Grad school, for real this time

It’s time to stop talking about it and do it.

I haven’t wanted to talk publicly about my return to grad school until I was more sure. After all, I’ve been hemming and hawing about this for at least two years, but I’ve found every excuse not to take the plunge.

Then the pandemic happened and my career in the arts took a plunge instead. I reached out to Western Colorado University, where my admission had still been deferred, and they welcomed me with open arms — to classes that began a week later.

Western’s Creative Writing program is completed remotely, with the exception of a two-week intensive each summer. (I’m pursuing the MFA, which means two years and three summers.)

Typically the summer intensive takes place on Western’s campus in Gunnison, Colorado, but this year the intensive has moved online as well.

(I’m really concerned that you’ll think I made that ^^ myself. I didn’t!)

I still have all of the same misgivings that I had back when I wrote my pros and cons list, but they’re functional, transactional, practical. (Money, for instance, is chief among them.) My heart, on the other hand, is all in. This is something that I want for myself.

As of today, I have finished the first week of the intensive and have headed into the second. I’m exhausted and over the moon. Perhaps you can see a bit of both feelings in my face in the picture below — I asked Dan to snap this one after I purchased the first dozen of many dozens of books I’m required to (oh no!) devour with joy over the next two years.

P.S. If you’d like to help me with my list of books, let me know! In addition to the syllabus for each class, the MFA students have a ~100 book reading list we need to complete before graduation. I had several collections on my shelves already and have added this stack, but I have a way to go still.

If you happen to have any of these on your shelves, or would like to send a copy my way (used is more than fine, I like to write in them!), here is a small sample of my need-to-find-in-no-hurry list:

Li-Young Lee, The City in Which I Love You
Lucille Clifton, Blessing the Boats
Yusef Komunyakaa, Magic City
Yusef Komunyakaa, Dein Cai Dau
Sherman Alexie, One Stick Song
Jimmy Santiago Baca, Martin and Meditations on the Southern Valley
Jimmy Santiago Baca, Black Mesa Poems
Lorna Dee Cervantes, Emplumada
Countee Cullen, Collected Poems
Linda Hogan, Dark, Sweet: New and Collected Poems
Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (thank you Jenny!)
Juan Felipe Herrera, Half the World in Light
Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead
Terrance Hayes, How to be Drawn
Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler

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3 thoughts on “Grad school, for real this time

  1. Erica, I’m so excited for you and also really glad that you wrote a post about this. I’ve similarly hemmed and hawed, and also have had the same pragmatic concerns (and the feeling that my heart is ALL IN). That you’re also doing this gives me a lot of courage and happiness. Happy reading! (I’ve only got 3 books so far, before September begins, and I’m about halfway through the first…)

    1. Angela, I am so excited we are on this journey together. Who knows what the world will look like in a year or two? No matter what’s to come, we’re going to need the poets and the storytellers, and I’m glad those people are US. Happy reading to you too, and keep me posted on how your program is going!

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