Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Surviving Financially

Bankrupt Bard writes in. Again, I'm swamped today for time. Will be addressing this later this week. In the meantime, BB and I would appreciate your opinions.

First off, your blog is a great service and displays a real commitment to writing, not to mention generosity toward young people struggling with a difficult dream to realize. A fine idea that addresses a real need.

My question:
I'm in my early 40s, married, two elementary school age kids, been working as a journalist for years and I want take time out and get an MFA in poetry. Even with full funding and some teaching, it seems I'd only be making $10,000 or $15,000 a year, if that much-- not an attractive prospect for a family of four. Are grants a viable option, or am I just dreaming? What are the odds of getting up to survival level income without loading on so much outside work that I have no time left for writing?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

i'm going to cornell in the fall, which has one of the better funding packages. it's 20k if you include summer stipend the first year, and about 23k the second year, which i think would be doable in ithaca if your wife is working. tough, but doable.

Jason MacLeod said...

For what it's worth, you are likely eligible for up to $18,500 in loans a year on top of that $10k stipend. Obviously, that's a big chunk O debt. Perhaps you could continue working as a reporter part-time? Unfortunately, there are very few big grants at any program. And even then with four kids, I suspect you'd be at the poverty line. Are there any in-state public university MFA programs that you could attend part time? You might be able to swing that without quiting your job or by just by cutting back on your hours a bit. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

A low-res program might be right for you...

You can continue working to bring home a liveable wage, not uproot your family, and still gain your MFA. Plus, you'll be able to understand how family, work, and your creative writing will function together.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I have to agree with everyone - it's pretty rough. I mean, look at it from the point of view of the school - they're already giving you free tuition (which is worth what, 30,000 per year?) plus thousands of dollars on top of that. I would say that's a pretty fair investment in someone for the arts. I mean, it IS poetry. They're not expecting to see a return profit on their investment, unless you get a few books out. It sounds to me like you're getting a helluva deal. Besides - are you really going to write poetry more than a few hours a day? It takes a monumental amount of work to write and to live, especially with poetry. Unfortunately it boils down to money for them - how much are you worth to them to write poetry? Apparently they're telling you you're worth around 75,000 dollars to write - not too bad...

Anonymous said...

The low-res might be best for you if you have a family. But if you want to really take the time out to get an MFA--if you don't want to have to have a full-time job while you're in school--you shouldn't rule out getting into a school with a really good stipend. As the Cornell person said, you can hope to get as much as $20-$22K/year from a few programs, depending on whether you get summer support--and you can always work full-time in the summer. And try for outside grants and fellowships! But it will definitely be easier if you have a partner who can work enough that your family will have a livable salary.

Anonymous said...

I'm in much the same situation, albeit less extreme: journalist, w/ a fiance who has a daughter, though I'm a bit younger (29). I think I can hack it in grad school if I can pull off full funding. The question is how much your wife works, what she does, and whether you think you can pull off doing some freelancing on the side. I'm planning to. Maybe I'm delusional. But I think I can do it.

--Dan

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