In T minus 4 days, I'm hopping a plane and flying to Pennsylvania for school, and I'm so excited, I might just wet myself.
Once upon a time, I was a writer. I wrote romance novels that truly sucked. I did improve over time and even ended up with a few of those wonderful "with edits, I'll reconsider" rejection letters, but I had given up on that path in 2005 when I had a one-year-old and found out I was preg-o with another. I thought I'd never have the chance to write again, so I might as well focus on my career as a software engineer. So I gathered all my files, all my notes, and all my disks and CDs, and I chucked them in the trash. I sobbed the whole time.
Cut to last year. In July or thereabouts, I was trying to decide what to do with my life. It was clear that I needed a Master's degree if I wanted to go anywhere with software engineering, but the thought of yet another technical degree made me want to sell everything, change my name to LulaJo, move to Arizona, and take up truck stop waitressing. When I considered a creative writing degree, I buzzed with anticipation. What a fun degree! And if I still couldn't get my stuff published, at least I could be a community college teacher. I'd be that wonderful, bitter, snarky type who assigns crappy homework with no understandable grading rubric and threatens the students with failure unless they put in at least four hours of study per night. Muwahahahaaa!
It was a dilemma, for sure, but I thought the computer science degree would be the more intelligent option. Then my husband pulled out several files of my writing ideas, charts, drafts, and rejection letters he'd rescued from the trash.
Decision made. Writing set me on fire. Computer science made me want to set fires.
I chose to apply to one program: the Writing Popular Fiction Master's degree program at Seton Hill University. I was actually in Crested Butte with Leslie, Audra, and T, watching the Witch Fire come within two miles of my SoCal home, when I got my acceptance e-mail. Bliss! Glory! Hallelujah!
My first residency was in January. It was amazing, surreal, wonderful, scary, fun, and so inspiring to be surrounded by talented and dedicated writers. My mentor in the program is a Nebula award-winning author. At residency, I had the chance to hear Donald Maass speak, and I learned plotting and writing tools that have become invaluable as I write and edit both my thesis (an urban fantasy) and my paranormal romance. I met horror authors I've read for years. I met the mystery writer Victoria Thompson, whose Texas historical romances made me fall in love with the romance genre. I talked books. I listened to published authors and their tips and tricks of the trade. I schmoozed with the amazing Maria Snyder and got to be a total fangirl. I listened to thesis presentations and delighted in knowing I'd see those books on shelves in just a few years because they were that amazing.
During this past term, several of the first-term students became good friends. We've squeed together, we've whined. We've fretted and brainstormed. They're a group of extremely talented women, and they form the first line of community for me at school. But that's one of the largest benefits I've seen so far: the community. Social events pepper the week of residency, and the mentors take part in the online discussion boards and monthly chat sessions. We are encouraged to get to know each other, to form connections of both the professional and personal flavors, and the reach is amazing.
In mere days, I'll be immersed once again in this fantastic program, surrounded by a strong community, learning amazing writing tools. And I. Can't. Wait. Part of it is the amazing experience of being a student (just check out the list of faculty members). But there's also a part of me who's so excited to be among the alumni of Seton Hill:
Next I'd like to discuss the importance of education (even beyond publication) and where you think are the best places to learn. I hope you'll join me tomorrow.