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Another Semester Down

At 5 p.m. on Thursday, I left the University of Oklahoma seven credit hours closer to a graduate degree in Professional Writing. Fourteen credit hours down, eighteen to go.

This semester I took Tutorial and Creative Nonfiction.

In Creative Nonfiction we developed nonfiction book proposals. Throughout the semester we wrote query letters, researched markets, developed chapter summaries, penned a synopsis of our books, and even wrote sample chapters. I didn’t realize how much work we had done until the end of the semester, when we assembled all of those components into a single proposal. In addition to that project, we wrote Buzzfeed articles (like 18 Things I Should Probably Throw Away, But Won’t), read and discussed multiple essays, and had to write and submit four articles to external magazines or websites. One of my articles was accepted for publication by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature for publication this February, and several others are still pending. I walked away from this class with real-world applicable skills that have already moved me forward as a writer.

In Tutorial in Writing, students meet one-on-one with a writing professor (all professional writers themselves) and present their work for real time feedback and constructive criticism. Over the semester I was required to bring a total of ninety consecutive pages from a novel I am working on; additionally, I wrote a few other related assignments like a plot summary and character studies. Sitting across the desk from a professional writer while they read and critique your work can be a nerve-wracking experience, but over time our meetings felt less like I had been called to the principal’s office and more like I was receiving guidance and advice from a mentor. Tutorial is no place for the thin-skinned writer, and I left our meetings every week with advice and suggestions that made every portion of my story better.

My professors this semester were Professor Deborah Chester and Professor Mary Anna Evans, and I am constantly impressed by the quality of professors that the University of Oklahoma’s writing program has been able to land. Professor Chester’s book The Fantasy Fiction Formula currently has a five-star rating on Amazon. Burials, the tenth book in Professor Evans’s Faye Longchamp series, is currently available for pre-order. Learning about the writing craft from people who do it for a living is an invaluable experience.

One of the cool things I discovered this semester was the student writing lounge inside “Lindsey and Asp,” the student-run advertising and public relations agency.

During my first two semesters I spent a lot of time working outside on the third floor patio, which is nice in the spring and fall but not so great in the summer and winter. Unlike the outside patio, Lindsey and Asp has comfortable seating, access to printers (handy for writing students), and perhaps most important to me, air conditioning. It’s a great place to tuck inside and get some work done.

I have five weeks off of school until the next semester begins, but I won’t have five weeks off from writing. I have several writing projects in the fire, not to mention my audiobook and my neglected podcast that I need to breathe life into.

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2 comments to Another Semester Down

  • Kim

    Hey Rob!
    Great hearing about your adventures in writing. Sounds like a great program. In my 3rd life, I’d love to write too. So, thanks for sharing this stuff so I can live vicariously through you for now!

  • Paul in AZ

    I like the idea of hearing more “Flack-inspired” podcasts, but first, breathe. Before you know it, you’ll be a bona fide professional writer.