Here’s an extended version of my MFA acceptance story I told last night at our program dinner to the other writers at my table. They asked when I mentioned that I only knew I was coming to the residency two weeks ago. So, I told them this story….
I told them how I called the director of the program six years ago, about eight months after I had my first son. After Will was born, I’d quit my job (there was no possible way I could leave my new baby, I explained to the other mothers in my group who nodded knowingly), and I was searching for my next move. I knew I would have to return to work eventually and I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been. (As if staying at home with your child wasn’t enough! Those other mothers chimed in.) I called Queens because since I’d been at home with Will, I’d started writing again. I had always written journals and made up stories in my head, but I never wrote with the intention of being published. Will and I were cocooned at home, isolated from the rest of the world and I suddenly had so much to say so I started writing. I also began lamenting the fact that I hadn’t discovered this passion after college where I could have gone directly for my MFA. (I was conveniently forgetting the fact that I’d been so happy to finish school, I’d hurried home to spend my days at the beach and my nights as a hostess in the local seafood restaurant, never even pushing myself toward the more lucrative position of a waitress.) If only, I kept thinking, if only I’d applied to an MFA program, somewhere fabulous like Iowa or NYU……but it’s too late now. I told myself. Then I began reading about low-residency programs and discovered there was one in North Carolina. I could be a writer, I realized with a quickening in my chest, I could stay at home and take care of my child and make money! So, I called the director at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. After talking to the director, (Michael Kobre) I sadly, but realistically, realized I wasn’t ready. And so I signed up for classes at The Citadel.
In the six years since, I began subscribing to writing magazines; I began sending out submissions to skirt! Magazine repeatedly until after three tries, I was published. I interned at Crazyhorse, the literary magazine for the College of Charleston, I got a job editing the blog for Literary Mama, and began to write a column for The Writer Mama zine. In the six years since, I have found my writers voice. So, when it was time to enroll in my summer class (Modern Grammar) at The Citadel (where I’ve been plugging away part time at my MAT in English), I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I got sick instead, and came down with the cold my younger son Miles was recovering from. (I think it was fate.) I got a fever of 101 and physically couldn’t go to grammar. Home all week with that terrible cold, I began playing around on the Queens website. I’d missed the application deadline by two months. In my feverish state, I wrote an email to the director, telling him how I felt about writing and asked if there was any way he would consider a very late application. Telling no one (not my husband, my mother or children) what I was doing, I hit send. I told myself that if he emailed back and said thanks anyway but we’re all filled up, try again later!, that I would return to my grammar class and my MAT at The Citadel. That was the deal I made with myself and I went to bed feeling satisfied.
In the morning I rushed to the computer where there, in my in-box, was a response. My computer was moving in slow motion and my heart was in my throat as I waited for the email to open. When it did, I got the answer I was hoping for. Mr. Leebron (off-campus director) told me my email was so compelling that they would use it for my application. “Send us 25 pages of your writing” he wrote, “and we’ll let you know by Monday at the latest.” In less than two hours, I sent an essay and the book proposal from Dreaming About Water. And I waited. I still didn’t tell anyone. Why should I? There was no need to say anything until I knew if I was accepted.
I checked my email all day that Monday. There was nothing from Queens University. By 10pm, I was sure that I’d been rejected. I resigned myself to studying modern grammar. At least I tried, I told myself. The day crept by slowly, everything felt flat and ordinary. I snapped at the kids to, “clean up the playroom!” And to, “turn off the TV!” I didn’t cook dinner, I was too tired. But on Tuesday morning there was an email from Queens in my in-box. I could hardly breathe. It felt like waiting to walk back into the bathroom and check to see if there were 2 blue lines on the home pregnancy test. I opened the email and read. I’d been accepted into the creative non-fiction program at Queens University and was due in Charlotte, NC in two weeks! I looked across the table at my fellow classmates and watched as they smiled for me. Wow, they said. What a great story! I nodded my head because it is; it is a really good story with a very happy ending.