Home … Always Home

Huh … so much for that ‘update more often once grad school is done’ I promised myself. Let’s just start off with an update and see how things go from there.

The world is ending! But we seem to be handling that pretty well.

Luckily the town we live in is rural so we’ve had zero problems getting food of any sort. In fact, a lot of the local farmers have put things together for ease of ordering so we are getting fresh veggies and stuff on a regular basis. I think our fridge is packed more now than it usually is. We’ve also made Friday nights our ‘Order from a local joint and movie’ night. It’s been nice, as far as the world falling down around us.

The private college I work for went Work From Home a few weeks back. All our classes are online for the rest of the semester and apparently through the summer. This is a bit weird for me. I’m a tech support guy. My official title is Workstation Support Communications Administrator, which is a really fancy way of saying “I fix computers and make sure words look good”. But it’s very hard to fix computers when you aren’t on campus nor is anyone else. So I spend a lot of time these days emailing professors and troubleshooting stuff via email or the occasional remote desktop. And a lot of Google Hangout meetings.

On the plus side, my home office is now out on our four seasons porch. I’m surrounded by a ton of windows, plenty of sunlight, and lots of fresh air. It’s not bad all things considered. It’s taken me a bit of get used to the ‘at home’ discipline but I’m getting there. My at-home coworkers, however, can be a pain in the ass sometimes.



Well, it took 2.5 years but I finally found one of those diplomas with my name on it. This week (Wednesday afternoon, actually), I was awarded my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

To summarize up the week – tons of stress for my thesis presentation and defense on Saturday night (with Steph using FaceTime to attend), a sense of ‘well now what?’ for the rest of the week, capped off by a nice graduation ceremony. We had a wonderful speech by my classmate Kathleen Jackson but more importantly for me, Steph was able to fly out for graduation.

Corey, Me, Molly
Jenn, Caitlyn
Sarah, Anna
The Pres of Seton Hill, Louise, Kathleen, Therese

It’s a bit of a surreal feeling, a sentiment many of my cohort shared. The last couple of years have been nothing but this program. Writing pages to turn into critique partners. Marking up other pages to give feedback. Tons of reading, analyzing, creating lesson plans, and essays and thesis statements.

And now? Nothing.

My time is mine. No homework. No pages or critique partners. It’s all up to me.

I won’t complain. The Writing Popular Fiction program has been wonderful for me. I’ve picked up a lot, learned even more about writing, and surprised myself by being open to teaching. Maybe that’s on the horizon, maybe it’s not. But I regret nothing and would gladly do it again. Just … not right away.

So what’s my plan? Right now, it’s to take a little break. I really haven’t had time for ‘me’ since the program has started. I want to read books again for pleasure. I intend to tighten up Everest (my thesis) and then fire it off to agents to see what sort of reaction it gets. I also have plans for another novel that I’m sketching out now. So I’ve got a lot ahead of me here and I’m looking forward to it.

Rather than end with some sort of moving or encouraging or fitting words, I just have to admit I’m all out of words right now. So have some pictures from graduation.

What’s more amazing? That I got an MFA or that I was second across the stage?
My mentor Scott Johnson and his wonderful kilt.
My mentor Maria V. Snyder.

Class Dismissed

Today is the final day of my final class in grad school.

Well, technically, at least. I turned in my final portfolio last week and it was graded the next day. I passed. Pretty anti-climatic if you ask me. But hey, after 2.5 years of stress, it’s kind of nice to have a little blandness.

All that remains is for me to practice my thesis reading (it’s not so much a defense as a presentation) and go to residency in a few weeks. That’s where the big stuff happens. Looking forward to it.

The End is Nigh

Grad school is almost done. There are days when I feel like I should be wearing a sandwich board and walking around shouting “The end is nigh!” But honestly, mostly I just feel relief. A lot of pressure off my back.

What has grad school been like? Well, to be honest – busy. Time consuming. All encompassing. Let me break down how the program works:

Every student must write a thesis which is a novel. They must produce between 20-40 pages per month that they then submit to their mentors (you have two – one for the first two semesters, one for the final three) and 2 – 3 critique partners. You are also responsible for critiquing and providing feedback for your critique partners. You should have your thesis finished by your third semester so that you can go through revisions in the fourth and fifth semesters.

In addition, you are taking a class. For the first three semesters, those are Readings in Genre. I took Classic Fantasy, Noir Mystery, and Thrillers. The fourth semester is Teaching Popular Fiction which culminates in you actually teaching a class during residency. The fifth semester is Writing About Popular Fiction which encompasses a lot of stuff about readers, understanding the market, query letters, and so forth.

Twice a year (June and January), we go out to Seton Hill and have a week long residency. Lots of classes, lectures, and other stuff. If you are a graduating student, you get to present/defense your thesis. That’s what I am preparing to do now. Whole lotta speaking practice.

My entire brain has been wrapped up in this program. During the teaching semester, I actually used all of my vacation to take time off for studying (an hour per day spread out over the semester). All of this and I’m also working a 40+ hour/week job.

And it’s coming to an end. Cliche as it may be, there is a heavy weight lifting from my shoulders. Each week, it gets a little easier. What comes next? I’m not entirely sure. Another revision on my thesis and then send it out to market. I’ve had some short conversations with the college I work for about teaching classes and I might follow up on that. I don’t know just yet. Somewhere in there, we’re going to find time for a vacation. Steph and I haven’t been able to do more than a weekend away since the program started 2.5 years ago. I think we’ve both earned it.

A very long journey but one that I am happy to have made.