How Many Lives Does A Writer Live?

When you apply to the undergraduate Creative Writing program at UH, you have to submit with your portfolio a one-page statement of intent. What in the world is a statement of intent, I wondered the first time I applied. I don’t remember what I wrote for my first application, but suffice it to say that I know the one I submitted with my second application was much better—written from the heart rather than from the mind. Every once in a while when I’m on my computer, writing and even when not writing, I’ll click over to that statement of intent to reread it. Today, I want to share it with you.

When my first application to the University of Houston’s competitive undergraduate Creative Writing concentration was not accepted, I spent the next year and a half wondering if it would even be worth trying again. I did not reapply immediately because I felt I needed time to practice my writing—and really practice, because an attorney told me once that one “practices” writing just like one “practices” law—it is always practiced and never perfected. I have spent my entire life, then, practicing creative writing, and while my work has greatly improved over these years, I can see that I still have a long way to go. This is why I decided to reapply: for the chance to continue practicing writing under the instruction of people who are as successful in it as I dream of being, and who will care about and want to facilitate my success. Professors who can see my potential and encourage me to become better, to reach higher, and not to let rejection discourage me from trying again.

My ultimate goal in creative writing has always been to write a fiction novel and then have it published, and then to write another. That will always be what I will work toward, but in the undergraduate concentration, I will work toward the Creative Writing degree I want. I will try to complete some shorter stories that may be sent to literary magazines, and therefore hone my ability to employ the techniques of storytelling in a smaller number of pages. I will try as much as I can to return to the imaginative freedom that thinking creatively gives me, which I feel has been lost to me in all these years of school and analytical essays. Above all, I will continue to practice writing. The feedback I requested after not being accepted before stated that more unpredictability was desired from my writing, and while I have been working on that, I feel that it could still greatly benefit from more professional instruction. I hope you will afford me that chance.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote George R.R. Martin.

How many lives does a writer live?

Emmaline

I promised earlier a snippet of “Emmaline,” one of my short stories, and invited you, dear reader, to see if you could pull out the line from which came my muse. Yes, it’s in the story, so no, you don’t need to pull anything from thin air. The answer lies before your eyes.

“Emmaline”is my own piece, written as part of my portfolio application to the University of Houston’s undergraduate Creative Writing program, and is excerpted below. (I’m very pleased to share that I was accepted.)

I welcome thoughts and feedback, so please, don’t be shy.

Your task now is to guess the line in this excerpt in which the muse for this story is hidden. Good luck!

Emmaline

“Emmaline.”

Slowly, the girl raises her head and lifts her paintbrush from the canvas. Blue paint drips to the dark wood floor, and the matron standing tall in the doorway purses her lips in disapproval. “Emmaline, it is past time for tea. As soon as you have made yourself presentable, you may join your father and mother in the sun parlor.”

The woman swishes away in a swirl of dark blue taffeta, the door left open behind her so that she may hear whether the brushstrokes resume, and Emmaline rests the paintbrush on the canvas stand and eases herself down from the stool. In the bathroom, over the porcelain basin, she washes the paint from her hands, and the blue swirls down in ribbons like the blue blood that would bleed from her veins. Reflected in the mirror, her ivory skin and pale blonde hair resemble exactly that of her mother and father, the incestuous twins. And that of their mother and father, the first cousins. She adjusts the black velvet ribbon that ties back her silky strands. Such blue blood should have rendered her imperfect, but she is perfect.

The witch nurse saw to that.

Finished in the bathroom, Emmaline returns to her bedroom and moves the canvas from the easel to her window cushion so the paint may dry in the dusky light.

The voice returns, commanding obedience: “Emmaline.”

“No, Nurse.”

This time, Nurse closes the door behind her, and Emmaline is not displeased to hear a key turn in the lock. Solitude serves her best.

Next to the antique four-poster bed is an antique vanity, and inside the drawer hides a small journal, bound in the same black velvet from which her hair ribbon is cut. Emmaline lowers herself onto the vanity’s stool, and dips a pen into an ink pot.