Friday, April 3, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

There is nothing scarier to a writer than an empty page and an incessant, blinking cursor. Well, except maybe one-upping yourself.

You're only as good as your last book, after all.

Yet, how far will a writer go to improve? We all go to conferences, sign up for workshops, even take online courses to refresh, renew and reinvigorate. But what about the mother of all honing exercises. What about (gulp) school?

You might be a writer go back to school to become a better writer.

Now this probably gets at what kind of writer you want to be. Do you want to earn a million bucks for your work (popular), or do you want to be read in one hundred years (literary)? It seems like, although by no means is this an all-or-nothing scenario, but it seems like those who are more literary in focus are the ones who end up in school. I mean, it's not the best place to practice or win popularity, at least it wasn't for me, which really outs me, but then I'm 40 and I'm going back to school. Maybe the second time around I'll be popular? I've lost the glasses, but I still play violin. I'm doomed, aren't I?


Nonetheless, I applied to the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and got in!! Very exciting. I know, I know, not very exciting for everybody. I mean, I'm going back to homework, reading assignments, deadlines for papers, papers!, lectures, etc, etc, etc. Then again, I really did love college. A lot.

My reasons for going back to school to get this MFA are pretty simple. I want to be the best writer I can be. I'm intent, driven - maybe even a little obsessed - with getting better. This is the first thing I've worked at where I don't feel like there's a limit on "better." As a runner, I know my legs are only so long. My lungs can only process so much oxygen. My muscles can only contract and expand so much. (And I'm not getting any younger, but let's not talk about that) I'm limited physically in what I can do as a runner.

But as a writer? We apparently only use 10% of our brains. That means, 90% is just languishing there, waiting for someone to find the key and unlock it. 90% Think about that. Could be lots and lots and lots of brainpower just waiting to be harnessed and put to good work. I know, I know, I could be way off. Nobody really knows what that 90% is all about. I may only be unlocking, say, defunct, primitive programming that has to be stored somewhere, or storage space, or gobbly gook, but I'm being optimistic and hoping it's extra brain power.

I'll find out come, July 9, when I'm off to Montpelier, Vermont, to start an MFA in Writing for Children. I'm still very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about it. Excited to say the least. After that 8th think piece, I may be singing a different tune, but growing is hard work. Nobody said it would be fun. Then again, I'm going to be hanging out with authors, talking books, dissecting and understanding how some of the great pieces of literature were put together, and then using that knowledge to bring my own ideas to life. Just thinking about it makes me want to rub my hands together and break out into deep, effusive, Mad Scientist laughter.


Me thinks, I'm going to have fun...but what about my teachers???


Tabitha said...

Congratulations on getting in!! I've heard this is one of the best writing programs out there. One of the faculty members came to my local SCBWI chapter's conference last november, and it was great to hear her speak.

Me? I've got two small children so there's no way I could go back to school and stay sane. :) But I'd rather have my work still read 100+ years from now instead of make the million now. So I've improvised: I'm perpetually at school, seeking out anything and everything to do with craft in books, people, places, events, or basically anything involving life. :) It might be the hard path, but it's what I've got for now. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Congratulations! I still use good books as teachers as a self taught novelist on a budget. I agree that there is always room to improve. Those MFAs are useful for building a career as a writing teacher definitely. Have fun!

PJ Hoover said...

Congratulations! So many of the authors here in Austin go and RAVE about it! You will have a blast!

Joy said...

you might be a writer if . . . you're insanely jealous of someone who's going back to school to be a better writer. If that's true, my chances at a writing career are looking up! Congrats! I'm sure you'll blog all about it, so maybe we can live cathartically through you until our kids are grown and we, too, can escape back into the education world.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Congratulations to you! I can't wait to hear all about it!

Okie Book Woman said...

Hi, Stacy. I've met you before at SCBWI conferences and I just found your blog, thanks to your excellent post about our spring conference. I wrote two posts about the conference on my blog--one on the conference, and one on our published writers. Somehow I missed getting a photo of you and writing about your book. I'll have to make a special effort to include you next time. Maybe at the fall conference? Anyway, take a look at my two posts on

Congratulations on your acceptance for the MFA program. That's awesome. I've been to Quartz Mt., where I was taught by two of their professors, Sharon Darrow and Cynthia Leitich (sp?) Smith. Both were very good.

I will be reading your blog, now that I know it's here, and I'd be delighted if you'd read mine, although I don't always write about writing. I just write whatever is going on in my life.

Keri Mikulski said...


I've been looking at that program for a while. I also teach writing at the college level and think (dream) about going back to graduate school to continue to study the craft. :)

Best of luck and make sure you blog all about it. I can't wait! :)

gabe said...

Nice new blog, Stacy!
I totally understand what you're saying.. about becoming a more focused writer and knowing that writing is where it's 'at' for you. I've heard great things about the Vermont MFA and knowing the little I do about you - you'll shine, even as you continue to grow as a writer. And because Dragon Wishes is a great first novel ... those reading your work a 100 years from now - in whatever form books are in - can only expect more good reads ... complex, wise and fun. Congrats and all the best!

Stacy Nyikos said...

Thanks, Everybody, for the warm congratulations. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, you'll not suffer too much from my ranting when I have papers due! I've been out of college for ten years now (yes, only ten. I was in until I was 31 working on my PhD), so I've got rose-colored glasses about paper-writing, I think. I think I've forgotten all about the joys of school deadlines. Or maybe I think I'll be better at it. I'm about to find out!