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What to do After the MFA: An International Context

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

As some of you may know, I attended my MFA program online at Lindenwood University while teaching ESL at a university and living in China.

(HuaXi Campus) Fun, right? I went into the MFA with the goal that I would finish and be qualified to teach creative writing on a collegiate level, and that this would then afford me the time to work on my own writing outside of class. It was the perfect way to incorporate writing into every aspect of my life. the time I reached the end of my MFA I had realized a few things:

1) I need to stay in China for a bit longer since my husband is Chinese, and China, 'due to COVID,' is no longer renewing Chinese passports and/or issuing visas outside of the country for anyone except students. And those with super important jobs...or tons of money (I've heard that you can bribe someone, somewhere for about 20k and get a passport, but I'm not saying anything 'cause that would staring rumors). 2) I don't personally have enough savings to both move back to America and sponsor my husband's green card. 3) Having realized I will be staying in China a bit longer, I looked for creative writing jobs on a collegiate level in China. Logical, right? Only problem is... there are none. Occasionally a creative writing class might have popped up at the uni I was teaching at, but those classes started to go to only Chinese staff, despite my qualifications, I was told no. This falls in line with what a lot of us have experienced in China: a moving of foreign teachers to ONLY teaching English as a Second Language (and at this uni, only Speaking and Listening), unless you happened to major in something an international school needed like science, math, IT. I used to teach American Culture and Society, but that was given to local staff after two semesters. You get the point.

4) I get sick a lot. Like, a lot alot. And America is now in the process of destroying human rights, particularly those for women. Plus the cost of, thank you. 5) I dislike teaching. It's like being a live performer sometimes, and I've no longer got any drive to go into a classroom of students who don't want to be there and get them participating in an activity and/or lesson. That part of me is dead. There's a saying in China for foreign teachers who come over to teach in China (primarily unqualified fresh college grads teaching English at a kindergarten): 'white monkeys.' Anytime I think about stepping back into a classroom, I feel like I'm participating in some giant gross stereotype, no matter how qualified I am. I just can't do it anymore.

So, where does that leave me in terms of working after the MFA? I'm not gonna lie, I'm thinking about writing so much erotica under so many pseudonyms that I personally pleasure at least one generation. We'll see.

In reality, I'm working on publishing my writing while working at a company (not teaching, but also not writing related or creative at all) that allows me to work ridiculously flexible hours from home.

What does that even mean, working on publishing my writing? Well, that means I'm in the process of sending out a bunch of queries to agents, I'm editing a novel, I'm continually submitting to literary magazines, and I'm hardcore eyeballing places like Wattpad, Patreon, and every erotica platform.

A GIF of my life ten years from now.

And no, I don't think writing erotica would be in someway debasing myself, it would just be another way of keeping myself out of an office setting with forced team building activities and a boss who doesn't respect my time or ambitions. Back to life after the MFA: Stop expecting so much. Basically, I was looking at the MFA with big puppy dog eyes, imagining what my writer-y life would be like if I had one of THOSE bad boys on my belt. Then I got halfway through and realized 'Oh shit, I could have done this at home by myself if I was disciplined enough.' By the end, I was scrambling around looking for jobs in my new field, but there were no realistic options that worked for me and my circumstances.

My plan now is to work my at home gig, and keep writing. The MFA lives or dies with me and how I utilize my time. If I stop writing, why did I ever bother to begin with? If I keep writing, will I suddenly have my books and writings published and become an overnight sensation with millions of fans around the world now reading this blog post? Not likely, but I still want to see my goddamn name on one of those fat ass poetry collections like 'Mea Andrews: Poems 2016-2340.'

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