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ACurlyShepherdLad last won the day on July 2 2019

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About ACurlyShepherdLad

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    Creative writing; fiction; creative nonfiction; fantasy literature; 20th-21st century literature; medieval literature; medieval history; medieval philosophy; medieval theology; existentialism; queer theology; pastoral theology; ethics and society; religion, psychology and culture; church history
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    2019 Fall

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  1. All, That existential crisis has fallen upon me, and while I hope it's not familiar to you, I'm posting here because I'm thinking that chances are it is to many, and maybe some of you have successfully navigated out of it. I've done an MFA and an MDiv and luckily found ways to bring literature, creative writing and religion together during both programs. Here's the thing: I'm in my early 30s and I'm tired. I've only been outside of higher ed for a bit between undergrad and now, doing church work and freelancing gigs. Both my degrees are considered "terminal." I loved teaching, I loved "academic freedom," I loved being supported if I wanted to go to conferences, I loved doing research and I loved writing (as a student). I didn't love bureaucracy, I didn't love job insecurity, I didn't love low wages, I didn't love my job taking up all my research/writing time (or not being done with work when I got home), I didn't love that my students were increasingly disinterested in doing work. I also missed what felt like more practical applications of my theological and ministerial studies in divinity school, particularly social justice ministries. I feel like I'm at an impasse. I either need to decide to do a PhD while I'm still young (although early 30s feels fairly old when I consider the duration of a PhD and the long and winding road to tenure after) or I need to figure out a life for myself in the world outside higher ed. If I did apply to doctoral programs, I'd go the practical theology route and build off the problem I tackled in my MDiv thesis, a subject I remain passionate and curious about. But I'll admit: money is starting to be an issue for me. I'm getting older and I feel less ready to live off a meager student stipend than I was in my 20s. I'm willing to get the PhD if it would improve my opportunities and security, but I also feel woefully unfamiliar with the possibilities available to someone with terminal degrees in the arts and humanities outside of academe. Aside from higher ed instructor, I've briefly done university chaplaincy and gov't human rights agency work as part of my ministry experience. Are upward mobility, job security and livable wages possible for someone with this kind of background, or would a PhD secure those things in a way these master's can't? Also willing to look into nonprofit/corporatey certificates/licenses if that helps ease the transition out of academe/generate better income. I think my gifts have been well-suited toward academe, but I don't know if it can or will ever give me back the support I need to keep my head above the water. Anyone else struggled with this same decision after their master's? What helped you decide to stay in higher ed or transition out? And, if you were transitioning out, how did you discern what path out was best for you? Apologies for the murkiness of the question. It's probably a result of my present murky state. TL;DR: Terminal literary arts and theological/ministerial degrees struggling to discern whether a PhD in practical/pastoral theology or transitioning out of academia would offer a more secure/stable future and, if the latter, how best to make that transition.
  2. The (big) dream(s): Writer who can support himself off his own writing Activist priest Tenured professor of religion and/or English Chaplain who offers counseling to LGBTQ+ people who still identify as religious who have religious-based trauma but who are not ready/do not want to be affiliated again I dunno if I'm ready for any of these yet. Not ordained, haven't done CPE and haven't decided on a PhD just because my two master's programs were so draining and unforgiving, as was teaching in higher ed, that I dunno if I have the constitution for a life in academe. But I think this exercise is probably really helpful for all of us. Maybe we learned something about ourselves and maybe some frontrunners emerged in our minds when we sized up our lists.
  3. Hi, all: Add me to the list of possible applicants! Still trying to discern whether I stand a snowball's chance with a somewhat scattered background--not to mention whether I have the energy (academia is home but gosh, is the pace exhausting sometimes). But I'm excited for the convos, happy to see at least one other person here with a CW background and glad we're in this together.
  4. Hi, everyone: I'm toying with the idea of doctoral programs right now and I had a bit of a question. I'm interested in English lit programs, but my CV is somewhat interdisciplinary. I have a BA with English, writing, philosophy and religion majors, a Master of Divinity, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. My areas of interest in English lit usually involve religion in some capacity. My MFA is fairly recent, but my MDiv and BA are 7+ years old. I took a couple lit classes in my MFA and did well, but my lit profs from my most recent grad program don't know me as well as my creative writing profs from my MFA or my divinity profs (one of my divinity school profs served as a close mentor/MDiv thesis reader and taught religious literature courses)--or even my undergraduate profs. If you were in my shoes, what would you prioritize when asking for recommendations: recency, how well they know me/my work, what courses they taught? It doesn't feel like there's a perfect fit (someone who is strong in all these areas) or obvious contender at current.
  5. ACurlyShepherdLad


    When I was in my MFA, I think the majority of students were in their mid-20s to mid-30s. We had plenty of outliers on either end, though. The scope adds so much to the workshop, truly.
  6. I'd be wary, especially if you're applying to some of the same programs. A prof once instructed my class to bring in a revision we were working on, and I selected a dramatically revised short story from my CW sample. The protagonist went from being a young woman to an old woman, the tone went from serious to light and humorous and the entire plot had changed. My prof still recognized it as being from my CW sample (not that that was a bad thing given that she asked for a revision--I was just surprised by her memory), so there's a chance the admissions committees might recognize yours and it all ends up the same way. I know time is hard to come by, but ideally, you should be writing and revising as much as you can (especially if being a writer is a long-term goal of yours). It's highly possible you'll create something even better than the story you treasure (hold onto it!--just maybe not for this). The applicant pool changes every year, so there's always a chance an admissions committees could privilege a portfolio of yours containing this partciular story over other applicants this year, but I think you significantly improve your chances if you try to deliver different and even better the next go around. And if you're starting to work on your applications this early in the game, you've got plenty of time to bring some work to life before most CW programs' deadlines.
  7. Others may want to weigh in on this--and s2020, feel free to dismiss it--but I always think it's a good idea to ask what schools are doing to promote the physical and mental well-being of their students. Academia has a certain rigor and it can often take its toll on students (faculty and staff, too). I don't want to make anyone look wishy-washy by asking such a question--and this is, of course, a more practical one--but I also don't like the idea that there's something noble about sacrificing oneself on the altar of their studies. The perfect programs will have the right resources to help you cope with the challenges ahead, and faculty and staff who care about students' well-being.
  8. Hi, everyone: Question for you. My academic background is a bit interdisciplinary. In undergrad, I majored in English, writing, philosophy and religion. I attended divinity school for an MDiv afterward, but the classes I loved the most had literary focuses and explored religious themes in reading and writing. I tabled my PhD aspirations to do an MFA in creative writing instead, not feeling quite ready for a PhD or certain I wanted to do one (mostly because of the job market). I've been doing some research on doctoral programs and I keep stumbling upon universities like Chicago that seem to have programs through their religion departments that emphasize "religious literature." In my experience, though, English professors tend to know a lot about religious themes in the literature they research and teach (and the theological contexts in which that literature was written), so it seems like English departments should be able to support study at these intersections, too. I've been leaning more towards applying to PhD programs in literature given my MFA is more recent and its GPA better, but I figured I'd ask you all first if I should be considering applying through religion departments instead. English programs don't seem to have the same language requirements as religion programs, but religion programs might appreciate my MDiv more than lit programs appreciate my MFA. So many factors to consider. If it helps, related areas of interest include portrayals of clergy in literature, medieval lit, 20th-21st century British lit and religions/theologies in science fiction and fantasy literature. TL;DR: Should someone with an MDiv and MFA interested in exploring religious themes in literature focus on applying through English departments or religion departments or both? My gratitude for your thoughts!
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