A little over four years ago, I finally made up my mind to get that MFA in Creative Writing. Had already been thinking about it for a few years by that point. So I researched 100+ programs, narrowed it down to 6 that I really liked, took the GRE and ordered transcripts and wrote the six different personal statements (250 word, 500 word, 2-page, 4-page--they all wanted something different). Filled out the online applications and picked my writing samples and sent it all out. And then I waited.
And during the wait to hear if I'd get in, something funny happened. A friend called and told me there was this job that might be perfect for my wife and I. Well, I know that writing is pretty subjective, meaning that even if my writing was stupendous, an admissions committee could think "nah--not interested." Could be they just read six first-person stories about a kid stealing milk on the way to Grampa's 90th birthday party and mine is the seventh. And that's it. Rejection.
Knowing the chances were pretty good that I wouldn't get in anywhere, we went ahead and applied for that job--managing a hostel in Redwood National Park. Got an interview and then we were offered the job before I heard from any of the six programs. So we had to make that choice: say no and hold out for grad school, say yes and then back out if I get in, or commit to the job. We took that last choice and packed up that short UHaul for the drive to the Redwoods.
And wouldn't you know, a few weeks later my top two choices called to offer me a spot in their Fall 2006 MFA classes. By that point, we were already here and loving life: free lodging and a salary to boot, to welcome people to a 100-year old pioneer homestead just a 3-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean and minutes from the world's tallest living things. I wondered if I would kick myself later when I had to say no, but our time here has been amazing.
Unfortunately, the hostel is now closing due to the National Park (which owns the building) not being able to put in the estimated $1.6 million it needs (and we're a nonprofit--we barely break even each year, so we don't have any spare change of that magnitude). Even if the hostel wasn't closing, it would still probably be time to move on to a new adventure. It's only for so long that you can answer the same questions with a certain level of enthusiasm that makes the guest feel like they aren't the 1000th person in the past 3 years to ask "What's your favorite trail?" or "So how did you get this job?" (More on the hostel closing here and here.)
While here at the hostel, I started taking classes part-time at nearby Humboldt State in their Master of Arts program in Teaching Writing. Three years later, I'm just about done--should be graduating May 15. But the focus is on teaching, not writing. And even then, the teaching is of basic composition (i.e. English 100), not short stories and novels and screenplays and poems and so on. So I've applied again for the MFA in Creative Writing. This time I only applied to two schools--the programs that I absolutely want to go to. I should be hearing from them sometime in the next 2-to-6 weeks. So, yeah. Wish me luck.
And by the way, I will not be applying for any jobs before I hear back from those two schools.