My heart is beating fast, and I think I’m even shaking. Why? you ask. Are you skydiving? About to play the piano at Carnegie Hall? Um, no.
I just hit the “submit” button on my application to a Ph.D. program. This one, in fact, at Lancaster University in the UK.
And like most of the new directions we take in life, it was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It will be a few months before I learn whether I’m accepted or not, but at least I know I gave it my absolute best shot, since putting together the package took a month all by itself. Along with the usual recital of personal details, here’s what the application entailed:
- A personal statement about why I want to do this, and at Lancaster in particular (answer: there are only a very few doctoral programs where you actually get to write a book instead of analyzing other people’s for seven years)
- Qualifications and work experience (35 novels plus a career in corporate ought to cover that)
- References (the director of the MFA program where I already teach, and my wonderful editor at Hachette)
- Transcripts for my BA, MA, and MFA, along with the actual diplomas
- A CV (curriculum vitae)
- My passport
- A writing sample (I sent the first three chapters of The Longest Road. I would have sent the whole novel in paperback, but … probably overkill, huh?)
- And last but definitely not least, my research proposal (six pages single spaced, detailing the 80,000-word novel I would write, plus the 20,000-word dissertation).
While the MFA is the terminal degree on the fine-arts side for creative writing, something inside me has always wanted to go farther. Maybe it’s because I’m the only person on both sides of my family to go to college. Maybe I’m just an overachiever and don’t know when to quit. In any case, this doesn’t mean I’m going to put my series on hold … I’ll be writing Fields of Gold, The Highest Mountain, and a romance novella entitled A Home For His Heart in 2017, before the program starts in October. But this new project, if it gets the green light, would fit into my production schedule pretty nicely in 2018.
I owe thanks to fellow author and professional costumer Monica E. Spence for talking me through the process, and for opening doors at Lancaster. She’s near the end of her program—congratulations, Monica!
Okay. Breathe. And wish me luck!