I’m in the process of figuring out whether I can apply to Concordia University’s English MA (with creative writing focus) so that I can get Canadian residency upon graduation. I found out two days ago that Quebec is offering residency + a fast track to Canadian citizenship for any student who graduates from a Québécois university. I totally would not mind moving to Montreal if it meant I could live my life with much more freedom and dignity.

I just sent an email to one of the assistants at the English department to find out if I should apply by the April 1st deadline (without fellowship offers) and then possibly defer for a year, or if I should apply in December (with fellowship offers). I also have no idea if they even accept nonfiction candidates, but it seems as if they might not. I don’t have a 35 page fiction portfolio and I doubt I could churn one out in the two weeks I would have to submit my work to professors for letters of recommendation.

If it turns out I should apply right now, then I will be traveling to Berkeley for a couple of days to get transcripts and speak to professors (i.e. beg for letters). I don’t think Concordia would be very happy with two-year-old letters of recommendation.

I love Montreal. I love Canada. I’m tired of sitting around, wasting my life, while some bureaucracy shuffles through the motions of attempting immigration reform and ultimately falls flat on its back.

If I apply in April and somehow manage to figure out financial stuff, I could be out of here by September.

There are many things to think about, such as whether I want to leave the United States and never return, but for now, I’m more concerned with logistics.

What has happened and what will happen

I’ve been feeling a lot more upbeat about not going anywhere this year, mainly because it gives me a chance to take it a little easier, to try and find work, and to see if immigration reform is possible this year. Right now, I’m operating under the assumption that I won’t be applying to any MFA programs for next year. I thought about the number of MFA students out there ever year, and it’s a bit staggering. In some ways, the system is huge. An average of nine thousand students a year come out of MFA programs (thirty students at the average program multiplied by 300 programs). What do they do after they finish? Here’s a good example.

I ignored or didn’t get good advice until late in the application season. I didn’t apply to many fully funded programs, with the exception of Iowa and Montana (and possibly Houston). I accepted the offer of a program which would have me pay seventeen thousand dollars a year for a somewhat worthless degree. I went in with good intentions, and I’m leaving with them. I’m happy for everyone who is in a program this year, because there’s nothing like workshopping with other writers. For my part, not going to a program has motivated me much more than any workshop could have. If I apply again, I’ll only be applying to fully funded programs, or programs where I can get enough funding to get by. I really do think now that it is foolish to pay for an MFA, just as many people had told me.

My plans are such: to apply for the MacDowell Colony residency and the Jentel residency, the deadlines for both of which are September 15th. I have also been checking out lesser known online publications to see if I could submit work to them. Frankly, I’m disappointed by the quality of work I see in some of these. It’s also an eye-opening experience to read a wonderful piece and then to see that even though the author has gone to the same program I would have gone to (he graduated in the 70s), he is pretty much unknown. It puts a dent into all those expectations of being discovered after writing great work. In some way, this is the time when I have to figure out why I write.

I really hope I can visit Berkeley before the end of the year. I have many unresolved issues with the city.

I started a new piece today. I’m writing in pen now, rather than on the computer, because there are fewer distractions. Sitting at Starbucks lets me focus and relax, although, sadly, my Zune headphones no longer function, so I can’t listen to any music besides the Starbucks radio.

Things aren’t terrible at home, mainly because my father isn’t here. Mostly, everything is just okay. Today I felt really happy, maybe because I have deadlines and things to do and there are opportunities open to me that weren’t open to me before. I feel content. I’m thinking positively.

I don’t believe in fate but I love cats

Ironically enough, the idea of fate seems to be following me around lately. Today was the second time I heard about fate in regard to my appearance. I was calling people from the Hollins English Department list to find housing on Wednesday and after about four calls, I finally got through to someone whose listing looked really good. They offered a furnished room with included utilities and an owner/housemate who is willing to cook communal meals. Sounded too good to be true, and I was afraid the rent would be crazy. So I called and the price was pretty good, $375. It’s not as good as something in the high $200s, which I would have gotten if B and I had managed to be roommates this year, but it’s pretty good.

Coming from Berkeley, where I paid about $530 to live in the living room for the past year, this was a great deal. I started talking to the woman, and she seemed nice and very willing to have me as a roommate without even meeting me beforehand (which is pretty much impossible unless I stayed with someone for a couple of days for free when I get there while trying to find housing). She has another roommate, an adjunct professor in his forties at some school in Roanoke, and two cats. Sounds pretty good. I love cats.

I called her today to confirm the date and to ask if I could do some work around the house in exchange for lower rent, and she agreed. So now I’m going to be paying $350. As we were talking, she started telling me about how she had really needed someone to take the room and was having a conversation about how she wanted someone intelligent, artistic, and clean (that’s her wishlist). Apparently, I called twenty minutes after she had that conversation with someone. After she told me that, she continued to talk about “The Secret,” and at that point I tried to be polite, but I really don’t believe in it.

I find it interesting that something like this happened to me. It’s rare for me to be lucky, especially in the housing department. I’ve always been screwed because I either had to do all the work, or because I started looking too late. Let’s hope this place is as good as it sounds.

I’ll be flying out there on the 27th, the day before the orientation.

New strategy

Alright, I’m trying something new (again). I’m thinking that I should have done this ages ago. Basically, now you can see examples of my writing AND a widget to donate money towards my living/moving expenses to Roanoke. This is obviously much improved over the idea that a person will go to fundable and then go to my blog to read my writing. Not many people have the patience to do that.

Anyway, if you’re up to it, feel free to donate a dollar or something. The good thing about chipin is that there’s no minimum donation (I hope).

Also, here are some facts about why I’m not eligible for loans and cannot get a job. Here is a list (ongoing) about jobs I’ve applied for recently.

What else can I tell you? There were a lot of arguments for and against donating to my cause on the MFA Blog. The main reason why I want to go to Hollins is that it will benefit me in the long run. With an MFA degree (which is considered an advanced degree no matter how ironic it sounds), I am more qualified for higher education jobs (such as teaching at the university level), and can possibly be sponsored for an employment visa.

I also get the chance to write for two years, and to take part in workshops with other people who consider themselves serious writers. Furthermore, the MFA process is great for networking, as I’ve met many people during the last eight months, people who are committed to writing and supporting other writers. For me, this is just as important as the degree and the writing itself.

As ridiculous and far-fetched as it sounds, in the back of my mind I’m still staying positive about the idea that I might win the $10k Norman Mailer writing prize,the results of which I should be finding out within the next couple of weeks.

Help me go to graduate school and make some money in the process

I haven’t posted much about being undocumented, but it’s the main reason why I need financial help right now. I can’t get any loans because I don’t have legal status, and my parents have bad credit and can’t cosign a loan for me, so I’m hoping to get about 1000 people to each give me $40 so that I can go to graduate school.

I’m doing this through a website called Greennote, which is a company built around the peer to peer loan process. The reason I’m using this website is that the loan process doesn’t require a credit check or any sort of citizenship or residency documentation. The website is here to facilitate loan transactions between individuals who are willing to loan money to students.

The loan is legitimate, and if you choose to invest in my education, you would be repaid with interest. One of the benefits of this type of loan is that it is cheaper for me to repay, with interest rates set at 6.8%. Most private loans have an interest rate of at least 9%. Greennote makes a profit through two fees:

Documentation fee of 2% (minimum $49) paid by student (borrower) out of proceeds of loan
Annual lender administration fee of 1% paid by lender out of proceeds of repayment

I have a profile set up on the site which cannot be viewed right now because no one has chosen to pledge any money towards my loan. The site works by using the borrower’s social network (in this case, I sent a bunch of emails out to ask for money). Once someone pledges $100, my profile will be visible on the Greennote network so that people whom I have not emailed can see it and decide whether to donate or not.

Here’s the breakdown of what I need:

$17,000 a year for two years for tuition (I received a 10k tuition grant from the school, but tuition is $27,780)
$3,000 a year for living expenses (this is approximate and will probably be raised to $4,000 because I have to buy food)

Living expenses based on $300 month for rent. I hope to continue freelancing (Russian translation, tutoring, editing/proofreading), but it has been really tough to find any sort of work, especially since I’m looking on craigslist.

So, I need $34,000 for tuition, and $6,000-$8,000 for living expenses, making the total $40,000-$42,000.

See the terms of the loan here

My qualifications:

UC Berkeley graduate (double major: English and Russian) Cumulative GPA: 3.591
One of 15 students chosen for the first year of my graduate program (approximately 280 applications were received this year)
Experienced Russian-to-English translator (I’ll translate anything you want!)

I could go on with this business of selling myself, but really, I’m just a guy who has a dream and needs some help to accomplish it. If you or someone you know can spare $40 for a good cause, please send me an email so that I can send you a Greennote invitation.

Someone asked about how I can get legal status: right now I can wait 5 years or get married to a US citizen. Neither of those are happening any time soon.