Friday, October 10, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
On March 10, I dropped by her house and put an envelope in her mailbox with the form inside when she didn't answer the door. I was dissapointed that we hadn't talked or hung out, but there was time for that later. I needed this form completed. I only had three weeks.
Later that day, I got this email from her:
I'm sorry about the late notice and all; I was really hoping that you found someone else to write your letter of recommendation. I don't feel comfortable doing it-felt put on the spot when I saw the attachment at the bottom of an e-mail you sent me. I take complete responsibility for not discussing this in a timely manner and do hope that it hasn't caused to much of an inconvenience. To be honest with you, I suspect getting me to write you a letter of recommendation was the primary, ulterior motive why you asked for my help with your personal statement and writing sample. That may not be the case, but that's how I feel-whenever we talk you always seem to want something from me. I know that avoidance wasn't the answer, but it's how I decided to handle the situation. I'm sorry, and hope that you'll find someone else who can then fax the recommendation. Given your criteria was a fellow writer, it shouldn't be that hard; and I do truly wish you the best as your pursue your graduate studies.What the fluck!? I can't even think of anything else I've asked her to do for me. My immediate response:
This application to grad school was important to me for many reasons. It represented follow through, I was finally following through with my ongoing plan and desire to go to school for writing. Also, it represented my ability to pursue a path and forge a future that I could enjoy and that would lower my neediness, strenthen my independence. I don't want to be a burden to anyone. And I don't want to end up having supported and nurtured my daughter only so that she can be burdened with having to support me because I haven't been able to establish a structure of consistant stability.
If you don't feel comfortable writing my letter of recommendation that's fine, of course you shouldn't. I don't think that I understand though, why I would need an ulterior motive to ask for your help with either of these two things. I don't know if it was naive of me, but I assumed that unless you didn't have the time, you would gladly write a letter of recommendation for me, and that you would gladly review my writing or whatever, as I would for you or Thom or Neh, or Jacqueline or even Sam, without hesitation.
I asked the same two things of every person who I approached, for support with the writing sample and essay and for a letter of recommendation. You got a different email than everyone else, in which I asked for everything all at once, because I erronously left your email out, which I realized when I reviewed the list it of people the email had been sent to. I composed your email seperately, may not have said everything, but I really didn't think it was a big deal.
I don't understand this, and I don't appreciate it. I would have had no problem with you saying no. For instance, Nehassaiu said she couldn't write my rec for Bennington, but is writing my rec for Lesley because there is enough time, Lesley's rec
being due April 1 instead of March 1. Jacqueline said she had time to review my essay only. Langston said he would try to review my sample. Janice said she didn't feel comfortable writing the rec letter because she didn't feel qualified. I was fine with whatever people said they could or couldn't do. I never ask things of people with an attitude that they have an obligation.
No, I haven't asked anyone else because I thought I could count on you, and I won't be able to get a rec and therefore, I just won't be applying. So I really don't appreciate you're avoidance, and you taking full responsibility doesn't mean anything really, because this was something really big and important for me, and those words "I take complete responsibility for not discussing this in a timely manner" don't change the fact that now all the work I've done is down the drain and I cannot apply. I'm fucking pissed off. I'm pretty simple Dianna, I don't really work with ulterior
motives. I wish people would just be fucking frank. I learned from you the importance of being present. But whatever.
I do whatever I can in almost every instance to help people, and when I don't ask people for help I get fussed at and asked why I act like I don't deserve the same kind of support that I like to give other people. Well this is why, because I don't feel like dealing with someone else's bullshit, her own baggage that causes her to interpret my actions negatively and try to make me out to be some kind of bad and using person. Yes, I always intended to ask you to help me with all of that, and whatever you could offer I would have appreciated. And whatever you said no to I would have understood. But this, this is insulting, hurtful and mean. You are wrong for doing this to me, I don't deserve the perspective or the treatment. Don't do the rec, I won't ask
for your help again, and I'll just start preparing to apply to programs in
Note: Being an artist, I found it impossible to exist in the typical life work situations for long. I don't desert, but somehow it never works out. The world keeps sending me back to a space in which I belong, but I get hungry in that space. I must get to a point at which I will produce works that I feel comfortable putting out, and establish a life work scenario that my spirit will approve.
I did not deserve Dianna's decision and, quite honestly, I felt she should have sucked it up and kept her commitment. This, I think, was the wrong time, the wrong way to confront whatever issues she'd had with me. And clearly, her response was related more to previous interactions and not this one request. To this day I don't understand what she accused me of in her email at all. Why would I need to be manipulative to get a letter of recommendation? We are supposed to ask people to write rec letters, that's the nature of rec letters. How does my asking her to read my writing sample and essay get me any closer to getting a letter of recommendation from her? How does the first cause the second to happen any better, any surer? Anyway, who would write a letter of recommendation for a writing progam and not review or refamiliarize themselves with your writing? I'm still baffled.
I had such a high regard for Dianna, and always percieved her as having a great ability to confront situations directly, but I guess that's just perception, and we all have our weaknesses. Like me, she too is flawed. In this instance, her weakness was having a grave impact on me. Of course, I intended to apply to Lesley, and if that didn't work out, I would apply again to programs in August. I thought, maybe I'll even apply to a quadrillion programs like everyone else does. So much farher in advance, I believed that at least I'd have success getting rec letters.
Dianna's perception was invalid, I lacked respect for her decision, and it hurt my deeply. After I sent that response to her email (much of a second and final response is actually contained in this post), I cried hysterically until my nose began to bleed. Before I could get myself together, my nose was bleeding out of both nostrils and my mouth, and blood was dripping from my left eye. I never spoke to her again.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
I worked on Bennington first because their deadline was a month earlier. I completed the application form easily, got my transcripts and began to work on my writing sample. I could not spend much time on that sample. I knew myself well enough to be sure I would never, ever send it in if I tried to get it "finished." (You know "finished," that ever allusive (for me) point at which you stop editing a work.) I focused on changing some tense choices I'd made when I first started working on the memoir, and eliminated a punctuation style I felt was not really adding to the emotion of the text as I wanted it to. Then I turned to my essay.
I was nearing the April 1st deadline, and had not requested any letters of recommendation. I wasn't going to until I had my essay done. In my mind, (although this probably was not the case) my essay had to be absolutely perfect. This had to be "finished." This was a shorter work, and could demonstrate how strong the work in my writing sample could be if I had some support. The work I couldn't allow myself to do on my manuscript was exactly what I felt compelled to do with my essay. I worked on it non-stop for about a week and a half. First draft I did in a sitting or two. Then I edited it about six times, until I got it where I felt it was tight. Finally, excitedly, on February 22nd (or thereabouts) I sent out an email to my friends.
My request was that they do any or all of the following:
review and critique my writing sample
review and critique my essay
write a letter of recommendation
In the email request I included the writings and the letter of recommendation form.
It hit me later that day that I hadn't included Dianna in that group email request. Dianna was a member of 12th House, a writer's group to which I'd also been a part. She'd actually been my writing partner. She was on sabbatical and was in a Master's program at University of Pennsylvania. She was a teacher in the middle school of a great independent school in here in Philly. She was brilliant and I couldn't believe I'd forgotten her. I sent her the writings and she quickly agreed to review my work. I began to get responses to my first email.
From Janice, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who wrote but never work-shopped, I got a few lines that said "writing samples sound good, essay sounds good!" She said she didn't feel qualified to write a rec letter.
Jacqueline, a current PhD student who was at that time in a Master's program (history) said she wouldn’t do a letter of recommendation. She did give me awesome feedback on my essay. The primary feedback was: You're putting yourself down too much. You undermine every good thing you say about yourself. Stop it! You're hurting my feelings! She then explained how she felt I was doing this, and boy was she right! Essentially, everywere in my essay I said, I did this thing, but it wasn't that great.
I began immediately to rewrite the essay. In the meantime, I got a message from Nehassaiu, my sister in New York, an actress who also has an MFA in poetry from Brown. The schedule from her shows would not make it possible for her to get to me by Bennington's deadline. This was disappointing because we were together in the writer's group 12th House longest, being among it’s founding members. She is among those who know me best as it relates to my becoming a student in an MFA program. However, I was happy to learn that with Lesley's deadline being a month later, she could write that recommendation. And Lesley only required two (Bennington, three.)
Dianna gave me her feedback, and between her and Jacqeline's responses, I pulled together a very tight essay. But, I had no recs.
Two of my former workshop buddies had professional affiliations with the programs to which I was applying. I didn't want that intervention, and they didn't want that conflict. Still no recommenders for Bennington’s ever approaching deadline.
I began to panick. I couldn't think of who to ask. Then I thought of another former 12th House member, Matt. Matt was a graduate of Columbia's MFA program, author of three published novels. We hadn't corresponded in about a year, but I didn't think that mattered. It matters very much, however, if his email address has changed. We couldn't find him.
Dianna never mentioned one thing about the recommendation letter. She hadn’t said yes, she hadn’t said no. Had I asked her? I sent my work to her in a separate email. I called and it turned out I never did ask. She said yes, she could do it, and she could do it for both Bennington and Lesley. Yes! One down, two to go.
I thought suddenly of another artist, Teddy. Although his area was visual art, he was immersed in poetry, and had collaborated on projects with various writers, most often Amiri Baraka. He knew and could speak to my work. I called him, and he agreed to write a rec. Yes! Yes! So now I had just one more to find - but the deadline was speeding down on me like a runaway train, (or some other overused metaphor.)
Finally, Janice, aware of my troubles volunteered to write my third letter. I don't know why she felt unqualified. She completely was, and is a hell of a writer. So, Yes! Yes! Yes! I was now on my way, and not a moment to soon, being only a month away from Bennington's deadline. I could now turn to my attention to Lesley.