Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Next Chapter

I have been quiet about my plans post-Moscow, though I have made mention of the fact that I’m planning to leave. It may have seemed like I was just bumming around Russia with the occasional freelance project, but I actually have had a master plan behind the scenes.

This fall, I wasn’t just working part time and frequenting the banya. I was also agonizing over applications to MFA programs in Creative Writing. I was torturing myself (and my sisters) with endless drafts of writing samples and personal statements, and spending a small fortune on application fees. Fully-funded MFA programs have admit rates that make med school look easy to get into, so I applied to a dozen programs and braced myself for just as many rejections.

My first response was positive—I was told that I was #1 on the wait list for a wonderful program that only accepts four fiction writers a year. But then I got my first rejection. And my second. And my third, and my fourth, and my fifth. Though I have received many blows to my writing ego over the years, it was a lot to take at once. This was the first time I was showing my novel to strangers, and the response wasn’t encouraging.

But then last Tuesday, I got a game-changing email. It seemed my first choice program, one that admits less than one-half of 1% of applicants, wanted to fund me to write for the next three years. Even better, they “absolutely loved” my novel excerpt, and “can’t wait to read the rest.” I screamed in shock, I screamed in relief, and then I called my sister in Bellingham so I could wake her up with further screams of elation. A celebration was clearly in order, so I drank a bottle of Crimean wine with my flatmates and signed my acceptance contract before it could be rescinded.

After four years abroad, it looks like I am finally repatriating. So where does one go after spending two years each in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Spain, and Russia?

Austin, Texas!

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