Friday, August 31, 2012


Sorry it's taken me so long. Between work, school starting on Monday and other activities, it's been a busy week. I'm going to get this time management concept down soon, I promise.

So here they are (finally!)

Grad School Prospects 
Something that I noticed throughout my research process is most schools with MFA programs have the same application and program requirements, so basing my choices on such wouldn't really be worth doing. Each program is three years; each school also has a two year M.A. in English program which I plan on doing as well. Every school has a chance to T.A. or G.A. and/or work on campus publications. They all have on-campus housing options for graduate students (very important for me since I want to live close to campus) and a football program (trust me, I love sports and it was on my list. Why not? Some people like party schools, others stone cold sober environments; I just want to be able to enjoy sports on the weekends) 

In the end, there was something about each program or the campus itself that stood out from the others and that's why I have the top five I have now. So here they are in no specific order. Being able to go to any of these places would be a privilege.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas: 
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada 
What made it stand out: They require a semester abroad. I've never left the states before and it's been a dream for about as long as I've been alive to do so. More importantly, they have an agreement with the Peace Corps that allow students to join the Corps while completing their creative theses. It turns the three year program into a four year, but the chance to go abroad and serve would be amazing.

University of Memphis:
Location: Memphis, Tennessee 
What made it stand out: This was actually a late addition to my list. I didn't know Memphis had an MFA program until my mom mentioned it. After researching the program, I found it a great place to be. I've visited Memphis before and I love the city and its museums. At Memphis, they have a concentration in Community College Teaching (good to have for a possible career opportunity) and a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (which I could use to either teach English as a foreign language in another country or as a application boost for the Peace Corps, which I could still do after graduation)

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
What made it stand out: I like that it's close enough to where everyone is but far enough away where I could spread my wings some and start living a more independent life. They have plenty of housing options and tons of employment opportunities for their students, so much so that these options can altogether cover tuition costs. How great would that be if I could put in the work and not have to stress out about how to pay for it all without taking out loans (I have two from my undergrad/Post-Bac and I really don't want to take on anymore debt) 

Eastern Washington University:
Location: Cheney, Washington
What made it stand out: Location, location, location. I find myself gravitating somewhere over in that region of the country if I would ever choose to settle in one location. There seems to be so much up there and with a more favorable climate than we have here. Some of the extracurricular choices are really what made this a stand out choice, namely chances to volunteer to teach writing to children or to people who are incarcerated; two potential long-term job opportunities.

University of British Columbia: 
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
What made it stand out: Location! Like I said, I think I'm a future Pacific Northwest resident. More importantly to me is the cost. Looking around, going there as an international student would be less expensive than going to a program and being an in-state student. How crazy is that?!?! The program itself looks great and there are also electives and other classes that I could take while there that I think would help me in the long run.  

So here they are. My next steps will be to take my GRE (which I might be able to afford all four of the tests I'll need with two more paychecks) and to finalize my creative portfolio. UBC's application is due in November, but the other four aren't due until 2013. I still have some time, but it's time to get serious so I don't have to try and put everything together the last minute.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Currently Nevering...

I'm done with the Cedar Cove series!!!! With the exception of Danielle Steel (thanks to all the movies on Lifetime that have been adapted from her books), I'm not a romantic novel girl, but I really like Debbie Macomber and I've now finished her third series (have also read the Navy series and the Manning series). Every once in a while, it's good to experience something that involves everyone living happily ever after, if only in a fictional scenario...
And a Debbie for the road! Currently reading: One Simple Act

Last night, we went to see "Singin in the Rain" at the movie theater for its 60th anniversary. It was really cool to see it on the big screen though the tickets and popcorn would've probably been 10% of what we paid 60 years ago. Man, movies have gotten expensive in the past six decades! :~/
August: Never Have I Ever Seen "Singin' in the Rain"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Almost done!

It's Christmas in August in more ways than one. For one thing, I've started picking out Holidays gifts (not everyone I know does Christmas and I'm not a Christmas Or Bust person so it's Holidays or the Holiday Season or Chrismakahanayulasoltiscekwanzikah to me) because it'll be nice not freaking out come December when everything is more expensive and time won't be on my side anymore.

For another: Reading the last book from the Cedar Cove series. It's been a fun summer getting to read something light and something I've chosen instead of something assigned to me. It hasn't happened much the past decade or so with school and then college so I'll take the chance when I get it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Words of Wisdom

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” -Marilyn Monroe

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Friday, August 17, 2012

First Things First

(Finally) getting to posting about my grad school prospects. Kind of got (seriously got) sidetracked this week, but I'm focused again (at least for the moment). But before I talk about the prospects themselves, here's a recap on how I got to this point.

I've wanted to get my MFA in Creative Writing since finding out it existed. Other ideas have come and gone (majoring in Film, majoring in Political Science, minoring in Women and Gender Studies) but this one has lasted for over a decade. In fact, I went into undergrad kind of disappointed that I'd have to wait (at least) four years before getting the chance of going into a program like this.

On and off during undergrad, I'd research a college or two at a time that were on my list in high school but had to give up on because my dad (who I was still talking to at the time) told me first that I wouldn't be allowed to leave the state and then said I could only look at public universities in Texas. However, he also gave me a caveat: I was on my financially for anything above a Bachelors, leaving me the option to choose where I'd like to go without the threat of being cut off.

Long story short on that one, we stopped talking in 2008 so go figure I could've gone out of state once I finished with junior college anyways. Go figure on that one, but I don't regret going to Texas State (Go Bobcats!) for a second so that one worked out well for me.

My first step was looking at schools that interested me in high school and then reread The Princeton Review Pocket Guide to Colleges (absolutely suggest this book to anyone interested in continuing your education) and used the internet to look at different schools in states that I wouldn't mind moving to. A lot of schools don't have an MFA program, so I was left with about ten schools of interest.

And then, I went back to focusing on my undergrad and certification.

Page two: Once I got my Bachelor's (and my Associate's...yes, the four year degree before the two year, different story for a different day) and was still on track with my Post-Bac, I restarted the process thinking I'd go straight from my Post-Bac to grad school (no longer the case, but need the break). It's good that I did because none of the schools I had originally chosen ended up in my top ten the second time around.

My mom told me about this website called that has a list of MFA program in the US and Canada, making the second round of research a whole lot easier. It has links that go straight to the program's information and from there, I was able to other information that I needed.

I had some non-negotiables that each program had to have for me to have an interest in them: 
  • had to also have a MA in English program because I want to have both for broader career opportunities 
  • have a school newspaper that I could work out (once again, giving me the chance to broaden career horizons) 
  • have on-campus housing for upper division or grad students: I didn't really like living off-campus because I like to be close to where everything is happening
  • have a football team: I love sports and football is my favorite. I have this because I need something to break up my time otherwise I'll stay too focused on school instead of giving myself time to have some fun 
That left my list at nine schools. From there, I went through and looked at their tuition rates, financial aid information and other things that probably should've been in my non-negotiables but weren't. I also read through the application process to see what all I needed and when it was due by.

That left me at seven. From there, it was just reading through each program's requirements and what else they had to offer (certifications and minors, optional electives, employment or interning opportunities)

...And now there are five: UNLV, University of Memphis, University of British Columbia, Eastern Washington, and LSU. 

Tune in next week (I hope) for my write ups about each university and what put them above the rest in my search.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just passing through...

Surfing the net can change me from productive to procrastinator in approximately 2.3 seconds, which is what happened today. I love reading quotes from other people (Wikiquote=awesomeness) and found this one today that I loved: 

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting From College to Career

In my second year of college, my mom told me about a book she found in the library called Getting From College to Career. The next time she came to visit, she brought the book with her and I read it in a week. I thought it was great and very informative...and then I forgot all about it. I'm one of those people who get massive tunnel vision that I need to help me concentrate on what I need to focus, but it leaves me unable to deal with things in the periphery. Like my future.

So now I'm hear, done with my Bachelor's and three tests away from being done with my Post-Bac and I read the book again, finishing a couple of months ago. This time, my primary focus was, well, exactly what the title suggests. I'm done with this stage of college and beginning to focus on career and post-university life. For me, this will include a (fingers crossed) trip to grad school, but it's really time to start focusing on life in general instead of the next set of papers I have to write or tests I have to study for.
Once again, it didn't take too long to read and the book is split into a section for each step so it was really easy to get through. I took notes, made a nifty to-do list based on the book's info and got going crossing list items off. I felt overwhelmed trying to do this the first time I read it, but I went in this time with a head of steam and I think it's already paid dividends. Some of the tips are extremely easy, like setting up a professional sounding email address and things of that nature. Others were just plain handy, like subscribing to e-newsletters from career fields of interests (I've since subscribed to the National Education Association, Writer's Digest, The New Yorker, and Publisher's Weekly's online newsletters. For free btw and no spam to deal with)

I feel more focused on what's important for my future now and I'm not (so) daunted about the task of truly entering the real world anymore. Check it out if you're in a similar situation...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Currently Reading

Only two more left and with two weeks left before school starts, I think I may be able to finish! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Houston Trip Part Four

Been busy the past couple of days and am feeling too discombobulated to make a real post now, so here are the rest of the photos from last weekend's excursion...did I mention I currently have a thing for black and whites and structures???? And clouds??? Yeah, kind of obvious here...hopefully it's just a phase.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Houston Trip Part II

Just some B&Ws I took on my way to my uncle's house and leaving church Saturday night...

Gap Year: An Intro

I know I shouldn't call these next twelve months my gap year because I'm doing it all wrong. 1: most people take a year off in between graduating high school and entering college. I'm doing this after finishing classes for a Post-Bac and before entering grad school. Oh, and I'll be spending most of my gap year in one classroom or another (kind of defeating the point of the gap year, but I've been known to swim upstream the lazy river, so I guess this is just par for my course) 

At the end of my gap year, I hope to...
enter grad school, where I will be working on an MFA in Creative Writing as well as an MA in English. Some schools combine the two, just not any of the prospectives I'm still looking at. It'll be keeping up with everything as well as seeing an adviser early and often to stay on track, but I'd like to leave with both.

Why am I taking classes during my gap year?
It's not the fact that I'm taking classes, but which classes I'm taking. This year, I'm concentrating on writing by taking journalism classes at a local JC. With this, I hope to gain experience in journalism (a subject I've wanted to study for years but never have gotten a chance to before now) by taking certain classes and working on the JC's newspaper staff. This will help me later on because the experience could lead me to an opportunity at the prospective that I go to, could help start a career in freelancing and if I end up teaching in high school, I could add a certification in Journalism.

I'll also be taking a couple of random classes (Photography I, Major World Religions) in addition to Creative Writing to get me back into the swing of writing for a purpose.

Other plans for this next year include...
Finish my Certification: I'm done with the classes so I have three tests to take and then I'll be certified to teach. I'm hoping to get this done by the end of this year and be certified by January 2013. Not sure what this will mean before next August, but I've gotten information on how to transfer certifications to other states so teaching in a secondary setting while in grad school is once again an option. 

Take the GRE: take it and pass it the first time. Simple enough. I hope.

Traveling (?): no idea where I'd want to go, but it would be nice to go somewhere...anywhere...

Volunteering: I volunteer some now, but I've always had commitments to juggle as well. It's not that I want to add a bunch more on my plate. I'd like to mentor or tutor, but other than that, I'm happy with what I'm doing now and hope to have more time to do so.

Writing: I better, right? Considering the next few years of my life will be dedicated to this. At the moment, I have about a bazillion (okay, maybe not that many but a lot) of story ideas going around in my head that I'd like to get out. Other than that, I'd like to start trying my hand at freelancing and finding new opportunities and outlets. Another thing I'd like to do is join a writing group. It would be nice to be around others with similar interests because most of the people I hang out with don't write so it's hard to explain my actions at times.

  • Health wise, I've done just about everything I can to get back into the swing of going to doctors (or having a doctor...) but if there's something else to do, now's the time to do it (a perk of being younger than 26 is that I'm still insured since there are so few jobs with benefits that I'd currently qualify for)
  • Get my passport. No plans to travel outside the US, but it would be nice to have one now so I won't have to deal with the hassle when the times comes.
  • Finalize my creative portfolio: Since MFA programs are three years and MA programs are only two, I'm starting out with the MFA, which means I have to choose 20-30 pages of fiction writing to send in along with my application, transcripts and everything else. Since I'm mainly into short stories, I figure 2-3 stories...but which ones??? Exactly, must figure this out because the first application is due on November 2. 
  • Save money: Hard to do with bills to pay and the like, but I hope to save as much as I can while continuing to take care of my expenses. I don't really have much in the way of savings and if nothing else, I'd really like to get through grad school without adding more student loan debt to the mix. I'd be working during grad school to keep up, but it would be nice to go in with a cushion. 
  • Have fun: Trust me. If I don't add this to the list, I'll get too busy trying to get everything accomplished to have some fun in the process. I'm not going wild or anything, but after 20+ years of schooling, I want to enjoy a break from it before returning. 
On the next few episodes of My Time For Ashes: more pictures from my overnight in Houston, a post about one of the books that has changed my life (mayhaps this could become a regular thing...I've read a few books in my lifetime) and some posts about my five prospective universities and how I found them.

Until next time...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Houston Trip Part I

This summer hasn't been good health wise, so I've spent most of that time cooped up here in the apartment. This made an overnight to Houston (or anywhere) so much better. Had a lot of fun, even if I wasn't feeling well most of the time. Most of all, it just felt great to have a change of scenery, if only temporary. I took a lot of pictures over a 24 hour period, so I'm splitting this up. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the Gap Year and grad school stuff. I'm getting on that as well and will elaborate on everything either later on today or tomorrow.

Alas, back in reality now including (yet another) doctor's appointment in a little more than an hour, but it was good to get away from everything.

P.S.: I've gotten really into B&Ws, structures and clouds lately, so there's a lot of that. A. Lot.

Tunes for the road! Turns out, only needed one of the mix CDs because radio was good.

My audio system...gotta get the CD player in my car fixed...

Lunch! Yum...

There's a station in Houston called Country Legends. Best. Station. Ever! Love it and it was all we listened to from the moment we got in range to the moment we left it. Cameo by my nails and Mommy's shoulder....

Had a Meat Loaf moment during a commercial break.

Part 2 from Greater Houston next time!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gap Year To-Do List: Operation Get My Grad On

Well, I've done it. I've dwindled my (too) long list of prospective grad schools to my top 5. When looking for a school, I basically kept it to the basics. Does it have on-campus or near campus furnished housing, meal plans, study abroad programs, a campus newspaper...a football team (and no one should be surprised that this was a must-have for me) Ya know, the basics. I actually didn't look at prices until recently because I didn't want that to turn me off of a place I could be really happy at.

Now my main task is finalizing my portfolio. I have two stories I really like and one I'm editing now, but I've noticed that every protagonist is a young woman and I'm afraid that doing so will make schools think I'm a one pony trick (or is it a one trick pony? Note to self: learn colloquialisms before trying to use them) but I still a few more months to figure this whole thing out.

My Top Five Prospectives and Why:

1. UNLV: 
because in my quest to get away from Texas summers, I have instead found an awesome the desert! (fail) but not only does UNLV have a great program, they also have a mandatory semester abroad requirement AND an agreement with the Peace Corps that allows you to spend the first two years on campus and the last two years abroad serving with the Corps and that's why this school is number one on my list. They also have numerous ways to help pay tuition, which will help in my quest to not have to take out anymore student loans since the ones I have now are attempting to drown me in shallow water.

2. LSU: 
LSU was actually on my list for undergrad before my dad told me that I wasn't allowed to go out of state. It's close(ish) to home but what really stands out about this program is that I won't have to pay tuition!!! (I know right!) By GAing and GRAing, they pay for you so I'd only have to figure out housing and incidentals.

3. Eastern Washington: 
Location, location, location my friend. The Pacific Northwest would be perfect for someone like me who is pro-seasons and can't make it through a hot summer intact. What I like most about EWU is the opportunities. There are chances to volunteer to teach creative writing to children and in prison and doing either one would be an amazing opportunity. I know that if it weren't for writing, I wouldn't be here and if I could give someone else that same outlet, that would be a dream come true.

4. Memphis: 
This was an accidental find that Mommy mentioned to me, but once I researched the school, I noticed just how much I could do there that would help me once I go career mode. Fell in love with Memphis during my epic road trip so the location is cool too (well, not cool in the summer...but ya know...)

5. University of British Columbia: 
Canada eh? Yep. And not just because tuition for an international student is LESS THAN in-state tuition at a school in Texas. I s you not. Good program, good location, good opportunities. Will need to invest in a passport to make this one work (another To-Do regular) but it's still in contiguous North America (AKA no flying!) a diverse atmosphere and numerous opportunities that go above and beyond my minimums. 

So you'll notice there are no in-state options. Yep. There aren't many MFA programs at a Texas school I could actually see myself out and the whole point of continuing my education is getting out of my comfort zone and allowing myself to experience new things. I can't do that here and there's not really a whole lot keeping me in Texas still anyways. I always felt like I had one foot up here and one down in either Austin or San Marcos and I don't want that again. If it's meant to last, distance won't matter and if it's not meant to be, it's time to cut the strings and move on.