208 216 pages of it. I can practically spit and hit my graduation date at this point (July 1st! July 1st!). All I have left to do now is print off multiple copies of this monster on fancy thesis paper and ship the lot off to Maine for binding.
I’ve ordered my flat hat, my shapeless gown with the little tags on the sleeves, my tassel, and my hood (the school colors are a nice deep blue and golden-yellow; the visual artist in me, though, wishes the collar color was something complimentary rather than MFA brown).
I still have my graduation presentation and graduate reading* but that won’t be till the last week of June. It’s a weird feeling, though an uncomfortably familiar one. Well, it’s not nearly as bad as it was following my undergrad graduation. After undergrad, I had nothing in the way of direction. My degree also wasn’t one of those stepping-stone ones that leads to employment, nor was it one that lead directly to higher ed.
This time around, I’m still stuck with that awful question of “now what?” (and the awareness that, with the exception of one brief week last December, I’ve never worked full time) but now I have more plates spinning. I have short stories to send out on their rounds, I have a novel I’m currently querying, I have another that’s about 30,000 words to the end (this sounds like a lot, I realize, but the novel is shaping up to be about 160k-170k and it’s in the homestretch now). Still short on the whole full-time employment thing, but I can work on that. I feel less directionless. Still have no idea how I’m getting to where I’m going, but my current end-goal is a little clearer, and at least I’ve got a pretty good grasp of where to put my foot for the next step.
I realize as I’m approaching the end of this post that I never did say what the thesis is. As Stonecoast is a creative writing program, it’s a collection of creative work produced while I’ve been working toward my degree. I gave myself the challenge of only drawing from work created while enrolled in the program and, though I’d originally applied intending to work on novel-length projects (specially, the unnamed high fantasy one), it’s ended up as a short story collection.**
I mean, I did work on the novel these past two years, but I realized as I was entering my final semester that submitting the novel as my thesis would be impractical (oh, god, the sheer size of it! The current thesis is a solid 60k, the novel is 140k and still growing! Not only would the paper and printing cost a fortune, but the shipping? At that weight? Eek). It would also be unfair: to myself, to my thesis adviser, to my second reader, but also to the novel, seeing that it isn’t done and I know it’s going to change in revisions. I wanted to submit something polished, but also something that could showcase my breadth of skill.
Thus, short(er) fiction.
In retrospect, I now understand why workshops prefer short fiction. There’s a certain kind of experimental freedom you have in a short story collection, whereas a novel does sort of lock you in to a particular narrative style, voice, tone, and so on. With a short story collection, you can do more “showing off.”
EDIT 5/11: Now on the fancy paper! They’ve been wrapped with paper ribbons and put in boxes, and the only thing left is to ship ’em to Maine. Six copies. That was A LOT of printing. And with only one little snafu with the margins on the signature page; I count myself exceedingly lucky. The format is notoriously tricky.
* They’re like the program’s equivalent of defending your thesis, but since it’s a creative writing Master’s, there isn’t a whole lot to defend. In a way, you already do that in the preface explaining your work, your approach, why you did what you did and chose what pieces you chose, and the thematic and structural elements of the work on a whole.
** Well, three short stories, two novelettes, and one flash, and a large bibliography.