Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scintella Project Day 2

So, I'm doing (attempting?) The Scintella Project again this year. It's only day 2 and I'm already a day behind, but here it is:

The prompt I chose:
Tell a story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, etc.).

1. Get an MFA if you want, but don't expect to ever make any money off of it. It might help you get a more prestigious job down the road, but ultimately they're just looking at your publications. So get the MFA for its own sake--for paid time to write. In my opinion, that word "paid" is key. I only applied to fully funded programs--I have enough loans from undergrad--if I pay for another degree, it'll be one that earns me money. This MFA won't.

2. I applied only to fully funded three-year-programs. MFA programs tend to be either two or three years. There are also a fair number of low-residency programs. Three years made the most sense for me for a bunch of reasons. The main one was that if I had to move again, probably to somewhere I wouldn't want to stay after I graduated, then I wanted to move for long enough to make it worth moving. In my late 20's, I felt like I'd already moved for the hell of it enough times: I left Minneapolis, where I'd grown up, and went to Bard, in upstate New York. I took a semester off of undergrad and went to Seattle, then back to Bard to finish my degree. After undergrad, moved to Portland, which I loved, except I was nannying, working as a barista, and writing grants for a non-profit. And I didn't have healthcare, much less time to write. I started looking for full-time work, which didn't exist in Portland at that time, for someone just out of college, with my (limited) skill set. So I started applying for jobs back in NYC, where many of my friends from college were, and suddenly I had five job interviews lined up. So I went for it. I was in NYC for nearly two years before I went for the MFA.

3. I ended up at Syracuse University. I was miserable in a lot of ways:
  • I was dealing with some huge medical shit, having just been diagnosed with a brain tumor my neurosurgeon said had probably been there since I was in utero. I had no symptoms and he decided to leave it alone. I had surgery the following summer since as he pointed out, I was in graduate school and had the time. I went through radiation that summer and played a lot of Scrabble with my Brooklyn roommate Laurice.
  • I was also miserable because I knew I didn't really want to get an MFA, but I didn't know what the hell else to do.
So I spent three years in Syracuse, NY, and when I got out of school, I realized I wanted to be a middle school/high school English teacher. Teaching in local schools in Syracuse, pushing in to the regular classes and working in after school and summer programs, was one of the best things I got to do in grad school. I taught with some awesome people in my MFA program who I wouldn't have gotten to know so well otherwise (poets, no less!), who are probably the closest friends  I took out of that experience (Micha and Gerry, I'm talking about you!).

4. After I got my MFA, I moved back to Brooklyn and became a teacher. After three years of teaching in NYC, I was able to get a teaching job in Portland, and I moved back here and have been happy here every since.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Janelle Monee is so cool