I have updated the SOP below. Please take a moment to look at it and give me feedback. Thanks!
Hey all, first post here! My name's Ashley and I'm applying to just one grad school for next year - the University of Alabama. I looked through the creative writing tags and got a lot of good information and suggestions from them, but now I'm looking for some feedback for my statement of purpose.
I'd appreciate any and all suggestions on this! SOP under the cut. Thanks in advance!
Dear Selection Committee,
My goals for pursuing a Creative Writing MFA degree with a focus in Fiction are to significantly improve my writing and to become part of a close-knit, vibrant writing community. To me, these goals are naturally intertwined. In order to become a better writer, I must work closely with other writers and take any criticisms to heart in order to better my work and myself as a writer. I believe the University of Alabama will be the perfect place for such intimate collaboration.
The first story I ever wrote was a collection of childhood vignettes in tenth grade English. I remember my first reaction to the assignment was “I can’t write like a kid.” But my teacher didn’t allow me to think negatively. She encouraged me to write and write often. She helped me get through what I call my “starting slump” and see that I actually had something to share with the world. That collection of short stories still sits under my coffee table, with her note inside that reads: Hm, “I can’t write like a kid”??? What else can’t you do? I TOLD you so! Just believe… It serves as a reminder that I should never give up on the stories I have to tell. They’re inside me, and all I have to do is reach for them.
My most recent writing project focuses on retelling the story of Peter Pan, but with a twist. It is a story from the perspective of James Hook, in which his life as a Lost Boy takes a few interesting turns before he becomes the dreaded pirate captain we all know. This idea was prompted by a simple question: “What if Peter Pan was told from a different perspective?” My history degree gives me the unique advantage of being able to look at the same story from different perspectives and come to a conclusion that more closely resembles the whole truth.
Building a fictional world for this project that is both believable and realistic is not an easy task. Taking lessons from authors George RR Martin, Robin Hobb and JRR Tolkien, I constantly strive to incorporate small details into my work to make the fictional world seem more real. Those small details, including descriptions of unique foods and traditions that mirror the real world, create a convincing realm in which my characters can live and act. Reading these authors has given me an appreciation for the phrase “world building.” Through my adventures in reading a wide variety of fiction, including books by Cormac McCarthy and William Golding, I have come to realize and understand the complexity of a great story is not easy to create.
Part of the reason I’m seeking a degree in creative writing is to be formally trained as a writer. I have been a member of an online writing community for thirteen years and counting. Working with these writers has vastly improved my own writing over the years, but it’s easy enough writing stories back and forth with someone on the other side of a screen. I understand that developing my craft is the foremost obstacle to becoming a writer. It is part of the problem I run into time and again when I sit down to write. I have all these ideas floating around inside my head but not the tools to put them on paper with any semblance of grace.
Though I love fantasy, I desire the strong building blocks behind the process of writing itself. Character, plot, setting, themes, and even style are things I need to hone and perfect. I believe the professors and my potential future colleagues at the University of Alabama will greatly support my journey to become a better writer in a professional and growth-oriented manner. The opportunity to be fully-funded at Alabama would allow me to focus on my writing rather than my finances. It would be both a pleasure and a privilege to be able to write and teach about writing at your university.
Thank you for spending your time reading over my application. I look forward to your reply
Any other things I should add or include? Anything to change/omit? I know the ending is a little iffy.. it's still a work in progress. Just needing some feedback so I know if I'm headed in the right direction or if I need to rework it completely. Thanks!