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspiration for Writing by Monica Wood is everything that the title advertises.  In addition to having a variety of creative writing prompts, style suggestions, helpful quotes, relevant anecdotes and words of encouragement, it has a fun format that makes it accessible to someone as scatter brained as myself.  I will be sharing many of the writing exercises contained within the book through the Detangled Writers blog, but there was something I read tonight that I wanted to share here.
Don't write to hurt. Understand that a line exists between your story and somebody else' privacy. This line is zigzaggy at best, and it takes a clear eye to follow its path. Writers have the right to write. We know this. But there's a difference between writing to purge and writing to illuminate.
I have known a couple of people who wrote for revenge; as far as I can tell, publication didn't make them feel any better. Of course the worst part is that vengeful writing usually isn't good; that's what personal journals are for, to college that bad, small, narrow-eyed writing and keep it private.  
If you are embarking on a piece of writing you believe you'll have to shield from certain readers - a family member, a former friend, an erstwhile lover - think it through before beginning. My advice is to wait six months. There are so many other things to write!  If in six months the story is still lodged within your gut, that's probably a sign that the story needs writing. But be careful.
Wood, Monica. The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. Cincinnati, Ohio, 2002
This got me to thinking mainly about Facebook and how it has become nothing more than a battleground of volatile mud slinging all under the guise of innocent social networking.  I don't like propaganda on Facebook.  I don't like the attacks on political beliefs, slams on sexual or gender orientations, and I loathe the volumes of religious and atheistic condemnations.  I don't like hate speech of any kind and I especially despise it on Facebook.  But it's not so much a personal preference as a deep founded belief that it does not belong there.  Put such content in private blogs and in personal journals, or talk to like minded people over the phone.  But please, do not write to hurt.  Even a simple status message.  And pressing 'share' is the same as writing it yourself.  It's tiresome and, just as Monica Wood stated, it's not good writing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Robert E. Howard and Other Authors

I recently finished reading the graphic novelization of Robert E. Howard's, Conan: The Frost Giant's Daughter.  It was a great read with exciting art.  What I enjoy most about Conan, be it short stories, graphic novels, or even movies, is that this Barbarian is the amalgamation of Robert E. Howard's interaction with the world around him.  In the small afterword of the graphic novel, it is written that he took from all the real life people he had met growing up in Texas during an oil boom and put the most dominant of all of those characteristic into what would become his most famous of all characters.  There is something very real about this character.  He is raw, he is rough, he is horny, he is loyal, he is noble, and despite the fact that he never really cries, he wears his heart on his sleeve.  He is not one for deceit or for trickery.  He delights in honest, real battle and he takes pleasure when he can find it.  For anyone who is not familiar with this character, I would suggest going straight to the source first and foremost.  A great many of Robert E. Howard's stories are available for free through various public domain sites and it is through one such site that I first became acquainted with the author behind Conan.  

There is much I have yet to read, and many characters that I have yet to get to know, but of the Howard creations I've encountered, my favorite is, by far, King Kull.  The movie, Kull the Conqueror, staring Kevin Sorbo was a huge disappointment and I long for a better, more accurate, motion picture representation of my wonderful Kull, the exile turned King.  Alas, this will probably never happen since Kull and Conan are very similar - both have dark hair, bulging muscles, brooding faces, and fight as beserkers - and the world has already claimed one as their favorite.  They chose well, as I too love Conan, but it's a pity that there can't be two brave, brawny barbarians ruling the silver screen.  They have, however, recently started releasing new graphic novels of Kull and my girlfriend has been ever so diligent in acquiring these for me.  

Along with Robert E. Howard, I have been very swept away by H.P. Lovecraft and during explorations of both of these amazing and influential authors (one being the father of sword-and-sorcery and the other the father of modern horror) I have come across a variety of names that merit further investigation.  Clark Ashton Smith and his horror/fantasy comrades, Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, were known as the 'three musketeers' of Weird Tales, a magazine that frequently published their materials.  Other authors of the time who delved into similar subject matter were Frank Belknap LongAugust Derleth, and Robert Bloch.  Of the three just mentioned, I have actually read some of Robert Bloch: This Crowded Earth, an obscure look at the future of an overpopulated world and the means and measures people take to adapt for survival.  However, Robert Bloch authored much more popular pieces, one of those being Psycho.  I have seen the film, loved it, and would very much love to get my hands on the original book as I am finding that it is best to stick to the horse's mouth when it comes to horror stories.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Application Checklists

Application Form PDF
In order to be considered for admission to the MFA program in creative writing, an applicant must meet the following criteria:
  1. Hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university or have equivalent experience practicing creative writing as that experience is reflected in the quality of the prospective student's application portfolio.
  2. Submit a completed graduate application form
  3. Submit official transcripts from the college or university from which their highest degree was awarded. If the candidate does not hold a bachelor's degree, a high school transcript must be submitted. Transcripts must be received in a sealed envelope. They may be sent separately, or along with the other application materials.
  4. Submit one copy of a portfolio of creative writing in each genre for which you are applying, consisting of approximately 25 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, or writing for stage and screen, or 10 pages of poetry.
  5. Submit one copy of a one-page, typed, single-spaced essay on the prospective student's reasons for applying to the MFA program and expectations for the program.
  6. Provide one letter of academic or professional reference that speaks to the applicant's ability as a writer or potential as student. Letters of recommendation may either be sent separately or along with the other application materials.
  7. Submit a $45 application fee for each genre in which you are applying.
Application deadlines: Applications must be postmarked by March 15 for the Summer/Fall term which begins in May, or by October 15 for the Spring term, which begins in January.

Application Form PDF

In order for your application to be considered:
  • The manuscript, essay, and application form must be submitted in triplicate.
  • Your manuscript must represent work in the genre in which you plan to concentrate: 25 typed pages of fiction.
  • Pages must be numbered, and your name should appear on each poem, story, or chapter.
  • Your manuscript must be typewritten, in a 12-point font. Fiction and creative nonfiction must be double-spaced. 
  • The personal essay should state: highlights of what you’ve been reading during the last two years, and what you have learned from any literary influences (new or old) and how you have applied what you’ve learned to your own work; what you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of your own work; experience with critical evaluation of your work; what you hope to gain from an MFA program; and possible obstacles to carrying a 25-hour-a-week workload. The essay must not run over the limit of five typed, double-spaced pages.

      You must arrange for the MFA Office to receive:

      • *Three letters of recommendation sent directly (not enclosed with your application) to our offices: Meg Kearney, Solstice MFA Director, Pine Manor College, 400 Heath Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.
      • Official college transcript(s) from any school(s) where you received a degree or transfer credits.
      Please ensure that ALL materials are clearly labeled Solstice MFA Office to ensure proper on-campus delivery.   Deadline is October 15.

      Tuesday, September 11, 2012

      Goldberg Writing Exercise - I (Don't) Remember

      This is a writing prompt by Natalie Goldberg, author of Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life.  My response to this prompt is a free write based on the phrases 'I remember' and 'I don't remember.'  The writing time for each segment was 10 minutes with a break in between and is not intended as memoir or as story.  For more prompts like these and more information on writing in general please visit the Detangled Writers Blog.


      I remember thinking that I would really like to kiss her and I felt some regret because I never did.  I remember that it was hot that summer and a little Chinese girl wanted to use me as a mattress and a pillow and I loved her dearly for it but found myself constantly trying to scoot away from her furnace like body so that I could catch a hint of the ever elusive Belgian breeze and maybe get some sleep.  I remember the lace capital of the world and I remember things that never even happened.  We climbed to the top of the cathedrals and sang out existence to the world and I recall that we did it all while drunk on Sangria.

      I remember being there in the sixteen hundreds, my blood and sweat coating the rock before me as I scraped my fingernails back and tried to lift it just like my father had done, just like my son would do.  I remember looking at the mess that the architect told us would someday be a house of God and I thought to myself that he was mad.  I was godless, but employed and I was building a sanctuary to someone I didn't know.  My father had died when a pulley snapped and a net enclosed load of bricks plummeted down and crushed his skull.  I remember how it tasted - I was standing so close that his brains and flesh and blood spattered this way and that and covered my young face and filled my young mouth.  I'd never even tasted wine.  I remember that I didn't cry because it was raining and it's impossible to cry in the rain.

      I remember that the Chinese girl sat the right of me, her legs on my lap and her head pressed to my shoulder, and the Japanese woman sat to my left, her hip and leg pressed firm to mine and I smiled happily and cried out to the rest of the van that I was happily squished in Asia.  I remember standing there at the end of the war, looking up at the large cathedral and crying.  I cried so hard that the rain was like a pittance compared to my tears that welled and flooded my eyes, my face, my shirt, the whole world.  I remember hearing the screaming of the women and children who had run to this place seeking sanctuary and who had found nothing but a tomb; theirs.  I remember thinking that 624 years was a long time, but ten minutes was even longer because in that horrible moment when the side fell in and the roof crumbled and crushed those who had worshiped under it a thousand times before, it all moved in slow motion.  Taking eons to fall as I stood there watching and crying, my own life pouring out of me from where a bayonet had met my belly.  I saw my beautiful church become a murderer.

      I don't remember anything after it happened.  Some people get drunk and do stupid shit and use the excuse that they don't remember as a way to justify their idiocy but for me it's the opposite.  I don't remember the morning after, I don't remember waking up next to him, don't remember his name, but there are parts I know, rather than remember.  I know what he tastes like and what hour he was born.  I don't remember how I know it, but I do.

      I don't remember when it happened, but something changed.  I don't remember why you left me when you did but I'm glad that you never came back.  I don't remember how painful it is to have a crush on someone for nearly three years and finally tell them you love them only to have them spit on your face and tell you that they don't swing that way.  I don't remember anything like that.  I don't remember the time I nearly drowned.  My parents told me about it, about how Dodi rushed into the little forging river (I don't remember, it may have been a stream) and dragged me from the frothy water to the safety of shore (I don't remember she may have just nipped at me until I got out of the water).  I don't remember getting my wisdom teeth out and I don't remember the second Harry Potter book at all, just that there was a snake and there were spiders.  I don't remember chutes and ladders - not even once.  I don't remember everyone who was at that Halloween party with the black candles and the Children of the Corn, but I have a very vivid memory of 'Amanda is bad' leaping out of the Ouija board and making everyone look at me as if I were some kind of murderer.

      I don't remember space travel.  I wish I did.  It's been years and years since my arrival on this planet and sometimes I don't even remember my real name and my real form.  I see a girl in the mirror, sometimes a boy, and I make words with my mouth but I don't remember the old words and the old ways and the smell of my people when they gathered in the divine hall.  I don't remember that anymore.  I thought I could close my eyes and see the skin - I don't remember the color - and that I could hear their voices - I don't remember how it sounded - and I thought that I could bring it all back one of these days but that was another life in another time and it is not me anymore.

      I don't remember the point.  Half of it is real; half of it is unreal and I'm caught between hating and loving and feeling hopeless and feeling outlandishly confident.  I don't remember if I took my medicine.  I don't remember if I said 'I love you' to the people who needed to hear it last night.  I don't remember to brush my teeth as often as I should and I feel bad because I just had them cleaned not long ago and sometimes when I eat sugar, the teeth hurt.  I don't remember the last time I felt really and truly useful and productive.  I don't remember the last time she smiled and meant it.

      Amanda LaFantasie © September 2012

      Sunday, September 9, 2012

      Queens and Pines it is!

      Further consideration has been paid to my top two (which is actually three).  Pine Manor College will be about $13,000 per year with all fees and what not added in.  They allow for cross-genre study but they do not offer screenplay and stage play writing as a genre.  This year, Poets & Writers rated this college  15th out of fifty (only 30 were ranked - the rest were given honorable mentions).  I have already written a very rough draft of the essay (about five pages worth) required to apply and I have three people who have agreed to write me letters of recommendation.  I am going to contact them and see about a fee waiver, but I am definitely applying for this institution.  It does require a culminating critical essay but I don't necessarily mind that.

      As for Queens, the process to apply is much simpler - I only need one letter of recommendation and a one page essay.  I am going to ask for a waiver for the application fee for this institution as well.  Hopefully one, if not both will grant me a waiver and that will help tremendously as I push forward in pursuit of the ever illusive MFA.  Also this college is ranked ranked 7th out of the fifty top low residency schools.  This is fairly attractive to me and it was only after my narrowing down that I even investigated rank.  I don't need prestige, but it's nice to know that one of my top picks was also in the top ten.  Also it does not require a culminating critical essay.  And on their website they have a great response to the 'do you require GRE for entrance?': We do not require GRE scores.  Standardized tests have nothing to do with creative writing. Damn right!

      The other college that I had looked at - and still really like - is Naropa, ranked 18th, and it has a beautiful and orderly yet rather involved application process.  They require not one, but two multi-page essays in addition to everything else needed to apply.  They also have the highest application fee.  I have decided not to apply at this time.  I am going to apply to Queens and PMC and after two weeks have passed, if I am rejected by both, I will finish up the essays needed to get on board for Naropa as I will still have time to do so.  This means however that I definitely need to get my ass in gear.  Hopefully one will accept me, maybe even both, but then I'll be faced with the decision of choosing yet again!  Oh well, if I'm accepted then maybe I can see what sort of financial aide I would be receiving on top of my admission and that might help seal the deal.  

      The thing I have to take into account now is the cost of travel and the mode of travel.  Just in general, I think bus fare is the cheapest but the prospect of going across America from the tip-top of Idaho all to the way to Massachusetts or North Carolina via bus is not a pleasant one.  I would prefer to fly, and therefore, time is of the essence because if I'm going to try and fly I need to get tickets ASAP.  Still, it's actually really exciting to even think about things like travel.  It means it's really happening.

      Wednesday, September 5, 2012

      Top Two and Getting Down to Business

      Converse College offers no real financial aide to grad students in the MFA program.  They have the cheapest tuition hands down and they do lend financial aide to students going to large conferences in order to meet authors and agents, etc.  They require only two letters of recommendation and they ask for a personal statement of up to two pages and have a specific prompt for this statement.  I did speak to a woman at the college today.  Things I like about this college are that they are inexpensive.  On the whole I believe that this one is definitely off the list.

      Queens University does not seem (as per what I can find on the website) to offer any financial assistance beyond the FAFSA.  I still need to talk to the college because they apparently offer fellowships.  They have inexpensive tuition.  They require a one page personal statement essay and they only require one letter of recommendation.  I was unable to get in touch with the appropriate parties today.  I know that this is a two year program but I do not know the credit total for the degree.  Things I like about this program are the 'one book/one editor/one semester' deal, and the Paradoxical Truth About Writing.

      Naropa does offer scholarships.  They require two letters of recommendation and a three to five page personal essay and a two to four page creative writing essay.  Both of these essays have prompts.  This college is located in Boulder, Colorado which I am rather familiar with.  The college itself is geared toward artistic and activist type personalities.  This program spans three years with residencies lasting a month each summer and the total of credits is 49.  I have requested supplemental information from Naropa as of today.  Things I like about this programs are the fact that it's in Colorado, the name of the Summer Writer's Program (Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poets), and the fact that they have so many scholarships for the SWP.

      Pine Manor College does offer scholarships and fellowships.  The personal essay (based on a specific prompt) can be up to, but should not exceed, five pages.  They also require three letters of recommendation.  This program spans two years and 60 credits.  Things I like about this college are: they are five miles from downtown Boston, they allow for cross-genre study in the second year, and they have alumni assistanceships to get experience in teaching at the seminars and workshops.  I have sent a request for more information as of today.

      I need to speak directly with all reps from all of these colleges but since I am leaning toward Naropa and PMC, my goals for Friday are to have written all three required essays (two for Naropa and one for PMC) and get the necessary information to three people for the letters of recommendation (three at the least).  For this week I may count the essays as part of my word count goal.  I am going to try and get out five thousand words every week while concentrating on my novel/s, however I am probably going to work primarily on grad school papers and polishing writing samples.  For both colleges the sample can be up to 25 double spaced pages.  For Naropa the sample can be cross-genre but for PMC it must be fiction.

      Tuesday, September 4, 2012

      The Top Four

      After deliberation I have narrowed down my potential colleges to four - one or two of which I will be applying for in the next week or so.  The bottom four colleges are ones that I like but the date for spring application has passed and so if it comes to it, I would have to start them in summer/fall.  I'm putting them on the back burner for now as I do have some pretty high hopes for the four that I've selected for further study.  PMC is about $6,000 per semester ($12K per year); CC is about $5,650 per semester ($11,300 per year); QU is about $6,300 per semester ($12,600 per year); and Naropa is about $12K per year.  All of them (unless I'm wrong) offer some sort of scholarships/fellowships/grad grants or some kind of financial assistance.  I get a really good feeling from all of them, hence my indecision.

      PINE MANOR COLLEGE: (Oct 15)


      VERMONT COLLEGE of FINE ARTS (Aug 15; Feb 15)
      LESLEY UNIVERSITY (Sept 1; March 1)
      WARREN WILSON COLLEGE: (Sept 1; March 1)
      I am going to call the top four universities/colleges tomorrow and ask about financial assistance, cross genre studies, letters of recommendation, letters of intent, total cost (any extra fees for residencies), and what sorts of things will help my chances of being accepted.  According this month's issue of Poets & Writers: PMC does not rank in selectivity and it ranks about 13th in fellowship placement.  Converse does not rank in selectivity either but does not rank at all in fellowship placement.  Queens is a bit better in ranking for fellowships (9th) but it is also on the upper end of selectivity (7th) which is not necessarily a bad thing, but doesn't make my job any easier either.  Naropa does not rank in fellowships but it does rank in selectivity, toward the lower end (18th), however, so it is not quite as intimidating. As for application fees: PMC - $50; CC - $40; QU - $45; and Naropa - $60.  It is feasible to apply for two, but a good deal of my selection will depend on the phone calls.  I need some assurance that I have a chance at more financial help than just what FAFSA based loans promise me.

      On another note, I just learned something kind of interesting.  The first two college picks on my list (PMC and CC) are women's colleges.  The MFA programs, however, are co-ed, but the fundamental institution is for women only. I hadn't really ever thought of applying to a women's  institution but it is beginning to appeal to me.  I know that there will be males in the MFA workshops, etc, but it's kind of a charming notion to go to a women's college.  The other two colleges are co-ed but have an overwhelmingly large female student body.  It seems that no matter which one I pick, I will most likely be surrounded by a majority of like minded women during the residencies.

      I've also decided to check out University of Alaska at Anchorage because I keep seeing it popping up as a great program and all but the website is kaput.  I figure it couldn't hurt to give them a call and just see if they still even have an MFA program and what sort of perimeters it has.