A Statement of Purpose

My first attempt to get into an MFA program for creative writing was in 2009. A “Statement of Purpose” was required that discussed what you intended to do as a writer as well as your inspirations and influences. The program I am in now is my third attempt. I was rejected by two other universities. This particular university rejected me because I couldn’t produce three academic professors to vouch for my writing skills. All of my references were professional writers … go figure.

Anyway, this is my Statement of Purpose that I submitted to that program…

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A “Statement of Purpose” implies that the writer will elucidate their intentions in a particular endeavor. In this case, the goal is clear – to obtain a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing through the University Name Stricken program. Is that enough though? Perhaps, the real intent is to dig deeper, maybe to discuss my influences or to reveal that one particular book that changed the entire outlook of my life or, maybe, the moment I knew I wanted to write. In truth, I can’t think of one book that changed my life. It’s more that a collection of stories over a lifetime have shaped my perspectives, served as surrogate parents, and corrupted me simultaneously.

I don’t remember the first book I ever read though I distinctly remember being taught to read in first grade. Sitting among my classmates with my name written out on the paper in front of me I suddenly had a complete understanding that it was my name. I could read! It made me want more thinking that my questions about life would be answered.

I devoured books. Some people are chain smokers I became a chain reader. As a child I couldn’t get enough of The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander or Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series. I would imagine I was a mage and could shape my world at will. I believed the characters were my friends, the fantasy worlds my escape, the heroes were father figures, and the heroines maternal influences.

With no actual parental oversight, however, I was exposed to many books that I should never have read as a young child. At the age of eight, I read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover with its explicit sex scenes. Though tame by today’s standards, the feelings those scenes inspired both confused and intrigued me. I wanted to know more about this forbidden adult world. So, intertwined with children’s books like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave and Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? were V.C. Andrews’ incestuous tale, Flowers in the Attic and My Sweet Audrina – a horrible tale of rape and parental cruelty in the guise of love.

As I progressed into high school, I read survivor accounts of the Holocaust. The one I remember best is Sobibor – The Forgotten Revolt, by Thomas Toivi Blatt. It has stayed with me because the prisoners actually fought back rather than meekly accept their fate. I read true crime books such as Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi – the account of Charles Manson and his followers’ murder of the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. All of this was an attempt to understand the madness in the world around me.

Collectively, the library of my life is a montage of opposites – joyous and angry, honorable and depraved, tender and brutal, filthy and immaculate, shallow and profound.

Was all of this enough to inspire me to write? I don’t honestly know. I am certain that I’ve always crafted stories and poems in my head, but never wrote them down lest they be discovered or shared them in case of rejection. It was actually my daughter that set me on the path to writing. I would make up stories for her and some she wanted to hear over and over again. I decided to write a few down and illustrate them for her. Six years later, she still has them. Her father encouraged me to try writing seriously, but I hedged, finding one excuse or another. One day though, as I was leaving the grocery store, I saw an advertisement for the Institute of Children’s Literature and decided to try my luck.

The seed didn’t truly sprout until I was expected to write regularly. I loved it. I wanted to do it often. I still love it. Over time my desires have changed. I don’t know if I’ll focus on children’s stories or non-fiction. I write a column for Name Removed on the diamond industry and have the skeleton of a non-fiction book rattling around my head, but am not sure I know the mechanics of writing a book. All of these experiences have convinced me of one thing though – I have something to say.

Well, it appears that I was wrong. My goal is not so cut and dried. Yes, I want an MFA, but what I really want is to find out where I fit as a writer. To try on the various genres until I know what is right for me and then…I simply want to write.

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