I'm going to tell you the story of my adventures in publishing little by little, in the hope that in a few weeks, I may have some news to share with you.
My education as a writer has been a lifelong process, as it is for most writers. But instead of telling you my whole autobiography, I'll start with my graduate school experience.
I studied for a doctorate in English literature at Emory University from Fall 1999 until Spring 2006, when I received my Ph. D..
I knew from the beginning that I might not want to be an academic, for several reasons too complex to explain here. I wanted to go to graduate school because I loved literature and I was good at analyzing it. I just wanted to study.
And study I did! For three years I took classes and the dreaded comprehensive exams, first written, then oral. Many parts of grad school were grueling, but I was blessed with a wonderful group of peers and a great faculty. Almost everybody in my program was pretty humane, which is not true at many other grad programs. I'm especially grateful for my dissertation director, who taught me a great deal. I really needed his support when I relocated during my fourth year of grad school and ended up writing my dissertation long-distance, while caring for a baby!
I'm happy with the work I did in graduate school. Thanks to my dissertation director's guidance, I produced a quality dissertation that ended up winning a prize. More important was my immersion for seven years in literature of all kinds. I read, and read, and read--classic works from the Renaissance to the present. (I skipped Medieval--had enough Middle English as an undergrad, thank you very much!)
These long years of studying great writers became my creative writing apprenticeship. In conjunction with my undergraduate study of theater and poetry, my graduate school experience gave me knowledge--both intuitive and analytical-- of the elements of great stories.
I haven't been through an MFA program, so I can't compare a Ph.D. program in literature to an MFA. I can vouch that a Ph. D. program of literary study can do wonders to prepare you for working as a novelist. The catch is that if you're going to consider it, you have to really enjoy literary criticism. No one who only wants to create is going to make it through the rigors of a seven-year program in analysis.
Next: My Publishing Journey #2 - What Happens to a Dream Deferred?