End of Semester: Professional Writing Alcoves

This week marks the end of my first semester as a grad student at OU… except I wasn’t really a grad student, and the class I took won’t count toward my degree.

Where to begin?

The ball started rolling this past summer when Susan asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was a trick question as I don’t really plan on growing up, but if I had to, I suppose the answer is, “a writer.” This sparked a conversation that ultimately led us to discover the “Master of Professional Writing” graduate degree program. The program isn’t available at a ton of universities, but surprisingly, it’s offered at the University of Oklahoma.

OU’s website lists several undergraduate courses as required prerequisites for the program. With no idea as to what we were doing, I enrolled in one: Writing the Short Story. Susan helped me enroll for the class and sign up to take the GRE exam, which I took (and passed) shortly before the class began.

While attending the class, I applied for graduate school. This involved tracking down transcripts, providing writing samples, and getting letters of recommendation (thanks again, Ellston and Gabe!). It was a lot of paperwork, but 20 years with the federal government has been good practice. Several weeks after my application was submitted, I received my acceptance letter. I’m in!

One confusing section of the application asked me whether I was an undergraduate student or a graduate student. Technically, I was neither. I graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a BA in 2005, so I’m not an undergraduate, but until I had been accepted into OU’s master’s program, I wasn’t a graduate student, either. This was further complicated by the fact that I was currently enrolled and taking a class at OU. And because my application came back with “no deficiencies” (“he don’t know me very well, do he?”), the prerequisite I took was not required.

At least it wasn’t required by the school. For me, mentally, it was required.

It was required because I needed somebody neutral to read things I had written and say, “yes, these are good.” Not a family member or a friend or a co-worker, and not anyone who has read my books or listens to my podcasts, but someone who had no idea who I was. Someone neutral. Someone qualified to teach graduate level classes. Someone who grades and judges people’s writing for a living. That’s who I needed to tell me that my stuff was okay.

I turned in three short stories. I got A’s on all three of them.

I’m not telling you that to brag or pat myself on the back. I’m telling you that because it wasn’t until I got all three of those grades that I felt like I belonged in that program. Those grades didn’t make me feel proud; they made me feed validated. And that’s what I was looking for.

The very first time I set foot in Gaylord Hall, Susan, the kids and I went up to the third floor and found this sign: Professional Writing Alcoves. Unbeknownst to me, my classroom ended up being right next to this sign. Twice a week for the past sixteen weeks I’ve walked underneath this sign and looked up at it. Me, hanging out in the professional writing alcoves.

There’s an awful lot about writing fiction that I don’t know, but the one thing I now know is, I’m good enough to take a stab at it.

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2 comments to End of Semester: Professional Writing Alcoves

  • Mom

    You always were. You only needed that validation. :-)

  • Paul in AZ

    I don’t grade papers for a living, but I know what I like; you, Rob, are a writer. Welcome to “The Alcoves.”

    If you WERE NOT a good writer, I would not have subscribed to your blog. My time is too damn valuable to waste reading stuff that’s no good.

    I hope growing up does not require the cessation of donning short pants.