Open to Success

…and to failure and to mystery and to allure and to…. The point is OPEN.

And behind door number three...


Waffling on the Threshold

Two summers ago I was ready to quit writing entirely. Oh I’d still be a writer (I don’t think you can change a life perspective quite that easily) but I would cease to make it a major part of my life. A focus of dreams. Then–ta-dah!–I won the award from Writer’s Digest (last post) and suddenly I felt that luscious sensation that maybe my writing matters after all. Maybe I’m good enough that someday someone will read my work and it will bring them a gift.


For YOU!


But I got so tired of pursuing this dream on my own. My critique group was wonderful, yet it wasn’t enough to push me off the plateau I’d settled on. I needed a mentor. I needed structure and deadlines and other people’s expectations to kick me off the ledge.

I yearn for people to tell me what to do. Decisions are excruciating for me. Open the door…close the door…go out…come in…. People make jokes about cats, but I’m just as bad. To fight the waffling instinct, I tend to say “yes!” when others offer a solution for me.


Hmmm. I see this thing opens. WHAT'S OUT THERE?

Christine Myers, a writing friend of mine, nagged and nagged about going back to school for an MFA. “This is what you have to do,” she said.

Back to School

So I researched schools and decided to apply to the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA), a low-residency accredited MFA program that is run entirely by writers and not affiliated with any university. It grew out of the Whidbey Island Writers Association and graduated its first candidates in 2007.  Location influenced me enormously (only 90-minutes from my home by car), but I also like that they offer four different genres and encourage cross-training: childrens/young adult, adult fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Even the application taught me a lot. For the first time I had to write down all my publications—every article in print and on line. I impressed myself! I also had to list every workshop, every conference, every class I’d taken on my path as a writer. Wow!  It became clear to me that this writing thing really did hold importance in my life. I wasn’t just kidding myself.  Finally, I had to write an essay explaining why this school was important for me. I ended with this:

Beyond the knowledge, skill base, and relationships Whidbey will bring me, looms the most gut-wrenching draw of attending this MFA program. The tuition and time required for an MFA is a huge investment in my career. By saying “yes” to this opportunity, I am really saying that I believe my writing is worth the sacrifices this will mean to me, my family and the other people I serve.

I hope you will accept my application. I hope I have to face up to this scary and oh-so-alluring challenge of believing in myself and my work.

Well, they accepted me into the program and I’ve been working like crazy since my last post—over a year ago! It’s a wonderfully challenging program. Whenever I find myself pulling out my hair with stress over a deadline, I remind myself that this is EXACTLY what I wanted for myself. What I’m paying the big bucks for, in fact.

All this to explain my word for the year 2013: “OPEN.” It combines my fascination with vulnerability and a need to open myself up to success.

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13 Responses to Open to Success

  1. Peggy Hunt says:

    Mattie, I am proud to know you. I, too, once aspired to being a writer, but I found that I didn’t have the drive and discipline to pursue the dream. HOORAH for you. Peggy.

    • WW says:

      Oh, Peggy–thank you so much for your support! Do you miss it? If so, I hope you’re still writing, even if the dream (was it to be published? to make money?) seemed too burdensome to hold onto. Sometimes when I don’t want to write, when I say “No, I won’t!” I find myself composing letters in my head, or tweaking song lyrics to say something different. But the business is already so jam-packed with writers who are darn good. It’s a constant internal battle to convince myself that there’s room for me also–so I hear you, lady!

  2. lovely post, with great pictures! glad you joined the island gang!

    • Mathilda says:

      Thanks, Stephanie. Your and Janet’s break-out on Writers Talking was fantastic. If I get up my nerve, I may try to upload that video of me reading a bit of memoir onto this site!

  3. Bonny Becker says:

    Mattie, I’m soooo glad you stayed in the game. 🙂

  4. erin libby says:

    Thanks for the info. I appreciate that you thrashed your way through to launching yourself, and I am glad to know about the U.
    I am a painter. But, I finished the MFA program at UCLA film school in animation and I dearly love storyboarding and writing short stories. Currently, I am trying to digitize my work with the possibility of Blog publishing.
    The Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators was strong, here in Bellingham, for a while, but faded. I was more interested in going pro in illustration. I don’t write for children. Connecting with the U you suggested sounds like a possibility.

    • Mathilda says:

      Erin, NILA is a great program, and I remember you as a fine writer as well as illustrator. So far, NILA doesn’t address illustration, or at least not in a class structure. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’d best cast your net wider.

    • Staci says:

      Hi Nathan,What are your thoughts on acctpeing a novel that has had a piece of it already published? I pulled a scene/section from my novel manuscript and had it published in an online litmag. Now I’m wondering if that was NOT the right thing to do, considering it’s part of a larger novel that I want to get published. I love your blog! It has been so helpful. Thank you –

      • WW says:

        I apologize for taking so long to respond. Actually, my understanding is that it is totally okay to have parts of a novel published–that is a good way to promote a novel in fact. You definitely need to mention that fact to a prospective publisher, of course, and provide a link. Hopefully the comments on it were wonderfully positive! Good luck with your writing!–WW

  5. erin libby says:

    I have just (barely) started to digitize my mother’s short stories, which are liteature, and then I will do my own, which are good enough that my readers smile gently and nod at me. I don’t know the best way to reach an audience for my mother. Blogs seem to be limited to short formats and, even a short story has to have a little room.

    Otherwuse, I am working on drawings that keep slipping away from any attempt to leash them to a theme. I will publish these in book form. Any formats (apps?) that you can suggest to help organize material as I go along? When I last illustrated a book I had physical space and could box reference material in 28 boxes. one for each page and manilla folders with drawings, roughs, color studies and finished all ready to hand.
    I have QPict, but it seems non specific to my needs.

    • Egemen says:

      I can leave a conmemt just fine here, but when I try to leave a conmemt on a blog post it tells me it cannot find the page, and why don’t I search for it (which seems weird).

  6. Becky Howell says:

    Came to look, and lo, you’d posted again! Yeah!

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