Low-Residency MFA Programs

When I started this blog, my intention was to post something — a column, musing, photograph, video, etc. — every day. Knowing where my travels often take me, I knew it wouldn’t be wise to promise a daily entry. But I will always make my best effort. For the last two days, I’ve been without internet at my house. Electrical power, cell service, and internet can be “iffy” in Martinsdale. High winds knock out power lines. There are no cell phone towers in sight. Maybe the cold weather and snow up high had something to do with it? Naw, probably not, but when it snows in mid-June it sure seems like a good thing to blame your problems on… not that being out-of-the-cyber-loop is a true problem. And, no matter the season, I LOVE snow! So all is well.

Chloe says, "How many times do I have to hear this???"

Chloe says, “How many times do I have to hear this???”

Although, Chloe does seem bored by my decision to write (indoors) instead of walk (outside) in the chilly rain/hail/snow. I took a break from the memoir-writing to work on a piece of short fiction, and I’m enjoying it. I can’t say the same for Chloe — when I write, I read everything out loud over and over again. If Chloe’s snoring is any indication of my foray into fiction, I’m in real trouble.

People have been asking about my decision on grad school, so I’ll give you a quick update here. Because of too many unknowns in my life at the moment, I decided to defer admission to the Iowa State University MFA program. The offer is very exciting, and the school has a one-of-a-kind “creative writing and the environment” focus, so going through the pros and cons of relocating (when I already have two houses 1800 miles apart to maintain) was challenging. But I do feel good about the decision. And it’s good to have an option in place for next year.

Since I applied for the traditional MFA programs way back in December, I’ve learned about low-residency MFA programs from several professional writers who have attended these schools. I am looking into this as another option which would allow me to write from anywhere (Indiana, Montana, Texas, Bolivia, you name it!). My desire is to write, and I want as much direct guidance as possible. I have heard these programs have an intensive focus on both the quality and quantity of writing put out daily, pushing and supporting writers through the entire book-making process. Most of these programs require students to come on site for 10 days to 2 weeks in January and July before the start of each semester (working year-round for 2-3 years depending on the program). During those hard-core workshopping sessions, the writer picks a mentor to work with for that semester (or for the entire program). After the writer leaves campus, they send in packets of work to their mentor. Most of the programs require at least 40 hours per week of writing to complete the MFA in 2 years. Right now I am looking at schools such as Stonecoast, Vermont College of Fine Arts, the Rainier Writing Workshop, and the University of Alaska. I am still researching all of these and more. Many of the programs have both fall and spring deadlines so I hope to get some applications in by September, and then, once again, wait and wait for acceptance letters (why not be optimistic?). Acceptances to these programs are just as competitive as the traditional MFA’s so I am aware I will need patience in the process. If I can get a short story completed by September, I might apply in both fiction and non-fiction. I also need to write a critical essay — I am reading Rick Bass’ “All the Land to Hold Us” right now, hoping to write about literature and a sense of place. It’s been YEARS (University of Montana, 1994) since I wrote an essay like this. We’ll see how it goes.

I began this blog a few weeks ago to help with my memoir-in-progress. I hoped writing quick “bits” about my relationships with my dogs, my parents, the outdoors, friends, etc. would help give me new direction. Writing about being a caregiver for my parents has been difficult. I miss them so much, and putting myself in front of a computer in their lifelong home to reflect on our last years together guts me… over and over again. I thought the blog would be a good change of pace. I wrote a column for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana for 10 years, and I loved it (thanks, Mike!). Coming here to a String of Dogs takes me back to those column-writing days. And it feels like home. I thank YOU for reading!