Archive for September, 2007

MA Programs in the UK

An extensive list of master’s programs in Creative Writing, which took too many days worth mentioning out of my poor little life, to sift through every university website I could find in the UK, and whittle them down to the ones offering writing postgrad degrees… Crossing them out as I decide which ones are not for me…  Subjectivity!

 University of Wales, Aberystwyth

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and Chelmsford

Bangor University (two years FT)

Bath Spa University

University of Bolton (PT, no info on web yet)

Brunel University, Uxbridge and London (MA–The Novel)

University of Cambridge (Pembroke College) (Sadly, all e-mails to Pembroke were returned by the Mailer Demon)

Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Thanet, Tunbridge Wells and Chatam

Cardiff University

University of Chester (creative and critical writing)

University of Chichester

City University, London

University of Cumbria

De Montfort University, Leicester (online, creative writing and new media)

University of East Anglia

University of Edinburgh

University of Essex, Colchester and Southend-on-Sea (MA in Lit, predominantly creative writing)

University of Exeter

University of Glasgow

University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham and Gloucester (Creative and Critical Writing)

University of Hull, Hull and Scarborough

University of Kent, Canterbury and Medway (Part Time, will be full)

Kingston University

Lancaster University

Leeds Metropolitan University (screenwriting)

Goldsmiths, University of London

Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham

Loughborough University

University of Manchester

Manchester Metropolitan University

Newcastle University

Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle

Nottingham Trent University

University of Oxford (part time)

University of Plymouth

University of Portsmouth

Queen’s University, Belfast

Roehampton University, London (creative and professional writing)

University College Falmouth (professional writing)

University of St. Andrews

Sheffield Hallam University

University of Southampton

University of Sussex, Falmer and Brighton

Swansea University (creative and media writing)

University of Teesside, Middlesbrough

Thames Valley University (Creative screenwriting)

Trinity College, Carmarthen

University of Warwick, Coventry

University of Winchester (creative and critical writing)

York St John University (Literature studies and creative writing)

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After I graduated with a BFA, I wanted to get my MFA.  My University didn’t have an MFA program at the time, meaning I had to wait at least one year.  I considered getting another bachelor’s degree in interpreting.  I considered going out of state to find an MFA.  I had so many considerations, my dad said, Then get a job.  So I got a job.  I bought a house.  Probably for the best.  Put down roots for a while, relax, let the university flow out of me as the universe flowed through me. 

 When I started my job, I knew it was good for the time.  It’s what I needed.  Someplace with good people where I could do research and write, on occasion, in between the more troublesome patrons.  I knew it wouldn’t be “forever”, and I was just waiting for the sign.  Which I got, like a kick in the pants, this summer.  Time to move on.  Do you really want to work two jobs for the rest of your life?  Aren’t you sort of, I hate to say it, bored?  I never get bored!  The only time I get bored is when there’s something mindless that needs doing.  But I’m bored with the mild mindless messes that need doing.  I bored with some of the people.  They never change.  I feel like I’m getting too old for this… 

 Looking through my high school stuff the other day, I came across a brochure from 1995 which listed how much, on average,  a person in Nebraska should be making with a high school diploma, or a bachelor’s degree.  With my degree, I make less than people with a high school diploma.  Huh?  Wait, wait, wait. 

 So I’m looking to shake things up a little.  This is not what I wanted to do with my life.  Being practical, I know I have to make money somehow.  I have to have a job.  I’m too practical!  But even though I don’t know what my life will look like, and I’m Content, that evil word which causes complacency, I know this isn’t quite it.  Scary as it sounds, I want to break out of the expectations set by my family.  No one I know has done anything like I have aspirations for…  So I always just piddle along, waiting, because there’s no precedent.  Well, no more!  So what there’s no road.  Even though I don’t like ticks, I’ll battle my way through the underbrush.  Because there’s gotta be more than this…  A family and a home and a contented life, that’s something you settle for, or come back to.  It’s not something you start with.  Yet I somehow managed it. 

I hadn’t realized that the reason my family let me get a BFA in the first place was because they figured I’d just do the same thing my sister did–she’s “perfect”, literally, even by name.  And she has a degree.  She has a family, hubbie, three kids, a dog, a house, same job she had in high school.  She should be retiring by the age of forty, I think, because she technically started there when she was about fourteen.  Eleven more years, they should give her a hefty retirement package!  But I don’t want the hubbie, three kids, the dog, and the same job…  I left that job!  Woo hoo!  I rejoiced!  I have the house, so I’ve proved I don’t need anything else to take care of myself.  I wouldn’t mind a dog–when I decide where I’m going to be.  I guess I’ve been putting off getting a dog, because I know deep down, this is not where I’m supposed to be, even if I do have a mortgage. 

No matter how frustrated I get looking into these programs, no matter how daunting the financial situation looks, I must strive onwards!  Scary?  You bet it is!  But I need to forge the way for those nieces and nephew, for the poor cousins who are expected to be “perfect” like my sister who set precendent.  Be good, be perfect, be a housewife… 

There’s something else out there; I just have to find it.  Maybe this will be my biggest regret in life, getting a higher education 🙂  I certainly hope so!  (The evil part of my brain says: Hopefully you can hack it, boyo.  You’ve never studied a day in your life, just got on by sheer intelligence.) 

Shut up, brain.  I’m following my heart.



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Friday started poorly.  It started Thursday.  Sickness is never a good way to start the only day a week I get off of work.  Why oh why do I work six days a week?  It’s starting to really get to me.  No time to myself.  And that’s only compounded when the single day off is commandeered…

I don’t plan to marry or have children.  Marry, maybe.  Children, I can’t.  I can’t take care of my family that I do have, so how can I take care of children?  I don’t have time, or energy, unless I foresake everything I’ve worked toward and just give everything to my children.  I found that out when Hannah was a kid.  I was just her play toy.  She wanted to read; we read!  But under the ideal circumstances, I wouldn’t mind marrying.  As long as I had time, and could go places, and have my own interests.  I could never define myself by a husband.  And I wouldn’t want him to do so, either.  He couldn’t just sit at home and wait for me to come back.  (I say that like I’m outgoing… and there is something in me that is… that was suppressed… because I used to be… and then someone told me… and I believed them… because I’m stupid that way…) 

I’m not meant to take care of my family.  I have that responsibility gene.  I have that guilt trip.  I love my family.  I want to be there for them. 

But I can’t give myself up.  I haven’t even been myself yet, so how can I subvert myself, and just take care of someone else?  How could women do that way back when, when they married right away, the age of sixteen or so, and just take care of another?  Of course, those were different circumstances. 

Friday my grandpa was in the hospital.  I’m Grandpa’s girl, so I was more than willing to take care of things.  My parents were in North Carolina.  He had a possible kidney stone.  Thankfully not heart related.  I voted to say nothing to my parents.  We spread the word to the family around here.  And Friday I was the one to take Grandma to the hospital, then take her to dinner, then take them home.  Lost the day. 

I have problems when I lose my Friday.  It’s my only day that’s mine to do with as I please.  Every other day is spoken for. 

The little old lady in the parking lot said rude things and made awful gestures at me in the rearview mirror.  I didn’t get anything done, and I’d so been looking forward to it, my first Friday without a roomie.  My first Friday all summer.  Summer gone, whispered along, and whisked itself out the door.  I came to on the first day of autumn to find summer gone, find a friend gone, and I said, I gotta do something for myself, I gotta get back to that darn novel! 

But at least I got to talk to my cousin about some serious things that have been on my mind.  Student loans, as I’ve never had any.  Scholarships.  Subletting.  Oh, such important things.  Before I turn bitter at the roots.



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I swear, families exist in order to withhold information.  As children, they tell you what they think you need to know–or what they think you can handle.  For instance, when I was a kid, I watched Gremlins right after it came out.  I was four years old!  But mogwai are cute, right?  So it’s a kid’s movie…  So said my mother.  She hadn’t seen it.  (She’s also the reason I can’t watch Star Wars–I toddled in at the age of three just in time to see the teddy bear bite the dust.)  By the time I was four, I knew there wasn’t a Santa Claus. Which my parents worked so hard to perpetuate, Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy.  Christmas Eve, I couldn’t sleep.  I laid in bed in my yellow room with the door mostly closed, except a tiny crack, and I tried to sleep, but my brain knew this was a momentus night.  And too early for Santa.  I’d been asking questions at that point–how does Santa get to deliver our presents if we don’t have a chimney?  Does he really eat the cookies we leave out, or does he put them back in the Tupperware?  So there I lay.  And I heard a rustle.  A crinkle of paper, a crackle of garbage bags.  My parents in their bedroom whispering.  And I fell asleep, content in my knowledge that there was something fishy going on, and Gremlins was right. 

The next morning, I tiptoed into my sister’s bedroom and asked her what I should do.  She told me it made our parents happy that we thought there was a Santa Claus, so we shouldn’t tell them I knew the truth.  Well, she didn’t tell me when it would be okay to come clean, so even when I was thirteen, fourteen, and helping wrap presents from “Santa”, I still kept my mouth shut.  When I was fourteen, my sister went to the Czech Republic and Greece over Easter, and I played Easter Bunny for my parents, because someone had to do it! 

I didn’t want them to be unhappy…

 Tonight I called my grandma.  We’d just been talking today about ornery old people, and of course, Grandpa is always top of the list!  After talking for a few minutes, she informs me that GP is in the emergency room.  Well, that’s a shocker.  Informs me that he’s been having some health problems all week…  Had an MRI earlier.  If I hadn’t called, no one would have told me anything!  Until, of course, my uncle called late tonight to let me know that I might have to take Grandma to visit tomorrow (kidney stone; they’re keeping him over night).  At that point, I still knew nothing other than that he was in the emergency room, and my uncle expected me to know everything that’s been going on all week! 

Now I know you don’t always want your family to worry, but when there’s an impending health problem… you might just give a hint.  I guess if my parents were in town this week that they’d know…  but with them gone, I’m out of the loop, my sister’s out of the loop, we were loopless, but now we’re loopy. 

And I was in such an ornery good mood earlier.  Then tired.  Then stressed.  Now, stressed.  And frustrated, because I haven’t gotten any typing done tonight…  At least I got a little writing done earlier this afternoon.  Gorgey afternoon.  Laying on the lounge chair outside, my neighbor’s cat came up, pushed my arm out of the way, crawled underneath me, took my spot.  For shame! 

My goal is still to find a way to combine comic/humorous writing, and something a little deeper.  Because there is just something MISSING from traditional humorous writing.  That element which makes you care so much for a character that if they stub their toe, you’ll cry. 



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Dream of Sloth

So I had a dream of the most irresponsible person I know.  If you need to know anything about here, it’s simple: She would not be happy until she was pregnant, and then she’d be miserable.  Which is exactly what happened, oddly enough.  I am clairvoyant!  I predicted this… based on her behavioral patterns.  Easy to do, actually.  She’s also, well, lazy? 

 In the dream, she turned her eyes on me, and started noticing places and times where I slacked off.  I couldn’t reason with her, because I didn’t want to bring up her own shortcomings.  I tried to help with work, and she would turn to me and narrow her eyes, and I would realize I’d slacked all night, and she noticed.  She started taking notes.  Bad Dawn! 

So I ran upstairs and tried to close the top floor, but there were a hundred and twenty people up there for classes, and this girl followed me, and hurried, to try to beat me, so she could say I hadn’t done anything.  A competition to see who could get fired first!  So I hurried and begged, I said, Please, I’m already up here, go close another floor, I’m taking care of up here.  And she rushed for me as we turned the corner and found another co-worker…  I grabbed her arm as she got too close and spun her toward the elevators, slowly, said, Please, I’ll finish up here.  And she wobbled and slowly rushed, as if I’d pushed her, into a display case!  Violence in the library!

Thank goodness my grandpa called and woke me up…  I told this co-worker about parts of the dream…  She thought it was kinda funny, but informed me that she’s never ever dreamed about this place.  I’ve dreamt of it often.  Because I’m engaged here at work, I pay attention, it matters to me (most of the time) that things get done properly.  She’s none of the above. 

I also, oddly enough, did something I’d never normally do, but I let her know, quite early in the game, that I’m even considering going back to school for my MA or MFA…  How strange. 



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Void, void, void, void.  Void.  Void, void.  Void, void.  VOID.

 It’s amazing how easy it is to get used to things.  Human nature.  Maleable.  After a while you get used to being a prisoner, or having a job you hate.  Patterns form.  Habits.  I guess it’s easier to get attached than I thought.  Even to bad things, maybe, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.  And semi-good things?  Yeah, you’ll miss them easy.  Maybe it’s the thought of, What if nothing better comes along?

 The house is empty.  And looks like something exploded.  That’s what happens when a major event happens, when you send a sudden roommate onwards and upwards.  One day everything’s A-Ok, the next, a whirlwind, a packing party, a frustrating end, a run out the door with suitcases in the car.  A good-bye.  A tear, a fear, a frustration.  The inevitable “what if”.  Torn between optimism–it’s good he’s going on–and pessimism–just a little longer, a little….

 I’m lucky.  I now understand, going into this situation with a very nice and pleasant exchange student/friend/roommate, I understand the transience of life.  Before, I’d heard always how a friend comes into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, but it meant nothing.  I thought that if it wasn’t a permanent friendship, that there was something wrong.  Family is for life.  And friends, they’re forever.  You grow up with them, get married with them, die with them.  I thought there was something wrong because my life didn’t follow that pattern.  My family moved when we were young, so I lost my friends, the ones I should have had forever and ever.  But in these days, can you really keep a friend forever?  We’re living in such a changing society.  I know people who’ve managed to change with their friends and accept, but my generation seems more transient.  Less accepting.  They move on so easily. No sentimentality. 

But this void will go away.  I haven’t lost a friend, even though he’s on a plane to Argentina.  I’ve gained a world.  I’ve gained Perspective, which was sorely missing in my life.  I’m lucky; I escaped this almost unscathed, stronger, more worldly, eyes open.  I’m lucky to have known this friend.

I will admit, it was hard to keep that attitude, knowing from the beginning that this would only be for two months.  On the one hand, it’s easy to forgive–seven weeks left; I can survive seven more weeks!  Although it’s also easy with that attitude to become mutable.  Drat.  Then there’s also the idea that it’s not enough.  Gotta cram as much into this time as possible.  Don’t share.  Frustrated, jealous, sad.  Keeping a level head, re-evaluating what was going on, what I deserved, what he needed, what was respectful, what was useful.  A bit of a schizophrenic feeling sometimes, torn between reality and dream.

The void is here.  The house feels odd.  The dishes lie in the sink.  I won’t wash them tonight. 



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Freud and Dreams

The past few days I’ve been reading Freud’s “On Dreams”, which is a very interesting book, sort of like when I learned somewhat of linguistics and it started to make sense.  That dreams have their own reality and language, and they don’t pick events or people from the same parts of your brain…  which means that ANYTHING can happen!  Isn’t that a lovely thought? 

I had this dream about a unicorn.  When I awoke, I realized that I had to write the story, as there was something wrong with the dream.  Something tantalizing and scary…  Not that the story is truly scary.  I need to work on it.  But for once, rather than trying to write the dream exactly as it happened, which never works, I took one or two elements from the story, as a story line, and used that.  Then I followed the truth of that place, and didn’t try to say, Oh, but this happened in this manner or That never happened!  And when I was done, I was rather proud of it in a way.  It needed work.  There was something missing.  But then, too, there was something good deep down in the middle.  A jumping-off place.

I never post a rough draft, but this story called for that.  I needed comments on what I had, before I messed around and decided what was important and what could go away.  I was curious to see what other writers would make of it. 

The amazing thing was that, when one of the critiquers was done, he had explained what the story was about.  And I felt he’d done exactly what Freud had done to some of his dreams.  And there was this ultimate Truth behind that critique, a truth about what was going on in my life, and why I’d had this dream in the first place.  And it took a simple story to bring it out.  That, I find that amazing. 

I think my thesis of the story was: If you follow your bliss, the people around you, rather than be happy for you, will be suspicious, and condemn you, so it’s just best to pretend you never had the dream in the first place.

And I know that deep down I have always been afraid of doing something which would make my family unhappy.  They’ve spent so much of their lives trying to make sure us kids are happy, the least we can do is return that, and make sure we’re happy and they’re happy.  Don’t jeopardize that, even if it’s just comfort and contentment and there could be More out there.  Because the More could also lead to something Bad…  And that would make the ‘rents unhappy, and we must avoid that at all costs.  I’ve also thought that they don’t care so much for people and family who go away.  The old idea that you’re born in a town and you die in a town, and you can travel for two weeks a year, but the rest of the time, you stay home.  I didn’t want them to think I was running away or abandoning them.  It’ll hurt them if I leave.  I know I’ll have to come back.  So it’s gotta seem like I’m not leaving.  Something temporary.  (Plus temporary because it may be that childish foray into the wildnerness which does then tell the child that this is the best place on earth.)  ((Not that I don’t appreciate what I have.  I do, I do!  Verily I do!  The house, the job, the people around me, my family close by…))

Scary as it may be, I must follow my bliss and risk being martyred for doing so.  Because it’s more a fear that they’ll do so, that they won’t be happy for me, they won’t visit, they won’t understand.  Fear is scary! 



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Last night ’twas my privilege to attend a screening of “Naked Lunch”, and then the Lit Fest panel afterwards.  One of my more strange friends had told me years ago that “Naked Lunch” was truly a strange movie, almost incomprehensible.  Oddly enough, it made sense to me!  The life of a writer!  Violent typewriters!  Jealousy!  Reality!  I’m sure this says something about my state of mind.  Burroughs begins to make sense.  Run, run for your lives! 

 Afterwards, ’twas also a privilege to finally see “Harold and Maude”.  What a lovely movie!  I truly wish I’d had a Maude when I was growing up.  Sometimes I feel my teenage years were nearly as oppressive as those of Harold’s, though I didn’t quite realize it at the time, just surviving.  My grandfather would be my closest thing to Maude, the man who never grew up.  And I realized long ago, being a responsible adult doesn’t mean you need to grow up.  A friend told me at the GPTC that I should never lose my “delight for life” and though I hadn’t realized I had any, I see it now, that childish fun aspect of life… that refusal to be bogged down by being an adult.  I refuse this mask of adulthood!  I threw it into the fire and roasted marshmallows on it! 

 This afternoon I attended the Lit Fest panel of how to become a cult novelist.  I plan to work on that one!  Putting heart and soul into writing, to make it truly the best story it can be, to make it hurt and love, to bleed on the page, to go deeper…  and then to stand on the street corner in a bunny suit and jump up and down. 

 For the past five years, I’ve been studying humorous writing.  Cult classics like the “Princess Bride”, and movies like “Spinal Tap”.  I finally realized that specializing with that gives me a good base there, but that can’t be all.  One also needs something pointed inside the humor, something that hurts, even just a little, something that bears Truth on it like a tiny scratch on a grain of rice.  I have my basis.  Now what?  It wasn’t until reading a Max Shulman novel last week that I realized I hadn’t even finished a grand romp by Thorne Smith from earlier this summer.  “The Glorious Pool” went unfinished.  I realized I’ve become disillusioned, a bit, that I’ve stopped laughing.  These books might be the best of “humor”, but they are lacking something underneath.  A good escape, but lacking.  And here I’ve been studying them so diligently, perhaps learning, and my education lacks.  At least I’ve recognized it!  Yaaay!  The first step of an addict is to admit there is a problem. 

Although not all great books can balance humor and pathos.  And not all books can balance funny and important.  I tried reading “Crazy in Alabama” and made it halfway before setting it aside.  The first part was interesting.  Not exactly what I expected, but interesting.  I guess I didn’t fall for the narrator.  You gotta feel for the narrator, or what’s to pull you through?  And when suddenly the scope changed from the boy’s life, to a national crisis, a clash of black and white civilization in the 60’s, it lost that close perspective of his life, tried to reach too far… just one reader’s opinion, of course, as the book has won oodles of awards.  I really have gotten jaded about books.  Even “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay” fell short when it went from the family to the world.  I’ve found one thing I can’t abide by in books, I guess.  Not to say that there shouldn’t be a global perspective, shouldn’t be something “important” lying in wait.  But sometimes that overshadows the story and the purpose of reading a fictional account of a fictional person–it ceases to be fictional and becomes non-fiction, ceases to be about a person, the character becomes acted upon (or thrust into a situation where they didn’t actually have a place in reality) instead of the one acting.  Seems like the novels that do suddenly become nearly non-fiction win a lot of awards, though, “tackling the tough issues”, so they must be doing something right!  Or, says the jaded side of me, do the reviewers go lighter on them because they are tackling the tough issues, and forget about the story we started reading? 



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We have an all-night doughnut shop in town, just about the only thing open after dark, except the hospitals.  Of course.  Doughnuts or hospitalization?  You decide!  And since I didn’t feel like severing a limb, I thought I’d go play Scrabble with a couple friends. 

 I used to think “alternative” people were scary.  The people “downtown”.  Oooh.  Mohawks, spiked hair, piercings.  But that was years ago, growing up in suburbia, knowing you either looked exactly like everyone else, or you had a problem.  And I didn’t have a problem, so I looked just like everyone else, to a degree.  Although I had no interest in fashion then.  I now finally have an interest in fashion!  (Cheap fashion, of course.)  And where else does one go when wearing a 1960’s dress like my grandmother wore when she had kids at home?  And a 1950’s sweater?  And a scarf in my hair like I should have been wearing my poodle skirt?  (Yes, I have one!)  You go: “Downtown!”  Sing it with me!  The great thing was, that song played on the radio last night.  Always reminds me of that great scene in Short Circuit where they’re locked in the freezer and have only a calculator and a genius. 

 We never let Steve keep score of Scrabble… but he complained, so we let him, and told him our evil secret about why he never wins… because we tamper with the math (which is untrue), and we said that if he won, we’d know he was tampering with the math!  For the second time ever, Steve won.  It was a terrible game, though!  For once, the board was spread out, lots of room between words, instead of our normal piggy-back strategy, but somehow this board had fewer choice spots than usual.

I was informed last night that a “player” is one who tells a woman one thing, waits to see her reaction, then tells her another opposite thing, waits, tells her something else… and eventually, she’ll respond favorably.  Supposedly because “women” only hear what they want to hear, and “players” only say what they think will get what they want… meaning that no matter what has been said before or hence, the woman will glom onto just one thing which she wants to hear.

It’s very interesting to see stereotypes through the eyes of the opposite sex.  Yet, I can see some truth…  I’d often wondered how some women get into terrible relationships, but then, I’d never thought of the man of those same relationships as being purposefully deceitful (or is it subconscious?).  When does one trust what the other person says?  I think it takes time, despite that song in “Zanna Don’t” which informs one that you must move quickly to cement the feeling before it fritters away, move fast!  The entire song, my being flinched away.  I guess I’m distrustful… and naive 🙂  Mine own oxymoron!

 I spent all day today waiting for the UPS man to arrive.  A confirmation call arrived yesterday and said, UPS will arrive between 8am and 7pm, and someone must be available to sign for the package.  At 4pm, I switched shifts with someone else, and at 7pm sharp, the item arrived.  Sounds like those old commercials for the cable company, you wait and wait and wait, and eleven hours later… 



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The default post title reminds me of this adorable little keychain I had as a child.  A tiny kitten, falling into a commode, proclaiming: Good-bye, cruel world!  Which is probably only funny if one can look at the world as less than cruel.  Slightly sadistic, yes, odd sense of humor, yes, but cruelty should be reserved for those who do not believe in happiness and purposefully attempt to bring others down into the abyss. 

 The default post title also reminds me of the new world I’ve discovered over the past few months.  Rather than being confined to the city of mine birth, I’m poking my head out of this scratchy eggshell, blinking into the sunlight, and contemplating my next move.  Suddenly every opportunity is open.  Despite having scoffed previously at such things as an MFA, which I could easily do in my hometown, but, pshaw, what for?  I’ve been shown, through the eyes of a crazy person in my attic, that there’s something else out there–a la “The Boy Who Could Fly.” 

 So, hello, world!



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