In 2014, Kelsey earned her M.A. in English with a creative writing focus from Ball State University. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing at West Virginia University.
Two graduate degrees in creative writing. Redundant, right?
The MFA is the terminal degree in the field, and will allow me to teach as a creative writing professor upon graduation. For me, the MA was just as important. My undergraduate degrees at Ball State were in landscape architecture and history. I had never taken a creative writing course, but I loved writing stories. I knew very little about MA and MFA degrees, so I applied to Ball State’s program because it is a great school.
I won’t pretend I started the MA with a clear plan for graduate studies, but here are four reasons why stumbling into Ball State’s MA in English turned out to be very fortunate for me:
- Having time to write is a gift. It is. In both my MA and MFA programs, I’ve had time to write, to mull, to experiment with my craft over and over while being fully funded.
- Teaching is hard. The first two semesters I taught at Ball State, it took up a lot of time, both teaching courses and taking the accompanying pedagogy courses. However, each semester I became better at balancing teaching and writing. When I arrived at my MFA program, while many of my peers were panicking over their first times teaching, I was able to skip the pedagogy course, and spend much less time prepping lessons, both of which meant more time for writing. (See reason number one.)
- I knew I would apply to MFA programs for fiction, so when I started at Ball State, I wasn’t very interested in (read as: I was intimidated by) the creative nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting courses. I quickly learned that writing in other genres made my fiction better. Substantially better. There aren’t many programs that encourage students to dabble in four genres. It was great to be in small classrooms where five to eight classmates and myself moved from genre to genre each semester, and experimented with our writing together. The five graduate professors encouraged us to take courses outside our specialty. There was no rivalry between genres.
- Finally, the creative writing professors in the program are positive, encouraging, and create healthy workshop atmospheres. As I applied to MFA programs, I received endless support and advice from them on schools, writing samples, and applications. Publication and professionalization lectures were covered in the classroom, and meetings were held to advise those interested in MFA or PhD programs. We even had someone from the Career Center speak to us about career opportunities for English majors. I felt supported by the community of creative writing professors at Ball State. They are the kind of good people that years later, I still feel proud to call my writing mentors.
Every year, thousands of great writers apply to a limited number of MFA programs. Acceptance rates are low, especially in fully-funded programs. My two years in Ball State’s MA program allowed me to drastically improve my writing, develop a writing sample, and gain a support system to help me get accepted to a competitive MFA program. My time at Ball State was positive and frankly, a lot of fun.
At my core I’ll always be a creative writer first. In the future I plan to get an MFA in creative writing, and ultimately my goal is to teach creative writing at a collegiate level. I had a wonderful and inspirational experience in the English Department, and I learned a plethora of transferable communication skills that I will take with me everywhere. That being said, I’m happy to be exploring other fields.
I’m in the MA program for Emerging Media Design and Development (EMDD) in the Journalism Department here at Ball State. I was initially drawn to this program because we would be studying (among other things) transmedia storytelling, which naturally sounded intriguing to a creative writer. Now I’m studying and learning to create transmedia stories, which are stories that are told over multiple platforms—for a really cool example of this take a look at Lance Weiler’s Pandemic 1.0.
It’s exciting to be studying this fascinating facet of the future of storytelling.
In a class assignment for The Broken Plate, I had to give a presentation about the future of publishing, so I was already aware of self-publishing, ebooks, Issuu, and other opportunities. But the EMDD program has exposed me to a whole new horizon of storytelling that I was entirely unaware of before, and now I’m studying to become an Experience Designer and learning how to create effective transmedia experiences.
Graduate school has reinvigorated my passion for learning and creating, which was always a driving force in my pursuit of higher education. Towards the end of my undergrad I felt pretty burnt out with school. While I was excited to begin graduate school, I was also still wrapped up in a lingering hesitancy about going back to school so soon after graduating. Then the semester started, and I had to hit the ground running. I was thrown into this fast-paced chaos, but it has kick started my drive and inspired me. I am more productive now, both creatively and academically. The workload is daunting at times, but I am thriving.
My advice for creative writing students who are contemplating graduate school—you’re a storyteller in a changing media landscape, and there are great programs inside and outside of English that offer doorways into unique and interesting ways to tell stories. Explore them.
Grad School Confidential is a new series featuring students who have made the transition from undergraduate to graduate school. Morgan Aprill, who studied literature as an undergrad, is now a graduate student in the Intensive English Institute here at Ball State University.
When I first graduated in May of this year, I didn’t think I’d be coming back to school right away. I applied to jobs that seemed related to communications or editing or teaching. I had some interviews and even got close to a job offer. But over the summer I thought I’d ask the Ball State faculty about good programs to look into in the future for linguistics and teaching English to speakers of other languages. Little did I know I’d be running off later the same day I chatted with Dr. Seig to figure out how to take the GRE.
Fast forward and here I am back at Ball State pursuing a double masters in those very two programs I was interested in. Some might say I’m putting off the real world. I say I’m pursuing what I actually want to do with my life. Though writing tweets for businesses or government offices pays the bills, I couldn’t see myself wanting to do that for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to try this teaching idea I’ve had for a while now.
It’s only been a few weeks but so far I feel like I made the right decision. I am working as a graduate assistant at the Intensive English Institute here on campus. This department is a special one. Through it come international students working to improve their English skills in order to take classes in their chosen field here at Ball State. It’s a perfect place for someone who is thinking about teaching English to speakers of other languages to get practice. Last week I started my first class observation of a writing class in the institute. It made me even more excited to start teaching my own classes. Language is my passion, and I want to help others learn to use it and understand how powerful and interesting of a tool it is that we have as humans. I’m not teaching classes yet, but I might next semester. I’m so glad that I get to take this opportunity and that I will maybe, someday, be teaching English abroad. Continue reading