one of my students is applying for MFA programs and tackling the dreaded “personal essay” aspect of it. she asked to see my old personal essay (she is applying in fiction, but for some of the same schools), so, after much much searching, i dug it out of the catacombs…oh my 21 year old self! i can’t help but laugh when i read it. this is almost as embarrassing as sharing high school yearbook pictures…but in interest of being able to find it a little easier next time, & in taking a big bite of humble-pie, here it is. the only reason i can figure that this got me in is they must have seen how very much i wanted it.
I am a waitress at Crackerbarrel in Jackson, Tennessee. I am paid two dollars an hour, plus whatever change that is left on the table. I pick up people’s dirty plates and clean wilted lettuce leaves and crumbled cornbread from their seats. After six hours of that, I go home and study for classes in the morning. I have a semester left of my English Creative Writing program at Union University. At the beginning of this semester, my senior year, I married another dumb twenty-one year old. We’re happy and poor. He works at a taco place.
Before Union University, I lived in Hickory Withe, Tennessee, though my address was always listed as “Eads” because Hickory Withe can not afford a post office. I drove an hour to high school every day with my two younger sisters dozing in the back. College was a miracle worth happening. This spring, I will be completing my senior thesis, a collection of poetry and fiction. Though I am not in any writing classes next semester, I will be meeting with my classmates from former writing classes to critique each other’s thesis work and drink overpriced coffee. I am interested in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and I write in one or more of these forms every day. I am also, like many writers my age, a consistent blogger (http://homechanges.blogspot.com).
Your Creative Writing program would enable me to continue what I have at Union—a community of writing peers, reviewing each others’ work. No matter what job I am working, I will write and submit my writing to magazines, but I know that this program would help me grow as a writer by exposing me to styles of writing that I am not accustomed to writing and authors that I have never read. I am interested in researching the works of Ray Bradbury and Freya Stark for the lyric quality of their prose, and other works that seem to blur the genre lines. I enjoy school, and I do not feel that I am done with it yet.
If you were to allow me admittance into your program, I would use the program to enhance my poetry and fiction by exploring new methods in writing. Gaining the perspectives of new professors and peers would benefit my writing by helping me to understand further what works and does not work in a piece.
My poem “We Are Filling This House,” included in my application, was published in Tar River Poetry’s fall 2007 issue. The Torch literary magazines published my short story “Root Beer” in their 2005 issue, and my prose poem “Funeral Procession” in their 2006 issue. I submit my poetry and fiction frequently and constantly revise the rejected. While publishing is important to me, it is not the sole purpose of my writing.
In the melodramatic words of Isaac Asimov, “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die.” I still have a pulse if I go a day without writing, but I do lack the feeling of completion that writing gives me. There are too many things that I see and hear throughout the day that I pass by and think “how could these not be written?” Whether it’s the lyric quality of a combination of words that must become a poem, or the look a stranger gives another stranger in a shopping mall that must become a story, writing is most of all a compulsion for me.
I write because I am a writer. If I am accepted to this program and complete the program, I do not plan to waitress for the rest of my life. I would like to teach writing. Two years ago, a few friends and I led a writing group called Unraveling where we aimed to teach younger students to write. It was passing on an art and a passion. We’ve since handed over leadership to other students, but my brief experience as an unofficial writing teacher sparked an interest in teaching that has not faded. Upper level English majors in the college setting are there because they want to be there; they want to glean what they can from what the professor knows. I feel that after completing your program, I would be someone from which they could learn.
I hope that this statement and my writing sample persuade you to accept me into your program. I am not from a big town or a big school, but I have big ambitions and a persistent drive to write. I know how to work hard, whether its waitressing or editing manuscripts and I enjoy working hard. If you allow me into this program, I will get everything I can from it.
and i did. the end!