[The following is an excerpt from my application to an MFA creative writing program.]
I was hosing down the photenias on a hot summer evening when my nine year-old daughter tugged on my belt. “Dad?” she said.
“What, Angel?” I glanced down at her, but my attention was on the bushes.
“If your mom and dad were alive, how come you were in an orphanage?”
I managed an answer, but Jenn’s electric question had surfaced long buried issues. Around this time, I had a compulsion to read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden—not just read but fully comprehend. I dug into the novel but kept backtracking for some undefined message. I studied the biblical scripture referenced in the book. I rented the Jane Seymour miniseries, synchronized it with my reading and plowed through to the heady revelation that free will empowers us to break the bonds of cultural and genetic determination. I then began researching my family history, and writing.
Reading Steinbeck helped me understand humanity at a deeper level. I have read most of his work, some titles more than once. I’ve read his published letters and the journal he kept while writing East of Eden. I’ve read the Benson biography of Steinbeck and have participated in on-line discussions about him and his work. No book has attracted me so mysteriously or affected me as profoundly as East of Eden.
I later discovered Raymond Carver and studied his life and story technique with a similar zeal. As with Steinbeck, Carver’s devotion to the concerns of the working class resonates with my core.
Since the summer of ’89, I’ve taken writing classes, attended workshops and written with an increasing level of energy and interest. I had known since Freshman Composition, when I was knocking the lid off the grade curve, that I had at least some talent for writing but no compelling reason—such as exploring the questions evoked by children with living parents being raised by the state.
My background is diverse, personally and professionally. I was an accomplished musician in high school yet turned down two music scholarships. I served six years in the Marine Corps Reserves. I raised two daughters and have a grandchild. I’ve been married and divorced twice, the second triggering a devastating emotional collapse. My lengthy career in public accounting and corporate finance has taken me into the boardrooms of giant multinational corporations. I have traveled far and wide, domestically and abroad. I managed a $250 million corporate cash portfolio. I spent two weeks in Moscow during the Cold War. I spent eighteen months working and volunteering for a minority-managed nonprofit concerned with HIV-AIDS.
Before switching to business, I majored in biology. Like Steinbeck, I see the world through the eyes of a biologist and have a passion for social justice. I also have exceptional depth in economics and business. I have observed, with great curiosity and a no small disappointment the interplay during my lifetime of politics, art, capitalism and socialism. (We can do so much better.)
My undergraduate performance at UT Arlington was checkered at best, but there were reasons. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from the beatings I received and witnessed at the Texas children’s home where I was raised. I’ve had years of treatment, and my postgraduate GPA is close to 4.0, including 21 credit hours in creative writing. I am confident that I can thrive in most academic environments.
In addition to college classes I have attended more than seventy hours of writing workshops with Elizabeth Rosner, a former instructor in the USF creative writing program. I have received individual instruction from her as well. It was she who recommended your program to me.
Peripheral to writing, I have been a member of Writer’s West, an Alameda writing group, for the last three years. I also attend and often read at various Bay Area literary events, such as Why There Are Words in Sausalito, Pints ‘n Prose in Fairfax and Julie’s Café in Alameda. I have a site at RedRoom.com where I share my stories and poetry and blog about literature. I submit regularly to literary magazines.
Last year I e-published a book of nature poems. This year I plan to publish a story collection titled Birdboy:Ten Stories from an American Orphanage. Seven of these are complete, but only three are in top shape. Two have been published in literary magazines.
Longer term, I will complete a novel, or novels, based on my cohorts at the orphanage and the heros who made their struggle more bearable. Nothing short of significant literary accomplishment will do them justice. Still, it’s not prizes or money that drive me so much as the knowledge that my story extends beyond me and my cohorts to all unwanted, parentless kids.
I chose your program because it is nearby and well recommended. An MFA program is a rapid way to acquire the necessary craft and technique to achieve my goals. The peer fellowship and support are a bonus, as is the opportunity to teach, accelerating the learning. It’s hard to imagine a better way than teaching to pay the bills until books can take over.
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