5 Places To Apply To Instead of Creative Writing MFA Programs

Buried neck-deep in MFA applications, I have distracted myself from the very real possibility (probability) of not getting in to any graduate program by having back-up plans up the wazoo. Here’s a list of the best places to consider if you feel compelled to take a gap year between undergraduate and graduate programs. Or if you’re applying to programs with a less than 8% acceptance rate, like mine.

1. Teach for America: With the  goal of making an exceptional education available for every student, Teach for America puts driven recent graduates in underprivileged school districts. Quoting the statistic that only 8% of impoverished children graduate college as opposed to the 80% graduation rate of their more privileged peers, Teach for America aims to stop the cycle of poverty through education.

The program requires a two year commitment and a rigorous application process that includes an online and phone interview in addition to a full-day interview session, but of all the options for a gap year(s) it looks like the most rewarding and the best paid, with teachers receiving a salary between $21,000 and $51,000 a year.

2. Disney Professional Internships: In the spring i’m joining the Disney team as part of the College Program, but there are other Disney career paths available for undergrads and recent graduates. Placing interns in every department, from marketing to gaming to horticulture and everything in between, there’s a job application for everyone.

Disney has a long-standing strategy of hiring from within, so a professional internship is a great way to network and perhaps find a job within one of the top companies in America.

3. The Peace Corps: The long-standing alternative to finding a career right out of college, the Peace Corps has been a leader of international development for over 50 years. Working oversees with communities to fight the big problems of today–climate change, disease, food, education–the Corps has over 200,000 current and former members.

The Peace Corps requires a 27 month commitment and places members in communities where they have to learn to operate independently in a foreign place very quickly. Therefore, it is definitely not for everyone. However, if you have a passion for volunteering, for living abroad, or for building relationships within communities, looking into the Peace Corps would not be a bad idea. (Note: this is the only thing on the list I have not personally applied for, so if you go through the Peace Corps application let me know how it turns out!)

4. Fulbright Scholarships: What you actually receive if you go through the Fulbright program is a grant to travel abroad and work on a study within a community. You can be an assistant English teacher abroad (though this usually requires fluency in the language of the country you’re going to be in) or someone who specializes in public health in Africa; you can be a part of the Fulbright-Clinton program, serving in a foreign embassy, or get a STEM grant to be placed in a leading science institution abroad. There’s grants for everyone, but the application process is notoriously tricky.

The best part about being a Fulbright Scholar is that it sounds great on any resume and it’s the experience of a lifetime, but once again you’re working basically independently and trying to immerse yourself in a foreign community. The application process is almost over so if you want to try for a Fulbright, apply sooner rather than later.

5. AmeriCorps: Technically, Teach for America is a section of AmeriCorps. Known as the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a 10 month program that places college aged young adults in impoverished communities to work on projects. This could be anything from helping victims of natural disasters to being a tutor in after school programs. AmeriCorps participants live together in groups of 10 to 15 people in living situations that could vary between camping and living in a private home.

AmeriCorps is a good option for those without a passport or who want to stay in the US, but it has the least amount of compensation available for time served.

Having a couple of backup plans takes the pressure off the MFA applications, and a couple of years of experience might be just what a writer needs for their stories to be more real.

…says the girl on her way back to her MFA applications.

How to Procrastinate Writing a Thesis

Three weeks ago, I sat down to put my thesis together.

It should be noted that I’ve been writing my thesis for over a year. It consists of six short stories, all written during my time in Tallahassee. I’ve re-written every story in the collection at least twice. One or two were completely deleted only to be written again. So when I say that three weeks ago I sat down to put everything together, what I mean is that three weeks ago I opened twenty word documents of every story that I’ve written since getting to college and started reading for a common theme.

The six stories that I picked made it into my thesis because they were the strongest pieces and because they all fit around a common theme of families and relationships and alliances within the family unit. Or at least that’s how I pitched it to my committee.

But some of these stories were written three years ago, and needed work. Worse, two of them were written less than  a month ago and needed a ton of work. I read them out loud to my friends and got their feedback and ignored it and tried to write it my way and then went back to their advice. It was a long, tedious process of trying to fix my stories without losing the threads that had made up the originals. The biggest lesson I took out of it is that, when you revise enough, you no longer know if you’re helping your cause or hurting it. Which is why you need frequent breaks.

The smoke from the fireworks covered half the stadium in smoke at the Clemson game, which FSU won in overtime.

The smoke from the fireworks covered half the stadium in smoke at the Clemson game, which FSU won in overtime.

Break #1 came just after I got accepted to Disney, on the day of the Clemson game. It was supposed to be a great game, not least of all because our first-string QB had been suspended. So we had all these plans for parties and pre-gaming, and I wasn’t going to miss it for a thesis. It literally drove me to distraction, and to drink.

We won the game, so obviously it was totally worth it. That was also the day we figured out that the two-mile walk to Waffle House wasn’t so bad now that Florida’s finally cooling down.

We left football on for the rest of the weekend and I tried to revise a story that takes place during WWII. Football metaphors ended up in it, for some reason, but other than that I had one story down.

Luckily, because it’s my Senior year and there’s thesis and application craziness, I’m only taking five classes that only meet Tuesday through Thursday. Which means, yes, four-day weekends. All the more time to write. I got another story done, this one about smuggling diamonds into New York. Two down, four to go.

Mom and I got a private boat tour because it was "raining"

Mom and I got a private boat tour because it was “raining”

Mom came down. It rained, because the weather always knows when my mom has off. We still managed to do fun outdoor Tallahassee things, but it was raining and that colored the weekend. We spent a lot of time reading and eating. My mom gave my friends life advice. I pretended I was embarrassed by her tendency to try to fix everyone. It was a whole weekend of not looking at my thesis, which was great for my mental health, terrible for the state of my stories.

All of that Tuesday was spent with this one piece about a band trying to make it big in Asbury Park in a time after bands stopped making it big. I liked it while I was writing it, but now I think it’s juvenile and obvious. At least there’s a beginning, middle, and end. I put that away and went over two of my shorter pieces. Pizza delivery guy tries to stop being an asshole, eight pages, easy character arc. A son realizes he doesn’t actually know his father when the local paper publishes questionable pictures. Easy emotions, my first FSU story so I can’t even be embarrassed by it. It’s the bar by which I measure growth.

Which means there’s one story left. It was being workshopped on Wednesday at 7pm. My thesis was due Friday at noon.

The hardest part about revising is this pesky thing called writer’s block. Also stubbornness. A workshop is meant to offer constructive criticism, and it’s a mark of maturity to not immediately feel defensive. I am not a very defensive person, but I still like to give myself a cooling-off period after a critique, usually a week or ten days where I don’t look at the story at all. I had six hours before I had to go back to the drawing board.

Wakulla Springs. A perfect de-stressing spot.

Wakulla Springs. A perfect de-stressing spot.

I won’t describe the re-writes, deleted pages, moving chunks, and frustration of that Thursday. It ended with margaritas and comfort food, which is really all you need to know. On Friday, I made the boy I was seeing walk with me through the pouring rain to drop the thesis off in my teachers’ mailboxes. Then he bought me lunch.

Strangely, the worst part of writing a thesis is this terrible wait between turning it in and defending. Ten days, where I wake up every morning and think about how much better my stories could have been.

I was so stressed the evening I turned it in that my roommate asked me if I wanted to pet puppies. Obviously the only answer to that question is yes. We spent the weekend in a state of being half-braindead. I petted puppies and read outside. We watched many episodes of Bones and Gilmore Girls. We didn’t talk about school. I didn’t try to write anything.

I’m starting to feel better. I’m not all that anxious about defending my thesis, because I view the whole experience as an opportunity to learn what I need to change before I send these stories off to graduate programs.

Still, I thought Senior year was supposed to be a little easier than this. I don’t mind the work, but I’m in a constant state of waiting for other people to decide my future. First, waiting to hear back from Disney. Next it will be graduate schools and the other programs I’m applying for–a London position, Teach for America. Right now, I need to hear if my professors think I’ve worked hard enough on my thesis to graduate with honors.

Luckily, it’s a beautiful day out. I’m going to go read.


I’m Going To Disney World

Yesterday morning I woke up to an email saying that I’d been accepted to the Disney College Program. For the record, this is the best thing to wake up to. I called my dad, I called my sister, I made a Facebook post.

Not only is Disney a dream come true–I’ve wanted to be a cast member since I was old enough to know they were called cast members. I grew up in a theater and thought that Disney being a huge, well-orchestrated show was so cool. But it’s also the only thing I applied for in the Spring. I’m graduating early just to work there. If I hadn’t gotten in, I don’t know what I would do.

The girl part of the family at  Pooh's Corner in the Magic Kingdom.

The girl part of the family at Pooh’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom.

I know that I’ve gotten “Attractions,” which means I could be operating any one of the rides in Walt Disney World. (Which is really cool just by itself.) The only other job I would have wanted was working at the boutique, but it’s probably a good thing I didn’t get that. I never even put on lipstick before college.

So in the Spring, I’ll be working in Disney World. Hopefully on a really cool ride, like the Jungle Cruise (other people who worked at the Jungle Cruise include John Lassiter, the director of Pixar movies like Toy Story and A Bugs Life. Now, I think he’s the executive producer for all of Disney/Pixar. He’s not a huge idol or anything.) Or the Great Movie Ride. What can I say? I love talking to people.

Now, to clarify, getting into the College Program wasn’t a given. I didn’t get in last year when I applied. One of my best friends, who’s also a Disney junkie, didn’t get in this year when she applied for the third time. They receive a lot of applications and can take their pick. So it wasn’t a shoo-in. I probably should have applied for more places in the Spring, but I was hoping to go to Orlando because it’s Disney and also because it’s only four hours away from my friends who will still be here in Tallahassee. Hopefully they can come visit me, I can go visit them, and the post-college separation will be easier to take.

Christmas with the Mouse

Christmas with the Mouse

For the second time in four years, I’m getting the amazing opportunity to, as my mom put it on the phone last night, meet “all new people.” Which is really exciting, because I love meeting new people. But it’s also really scary, and sad. In high school, I thought I had the best friends I’d ever know in my life. In college, I’ve added to that group of people, witch more of the best humans on the planet. If the trend continues, I’ll meet even more funny, intelligent, amazing people. But I keep thinking there’s only so many times someone can get lucky.

Every time I remember that I got into Disney, I get incredibly happy. I can’t believe college is almost over and I have to leave my girls, but I get to receive MFA rejections in the Happiest Place on Earth. I get to work for a company I’ve always admired. I get to have a job that’s literally designed just to make other people have the time of their lives.

This hasn’t been the easiest week. The work of applying to ten graduate programs while writing a thesis is starting to get to me. Friendships that I thought were solid seem to be slipping through my fingers and I don’t know why. I’ve spent a lot of time crying and eating chocolate and taking my frustrations out on the gym. But whatever happens, I’m going to Disney World.

I’ve been blessed with having an amazing college career. It started with eight months in London and three months in Florence. I’ve had ten wonderful girls as roommates. I’ve had two years of Girl’s Nights and too many nights of Netflix. I’ve been published, and invited to participate in a graduate workshop, and told that “I’m not kidding myself” for thinking about getting into graduate school. And I get to top it all off with this new experience, with all new people.

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we are curious, and that curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." --Walt Disney

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we are curious, and that curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney

Workshops and Womanizers

Let’s start this story with the funeral.

Last week my friend Ari texted me and said that a friend of hers died. He was a little older than us. She knew him for a summer. She needed someone to drive to Georgia with her for the funeral. I love road trips, figure any adventure is a story, and so I said yes.

Friday night I made a playlist and we drove through the most beautiful Georgia countryside you can imagine. I saw my first cotton field. There were horses and hills. We talked about life on other planets, and what existed before the Universe sprang into being 14 million years ago, and whether or not we had this conversation before in a different lifetime. And then we got to the funeral.

Rain at a funeral. Cliche, but true.

Rain at a funeral. Cliche, but true.

I won’t bum you out with the details. There were hundreds of people and one casket and a crying fiance. We cried in the car and the rain pounded on the roof. We went out for drinks, because it was the fiance’s birthday, because of course it was.

I wore a black dress and we drove to Steak and Shake and ate our feelings and I stole Ari’s pajamas and fell asleep in her bed under piles of blankets. For some reason, neither of us could get warm.

Saturday morning I was at Ari’s house. She made me breakfast and we chatted with her roommate and they complained about their thesis. I promised to be an extra set of eyes for Ari, and I’d swing by the film school on Sunday. But first we had Game Day.

If you didn’t go to a big Southern Football school, then I don’t know if you can imagine home football game atmosphere. The game was at 7:30 and there was no parking by noon. You could hear the game from half a mile away, which is where we were to “watch” the game.

It was raining or else we would have gone in person. We thought we could stream it, but apparently there’s a blackout of the game if you’re in the same city the game’s being played in. Which meant we could see the stadium but we couldn’t watch the game on ESPN. Whatever. We were playing Citadel and it was a boring win.

Pause for Feminist Stuff: (skip ahead if you’re not in a feminist mood)

We were at our friend Jules’s apartment. She was excited to have us over, so she could set us up with these boys down the hall. She met them at a bar. One was “nice.” The other kept hitting on her after she said she had a boyfriend.

They came over during the game, with Cards Against Humanity. And one was nice. Intense, maybe, but generally harmless and occasionally funny. The other was not harmless.

It’s strange to see harassment acted out in front of you. This particular douchebag zoomed in on our friend Erin (only after he hit on Jules so hard core she had to actually push him away from her, and remind him over and over that she was in a serious, committed, long-term relationship.) So this guy started pushing drinks on Erin, who had gone to the game and was in that post-game flush and drank one shot, two, and when he handed her a third and she said no, both he and his friend said, “go ahead, you know you want to, don’t be that guy.”

To which me and Kat immediately responded, “you don’t have to drink anything you don’t want to.”

Erin, trying out a new look to repel assholes.

Erin, trying out a new look to repel assholes.

Erin put the cup aside.

We played the game. Kat and I had stopped drinking hours before, but the others were “drunk,” which is of course no excuse for this guy putting his arm around Erin, even though she scooted away, and telling her she was cute and pretty and he could walk her home even when she had made it clear she wasn’t interested.

Anyway. They left (after giving out hugs and soliciting our numbers and generally being slimy) and Jules turned to us. “What do you think?”

“They came on strong,” I said, diplomatically.

“I didn’t like it,” Erin said, and now with the lights on and just us it was obvious she was drunk, too drunk to have been able to string the right words together to have told the asshole no any more firmly than she had.

“You should have kicked them out,” Kat said.

“I didn’t want to make a scene,” Jules said defensively. “You should have said something. I thought you guys wanted boyfriends.”

We left.

I won’t go into the long conversations we had about this. It may not sound too bad when you see it written down, but seeing my friend be made so uncomfortable, to see this guy call and text her, to see how persistently he was pushing drinks on her, made me sick.

End Feminist Rant

On Sunday, as promised, Erin and I went to see Ari’s short film and gave critiques on it that were apparently “helpful.” More on that after the film airs in a couple of months.

Oh, and I went to this Harry Potter thing and got sorted into Ravenclaw. Because of course.

Oh, and I went to this Harry Potter thing and got sorted into Ravenclaw. Because of course.

On Monday, I decided to apply for graduation. Because I have to apply before the 12th. I wanted to see if there was any information on my Disney College Program Application. They said they’d be making most decisions in late October, but I thought…hey. Why the hell not.

So I checked my dashboard and my application is gone. The 2013 application (which says “no longer in consideration” which gave a heartattack) is still there, but 2014? Gone. After an hour or so of freaking out, I found a phone number to call and was put on hold. The hold music? The Twilight Zone. Do do doo do. For someone who’s already feeling incredibly anxious, you can imagine how this made me feel.

I finally talk to a person and they say, “don’t worry, this happens all the time.”

All the time.


(turns out I had the wrong username. Oops. My application now says “in progress.” When I know, you’ll know.)

Also on Monday, we had people over to watch the Giants play the Lions. I’m a Giants fan, and I made food to bribe people to watch it with me. Because I made a big deal out of it, of course they lost. We drank beer and ate chicken dip and Girl Talked through the evening. Patricia met Liz. Everyone gave opinions on the Asshole. It was a good night.

And then I had to go get workshopped. Basically, someone who isn’t emotionally attached to the story (or, in this case, seven someones) reads it and then rips you apart. “We’re not saying it’s bad, it’s just not good.” Unfortunately, they’re almost always right. Points can be belabored. Things can be repeated. Overall, you get the idea that you’ve written the trees and forgotten about the forest. Back up and try again. Always a useful and humbling experience.

So now I have to stop talking about myself and start getting my characters in order. They’re more interesting, anyway.

Senior Stress

So a couple of big things happened this week. We’re going to start with Sunday.

Last Sunday, I filled out the application for the Disney College program. Basically, at any point during your college career, and for up to a semester after you graduate, you can go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and work in the theme park at a store or an attraction or character or janitor and you get almost no money and you get to be at Disney and say you worked there. I’ve wanted to be a Disney Cast Member since the first time I went to Disney, when I was maybe four years old. Mostly because they’re called cast members. I’m a sucker for a good show.

I planned my college career around this. I’m graduating a semester early so I can go to Disney World and be in the Happiest Place on Earth when I get rejected from graduate schools. This was a smart idea, except I have to actually get in first.

(i can just imagine mom interjecting here with of course you’ll get in and I say I didn’t get in last year. It’s not a shoo-in kind of thing)

I applied on Sunday–fill out your resume, your general information, have you ever been arrested. By Sunday night, they sent me an email asking me to fill out an on-line questionnaire, which was fifty of the usual suspect questions. Are you cheerful? Are you usually a happy person? Would your friends say that you’re generally optimistic?

I’m a happy person, so I passed the questionnaire. On to the phone interview, which was scheduled for Wednesday. Which meant I had to talk to Patricia before Wednesday.

(for those just joining this story, I met Patricia during my first semester in London. She’s a year older, and when we got to London she had just come from the Disney College Program, where she was a skipper on the Jungle Cruise, which is basically my dream job. We became instant best friends. If everything in our lives go to plan, we will end up living like those old guys in the Muppets, heckling school children from the back row of the theater.)

On Tuesday, Patricia and I went out to lunch, and I bought her onion rings and picked her brain about the phone interview for about ten minutes before we devolved into Girl Talk. We had a whole summer of gossip to catch up on, after all. But she was helpful, and I went back to my dorm with a notes on a napkin with suggestions of how to make a good impression.

(to tell this story in chronological order, or just logical order? I feel like this is my constant struggle.)

On Wednesday I had my phone interview. It went well. I assumed, because everything else had gone so fast–progressing from stage one to stage three of the application process–that I’d get an answer relatively quickly. This is not the case.

ME: “When can I expect to hear about the job?”

NICE WOMAN WHO INTERVIEWED ME: “Oh, definitely by the end of October.”


NICE WOMAN: “That’s okay, right?”

ME: “Sure. Yes, of course.” Lies, all lies, I hung up and hoped that she’d call back immediately and offer me a job.

So now I get to wait! I guess this is practice for the Spring, when I’ll be checking my email constantly and biting my nails.

Other cool thing that happened: on Tuesday night, late, we were sitting around drinking wine and watching Dexter when my phone rang with a number I don’t know. No one calls anyone any more. I communicate with my friends through texts, with my teachers through email. The only calls I ever get are from my family. So I answer the phone. It’s 10:00 at night.

It’s my creative writing professor. I took his workshop a year ago and he’s my thesis director and he’s a very straight-forward person, which is the perfect person to be looking over your writing.

PROFESSOR: So Katie, I was wondering if you’d be interested in taking my graduate-level creative writing course instead of sitting through the undergrad course again.


PROFESSOR: It’s on Wednesdays at 6:45. You’ll be with some students in their second and third year of their MFAs, but I think you can handle it.

ME: Wow. Thank you. I would love to join your graduate class.

Internally, of course, I was screaming. I want to go to grad school (I hope I’ve made that clear by now?) and this will give me some idea as to whether or not I can hack it on that level. Plus, I took it as a huge compliment that my teacher thought I could do the work and took the trouble to single me out. (He also, very sweetly, called me on Thursday after the class to make sure I wasn’t too intimidated. I was, but dad always said to fake it til you make it so.)

Those were my big life moments from last week. Lesser ones include a really awesome guitar teacher, a Senior seminar in history that is going to give me nightmares (crimes against humanity. If anyone has a favorite genocide tell me about it, because I need to pick a topic ASAP) and a head start to tutoring.

We spent the holiday weekend playing mahjong, watching movies, and having sleepovers so that it feels like last year (Erin hasn’t left the apartment.) And The Last Word is getting our act together. If you want to read an article about the FSU football game against Oklahoma State (the one we tried to lose) then just click the link here. TLW is a huge part of my life here at school, so I’m excited to jump back into that tomorrow.

But now I have to write a paper about the Bataan Death March. I have a feeling I’m going to need chocolate for this.

Running Out of Gas: A Typical Tallahassee Story

A lot has happened in the past few days, most of which was instigated by me getting on a plane and flying a thousand miles South. I don’t remember the actual ride, because I was lucky enough to have a first-row seat (thanks dad!) and really sleep-deprived so I curled up like a kitty and woke up in Orlando. Technology is wonderful.

How to have a good college experience: make awesome friends. I couldn’t tell you how to make friends. I think I must have bribed mine in the past and forgotten about it. But right on time, my friends Kat (who I live with) and Julianne (who I practically live with) picked me up in the little VW Beetle and we were on our way to Tallahassee, me stuffed in the backseat with boxes and luggage and my guitar across my legs. And we talked for the next four hours.

There was a lot to catch up on. My musical. Kat’s job. That cool musical I wrote. Jules’s boyfriend and her weird class schedule. The awesome people in my musical. My internship. Their trip to Disney. Back to me. 

In retrospect, I may have dominated the conversation. 

Everything was going hunky-dory until we got into Tallahassee, and then the car sensed the city limits and promptly decided to start working. So we were out of gas, twenty minutes away from school, in 100 degree weather.

(Oh, I didn’t mention the heat yet. You know how New Jersey was beautiful and cool and damp and grey all summer? It’s because Florida was hogging all the heat.)

Luckily, we’ve all made friends just so we can use them in tight situations like this one, so Kat called up some high school buddies and they came out there with gas. And then we went to the gas station to really fill up. And the car died again.

Fixing up the dorm so it looks like girls live here.

Fixing up the dorm so it looks like girls live here.

So at this point, it’s 4:00, we’re all hot, and there’s no transportation. Call in the dads. Not one of our fathers–the dads taking their Freshman sons to FSU for the first time, who saw three (sweaty, cursing, smelly) girls doing excellent impressions of damsels in distress. They got the car into a parking spot and jumped it, which gave us enough juice to get to the dorm.

Hooray! Our dorm! The same one from last year minus our stuff because that was still scattered around Tallahassee!

In order to un-scatter our stuff and get, you know, a change of clothes and our bed things, we needed a car. If I had a car, I wouldn’t have hitch-hiked into Tally. We called in further favors (seriously though, why is anyone friends with me? I must have paid them in a past life) and got a rather large car from Ari so we could rescue everything in one trip. Awesome. Cool. Except now it’s 9:00, and moving everything into the dorm took until 11:00, and we hadn’t eaten all day, so of course that’s the best time for grocery shopping.

On our way out the door, Liz, who’d helped up store the stuff, said, “Settlers of Catan after you go to the store?”

“Yeah, okay, whatever,” Kat and I said, too hungry to be tired. Plus we had the car for the night. Might as well use it.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised when she got to our apartment at 1 am with her boyfriend and Catan, but by then the exhaustion was setting in. Other people dropped by to welcome us back to school. We gave them cookies we’d picked up at the store and offered them seats on the floor, as the couches and chairs were buried under piles of boxes. Sometime after that, I fell asleep on a bare mattress with a borrowed blanket, because my stuff was still trapped in the basement of our dorm, a room that wouldn’t open until Monday.


Kat knows I'm about to mahjong with crap hands and she's pissed.

Kat knows I’m about to mahjong with crap hands and she’s pissed.

Sunday was infinitely more relaxed. After a trip to get command strips and soap and other essentials, we started decorating our dorm, unpacking boxes–only after we’d hooked up the tv so we could blast Pandora. It’s been too long since we’d listened to the musical station on high volume. 

There was a loose idea that we’d go to a movie that night, so Kat and I had the afternoon to kill. It was too hot to think about going outside (another 100 degree day) so the only alternative is obviously mahjong. She trounced me while making up harmonies for Hairspray.

We got the girls together for the movie and spent too long making dinner to make the early show, so we moseyed over to a late one. The movie itself (If I Stay) was not nearly so interesting as the fact that we had the whole theater to ourselves, so we did commentary. It was a good night.

(Notice that there is no mention of class-related activities yet. I will stress about that in an hour when I have to go to class)

By this morning, our apartment looks like a place people live. I got my sheets and my teddy bear, so what else does a girl need? Ari came over early and I spent the morning with my musical playing over the speakers, acting out all nine parts for her and Kat’s entertainment. Maybe we’ll write a one-woman show next.

After one of the most thoroughly fun summers of my life, this last semester can only possibly be awesome. As long as cars stop breaking down, and I can stop talking about my musical.

When You’ve Done All That You Can Do

We casted for the musical in the last week of May. By mid-June, we were rehearsing three times a week. In July, it was four times a week, five if schedules were bad. The days before we recorded no one went home, which meant a 72-hour crunch filled with games and points and no sleep.

Catching some sleep during a graveyard shift rehearsal.

Catching some sleep during a graveyard shift rehearsal.

Not since marching band have I felt this–relief that everything is over and a little…restless? Like, there should be a gradual process of getting out of these long days, like we gradually worked out way into the show. Instead, it’s quitting cold turkey. So of course I’m making sure the pictures turned out okay and uploading the videos and generally not letting go at all.

I wrote the book version of the play. It’s getting sad. 

But let’s start from the beginning, which is three days ago. On Friday we invited the families to come watch the play. The reason for this was threefold: 1. Our family was bugging us about wanting to see it, 2. We wanted the cast to be able to prove to their parents that they’ve had a productive summer, and 3. We wanted to see if our jokes were actually funny.

"My mother thinks you're a good boy."

“My mother thinks you’re a good boy.”

It went off well. We performed on the back porch, which felt very elementary school, like when you invite kids to watch your little skit on the playground. It also felt totally awesome. It was a nice day–we’ve had a summer of nice days in New Jersey–and after an hour or so of Michael having a conniption (we were supposed to start a little rehearsal at 10 am and most of the cast didn’t show until 11) we settled down to a crazy productive hour of costume checks and scene transitions before the parents came at noon.

And then we started, and went right through the whole show. Honestly, I feel like we got off easy. Like, there should have been a freak rainstorm or something. I’d been having nightmares of the cast forgetting how to sing, so when everyone remembered their lines I was so excited.

24 hours before we record, everyone meets for the first time.

24 hours before we record, everyone meets for the first time.

(side note: I don’t understand performing. I was in plays when I was little, four or five, always in the ensamble. I can’t act. I laugh at my own jokes. I can’t sing. When people stare at me I freeze up. On Friday, everyone seemed to thrive on the attention, which is just baffling. But the funny people were funnier, holding out for jokes. The serious parts gave me goosebumps. I give the credit to Whose Gay Line Is It Anyway. If you can say your lines backwards, you can do anything.)

Cool parts included Maggie hitting Michael in the stomach with a prop and a girl coming up to be at intermission to tell me that one of the characters was “kind of mean.” “Well good,” I said, “he’s supposed to be.”

Also, people seemed only minimally confused by eight people playing four characters. 

Afterwards, we lazed around for the afternoon while everyone ran home to kiss their moms and change clothes and grab bathing suits. Because we were leaving at 6 am on Saturday, we decided to just have a sleepover. Mostly to save Michael’s sanity. 

So we spent the evening in the pool. You’ve probably had nights like this one: everyone talking more than swimming. Secrets revealed. Stories swapped. There’s something about darkness and stars and hot tubs and fires that brings out the chattiness in people, that makes everyone okay with being up close and personal. 

Waking up for a 6am call.

Waking up for a 6am call.

Because we were getting up so early we wanted to be in bed by midnight. Which really meant that Michael and I were in bed by midnight and everyone else–the ten people sleeping in the basement–stayed up talking. What else can you expect? 

We split into two cars for the drive up. Everyone fell asleep in mine except for dad and Amanda until we hit Wawa, at which point we were given the order to “sing gently” to warm up the voices. Which meant belting show tunes.

What’s a recording studio like? Ours was a big room hung with black curtains. In the hallway leading into it were posters for about a hundred different shows that had been recorded there. (None of them were Anything For Love). It took about an hour to set everything up, to put the mics at the right height (there’s a full twelve inches of height difference between the shortest and tallest people in the cast, so that was fun.) We did eight takes of the first song and then caught the rhythm of the thing.

Smiling at the recording studio? Must be early.

Smiling at the recording studio? Must be early.

It was a long, nerve-wracking day. My palms were sweaty. That has never, ever happened to me before. I thought it was a description for characters in books. I wasn’t even singing and my palms were sweaty, afraid once again that everyone would forget their lines. 

By four o’clock everyone was so hungry it hurt, but we needed to get a two hour show recorded in six hours, which is harder than it sounds, and we had another three songs to go. Everyone was on edge. We’d left the solos for last, which was probably pretty stupid because voices wear down if you sing for hours at a time.

It got to the point where everyone was so nervous that I told Dylan, who’d done marching band with me and Mike, to lead everyone in tai-chi, which we’d learned for one of our shows. It’s kind of a meditative warrior dance, and it used to work to take the edge off before performing with the band. And it worked here. We got a second wind for the last three songs, blew through them in forty minutes, and went home with a flash drive full of our play.

(It’s not the final cut, that’s still in post-production, but I’ve already listened to it all the way through three times.)

Then? Dinner, the drive home. We put the songs we’d just recorded on and had the distinct pleasure of hearing a voice come out of the speakers and the same voice start singing right behind you. And then that was it. A wrap. Curtain. End of show.

Michael pacing like a nervous father.

Michael pacing like a nervous father.

In band–I can’t stop talking about band, maybe because that was the last time I was a part of a group of people making something big and musical and creative–we had this thing called the Cry Fest. It was the day before Nationals and everyone would talk about what band meant to them. And everyone ended up crying. It was cathartic. We’re planning our cry fest for Christmas, when hopefully time and distance will make the event less teary.

Now I have to pack for school (for my LAST SEMESTER. How crazy is that?) And I can’t stop listening to the play. Hopefully I’ll hear it enough this week that I won’t annoy my roommates with it in Tally. Probably not. It’s hard to get over something you created.

Not that this is the end. We already have a performance planned for next year. A real one with a set and theater and everything. And I’m already tweaking the script in my head. It’ll be quite a year. And who knows? This could go somewhere. I want nothing more than to driving through a random town and see posters for people doing Anything For Love. That’s the dream, for when our Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.