Monday, February 26, 2007

I'd like to thank the Academy...

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about my favorite creative nonfiction authors. David Sedaris, Steve Almond, Sarah Vowell, Pam Houston, to name a few. I applied to a conference in Minnesota--at Bemidji State University. They accept around ten people every summer in each genre, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I sent off a piece of creative nonfiction, called "Mr. Hollywood Diet." It was about meeting someone with statuesque good looks at a party who was once an ex fat-kid just like me. A number of factors went into the demise what could have been between me an Mr. Hollywood Diet. It was Laundry Day, I fell down and my face was bleeding a tad, and there was the part when he told me (two hours later) he "kind of" had a girlfriend. (The rat!)

Upon submitting my story, there was a space to put a cover letter of some sort. After agonizing the past few months over personal statements and getting to know way too much about myself, I just can't take "talking up" another second of myself. Seriously. Enough already. I just want the writing to speak for itself. Plus, the battery on my computer said 0:02, threatening to erase my story out if I didn't just send it.

So I ended up writing something like: "Hello. I'm applying to be one of the writers for your creative nonfiction workshop with Steve Almond. I'm submitting the story "Mr. Hollywood Diet" which I wrote awhile ago and realize makes me seem like a huge loser. I wish I could tell you that has changed. Look forward to hearing from you soon."

Then my screen went black, leaving me to wonder if my submission had actually gone through. Until I received an acceptance letter by mail a few days ago to study in Steve Almond's creative nonfiction workshop.

So friends I'm headed out to Bemijdi, MN in mid June. And thank you, Mr. Hollywood Diet wherever you are, for leaving me with a broken heel and bloody chin on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, The Streets of Love. I just knew you'd be good for something.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

826 Valencia: You Could be a Writer! (Or a Pirate.)

Lately, I've been really excited about my volunteer work at 826 Valencia, San Francisco's inner city writing program. We tutor students after school. They have workshops like converting poetry to song lyrics, podcasting, writing autobiographies, writing about art, and writing short stories. Students K-12 complete quarterly lit mags. Famous local authors line the walls with their marked-up manuscripts to illustrate that perfection doesn't happen the first try. 826 is the brainchild of author Dave Eggers, and features a pirate shop in its storefront, complete with fake eyeballs and eye patches. So if you're interested in being a writer, a volunteer, or just an ordinary run of the mill pirate, click here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

You Might As Well Jump

As most of my friends know, I applied to a few grad schools. Well, ten. Why so many? Because the programs I chose were so highly selective, they only accept 2-25 people out of anywhere from 300-800 applications. Even though it's too early for notifications from most schools, I got some good news on Tuesday.

The University of Pittsburgh admits 7 fiction writers, and so you can imagine how happy I was when they emailed this acceptance letter:

Dear Ms. Attolini,

The MFA Admissions Committee has concluded its consideration of applications, and I am delighted to report that we will be nominating you to the Graduate Dean for admission to the MFA program. The Admissions Committee was extremely impressed with both your creative and your academic work to date, and we sincerely hope that you will choose to continue that work here at Pitt.

If you have any general questions about graduate studies here at Pitt, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. For questions specifically about the Writing Program, I’d like to refer you to its director, Professor Chuck Kinder.

Please do keep me posted about developments on your end. Meanwhile, let me say how eager we all are for you to join us here at Pitt in the fall!

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Department of English
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

I was in a cafe and hadn't checked my email all day, even though it was sent at 10:30am. I think I may have screamed or laughed or maybe some strange combination of the two. Two elderly men were sitting beside me. I packed up my laptop and books to find my friends and celebrate. "Hey!" one of the guys yelled after me. "You forgot your coffee."

"Thanks," I said. "But I don't need it. I'm going to get a drink."

This is the first school that has gotten back to me, and I'm hoping that's a good omen for receiving an acceptance to the others. For now, I'm thrilled. A couple of months ago, I made an "Acceptance CD." I went to Costco and stocked the fridge with wine and champaigne. I've instructed my roommates that we will rock out and party when I am accepted. I've turned our refridgerator into a fallout shelter. Around here, we're prepared for the best.

Tonight the UPS guy brought an envelope. It wasn't for me, but my roommate said, "Maybe they're overnighting your letter!"

I had to laugh. Maybe the vibe is a little too positive around here. We never speak the "R word." I'm not sure if my roommates--all scientists--know just how fiercely competitive these programs are. "Yep," I said. "Tomorrow they're gonna send flowers."

Even though I have a dozen other things to say, I'll write again soon. I think it's only fair, in celebration of Pittsburgh's invitation, that I share my "Acceptance CD" playlist.

1. Hell Yes-Beck
2. Not Too Soon-Throwing Muses
3. Under Pressure-David Bowie
4. Le Disko-Shiny Toy Guns
5. Lazy Eye-Silverspun Pickups
6. Love Me or Hate Me- Lady Sovereign
7. Icy Blue-7 Year Bitch
8. Upside Down-Jack Johnson
9. Good Times Gonna Come- Aqualung
10. Five Star Day- Aqueduct
11. Hey Ma- Cam'ron
12.#1 Da Woman- Tricky
13. London Bridges- Fergie
14. Jump-Van Halen

It's cool if you wanna rock out a little. Nobody's watching...