An open letter to my graduate school professors

Dear Professors Turnbull, Walleye, Haruspex, Conflagrate, and other silly-named unknowns:

You don't all know me yet, but I'm Julia. Hi. I'll be in your Masters in Writing (Fiction) program for the next three years or so. Thank you, first off, for admitting me; you boosted my confidence, gave me hope, and took a large wad of cash from me within a matter of months. It was quite special.

I know you see a lot of students flow in and out of this part-time program as their schedules and daily lives permit, so I wanted to help you recognize me by offering these personal identifiers:

  • I will be the young-ish woman sitting as near to you as possible in the classroom without veering into Police "Don't Stand So Close to Me" territory. You may spot me leaning forward a lot, boring my eyes into your sweaty forehead and uncombed hair. This is not a come-on. This is me paying attention.
  • I will often be the first to raise my hand in response to your questions. Sometimes you won't even ask a question and I'll still raise my hand. I really like raising my hand. It makes me feel involved.
  • My gel pens are multi-colored. I don't doodle with them, but I do take rainbow-esque notes a) to maintain my own interest and b) to make myself feel more "creative." To that end, I might show up to class one day in Birkenstocks and a caftan.
  • I chose to enter this program because creativity frightens me. I'm terrified of unleashing the beast. So I'm devoting the little disposable income I do have to seek your counsel and discipline-instilling ways. Tell me I can do it. Tell me I must do it. Tell me to do it. Period. Especially when I'm too afraid to start.
  • If you get a writing submission in and it's kinda funny, it's probably me. An undergrad screenwriting professor once told me to sneak up on the big themes through humor (rather than through the underdeveloped, overwrought pomposity I was spewing at the time, though he was kind enough to not say that). When I allow myself to be funny, I relax; it seems to help the flow of things, and, as an added benefit, spares you another self-wallowing manuscript about deep thoughts.
  • I do improv. You might think this has no bearing on your class, but it does, because IMPROV AND WRITING ARE TURNING OUT TO BE EXACTLY THE SAME. Heightening. Consistent character choices. Strong initiations. Beats. Rise and fall. Points of view. It's all the same, except one puts me on the stage and one puts me on the page. Also, it means I will make random side comments in class that strike me as hilarious and everyone else as pathetic.
  • I've been waiting for this day since I was five years old. Not just the first day, but every day I get to sit in class and become what I've always wanted to be. Every journal, every blog post, every manuscript, every library visit, every night spent reading has led to this moment. I might wet my pants from the unceasing excitement. Just a warning.
  • I have a voice. Yes, everyone in the class does, I know. But mine is a little on the deeper side, not overly polished, and prone to loudness. I have found this voice carrying over to my writing too. My question to you is, am I using my voice the "right" way? Am I maximizing it? Can you tell it's me inside that story?
  • One day I will be published. Many of your students say it, but fewer achieve it. I will be one of the few. I'm just saying "one day" at the moment because it's open-ended and non-specific. It gives me plenty of time and room to fail miserably. You may no longer be in a classroom or even walking this earth when I finally deliver my firstborn writing creation, but I promise you, I will scream so loudly in exaltation you'll hear me wherever you are.
  • I have big hair. It's brown. Maintain a safe distance for your own protection.

Thank you in advance for nurturing my nascent ability, i.e. slogging through my pablum. I promise to make you proud -- or at least not make you cry.

Your in word nerdiness,


Prayer #225: Back to School

Write me in chalk. File me in a folder. Sit me on the Bunsen burner and turn the heat up high. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but so is time. So help me learn all I can, as I can, for I can. Education is a right, yet still a gift; keep me mindful of its power.