There’s a million things to be

On Twitter someone said, “Don’t tell your readers you’re uneducated.” Well, why not? I guess it would depend on what you want your readers to believe. I mean, how successful can a writer expect to be without a college education?

I don’t have an MFA. Heck, I don’t have any credits to my name, but, eh. I wrestle my own ghosts. Truth is, I love school. I went back late, spent a year at a tech school obsessing over paint samples and fabric swatches and modern building vs. historic preservation and took the required English Composition class.

English Comp. broke me.

I knew it would.

The first paper I wrote left my crazy, old teacher-man flummoxed. He took a shine to me, kept telling me I wasn’t a program student and won. Most of the kids talked crap behind his back. I sent him a thank you card.

That fall, I transferred out of my program and into liberal studies. The next year, I transferred to university part-time where I studied Creative Nonfiction under a wonderful woman. She too was very supportive of my work suggesting I consider an MFA program after completing my BA. I scoffed. I talked about Ray Bradbury. She wasn’t convinced.

I haven’t been back to school since that semester. Instead, I started planning a wedding, then a house, then a family. These things can happen if you wait too long for one thing and move on to something else.

For years I had it in my head I would start writing in earnest when my kids were small and I could be home with them. I lucked-out and here I am. I’ll call myself quasi-educated. There. Now you know.

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About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
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18 Responses to There’s a million things to be

  1. I don’t see the problem with being so-called “uneducated.” I spent three years in art college, moving at a pace that had me joking that my 4year degree would take me seven years. I had a lot of supportive teachers too, all of them wanting to grow my potential. After those three years, I didn’t go back. Truth is, I seem to learn better (or at least apply what I learned better) outside of a school environment. So here I am, wading out into the world of writing and absorbing every tid-bit about the craft I can find πŸ™‚

    • pennyjars says:

      And that’s just it, Eric, what’s the big deal? At least, if we’re comfortable with our station, then our readers should be too, or they won’t be our readers. Cheers to writing writers!

  2. benmind says:

    Speaking as someone who also has zero credits to his name and a believer in Bradbury’s ‘libraries not school’ maxim, I’d say that proof of education will come out in your writing more than it ever would in a certificate.

    • pennyjars says:

      So fun to be a writer, we get to make up our own homework. The great thing about now is, we don’t have to rely on a classroom to find our peers, we find eachother online. Good writing to you, Ben!

  3. 2kop says:

    Interesting thoughts in light of what is going on in my household right now with my 18-year-old son. A degree doesn’t make you a better person or define you as a person. I need to remember that.

    • pennyjars says:

      It can be hard for some kids to come out of high school and go straight to college, I think. At least, it never would have worked for me. You’re a great mama, Susan, no doubt he’ll do right by you both.

  4. Ray Bradbury rules and all that matters is that you write. You can have any kind of degree, but if you don’t write, doesn’t matter. Did we mention we love Ray Bradbury? πŸ™‚

  5. Lisa says:

    To piggyback on Ben’s comment and Bradbury’s quotation, education and schooling are not always the same thing. One of the things I love about writing is that we make our own classrooms, wherever we are. πŸ˜€

  6. Christine says:

    You don’t have to have an MFA to write. There’s no law that states that you cannot be a writer without a college degree. When I was in high school, I attended the annual Iowa High School Press Association meeting in Iowa City on the University of Iowa campus. The keynote speaker that year was cartoonist Breke Breathed of Bloom County fame. Breke Breathed told us would-be journalists that if we wanted to write don’t study journalism. Study history or political science or something that will give you something to write about. The mechanics of writing can always be learned elsewhere, but fundamentally writers need something to write about, something they know. Breke’s advice may have been unconventional, but I’ve never forgotten it. I think he had a point.

    I grew up the oldest of six kids in a poor family. Both my parents worked very hard, but from the time I was nine I knew that if I wanted to go to college that it would have to be on a scholarship. I was very fortunate that even at age nine, I had adult mentors and role models, such as the professor of English and his wife, a social worker, who lived across the alley from us. The Schumans encouraged me to dream about and plan for college as did other adults I met.

    I worked very hard in high school and earned a scholarship to college. When my oldest son was only 18 months old, I entered grad school as a single parent. I feel truly blessed to have an education and wish that some of my mother and my siblings could have had the same opportunities that I did.

    My mother gave up a college scholarship to marry my dad. My high school English teacher, whom I still consider a friend, once called my mother “brilliant.” In her fifties, my mother took classes at a local community college and did very well. But she is primarily self-educated. She’s read vast tomes on the history of the Catholic Church, the lives of the czars, etc. She’s currently reading through the World Book Encyclopedia and is on the letter “Q.” My mother is highly intelligent, loves reading, has tried her hand at writing, and instilled in me my tendency to, as one friend put it, “turn everything into a story.”

    My sister earned her associate’s degree but wasn’t able to continue her college education due to her family. By the age of 21, my sister was the youngest business owner in a local mall. She and a friend opened a used book store and had, according to the mall manager, the “best business plan he had ever read.” My sister had her daughters young. Caring for them and providing an income for her family superseded her desire to get a university degree.

    Like my mother, my sister is a voracious reader. I was an English major in college, and my sister is easily as well-read as I am–if not more. A couple of years ago my sister wrote what I think is a beautifully crafted and moving novel. Our high school English teacher long ago recognized Adriana’s gift for writing.

    Please don’t beat yourself up or consider yourself less of a writer if you don’t have an MFA or a BA after your name. If you read, you can write. If you’ve lived deeply, you have a story to tell.

    • pennyjars says:

      Christine,
      I love that advice from Breke Breathed. When I first went back to school for interior design it was because I wanted a career and financial means, but I’ve never been a money person and my heart always wins out in the end. However, while I was studying design I woke up one morning as clear as light certain I was supposed to finish that degree and then go on to a creative writing degree ultimately ending up in a design writing career. That would have been smart because I have a passion for architecture, art and design. But, instead I jumped into writing as soon as I got a whiff and I don’t regret it a bit. It’s just different.

      And, umm, I may be caught reading the World Book Encyclopedia one day. That is, after I make it through my Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary πŸ˜‰

      • Christine says:

        You’re a better woman than I am. I realize I’ve gotten lazy over the years at looking up words. I want to remedy that–particularly after I read an author use the phrase: “slimy paladins.” I had to know what that meant!

      • pennyjars says:

        Ha ha. No, that you just need a geek for. I have one of those too. πŸ™‚

  7. kario says:

    I have two bachelor’s degrees and additional training beyond college and I consider my best “education” to have happened on the job of life. Nothing better than real experience to educate a person!

    • pennyjars says:

      Kari,
      Wow! You must have a lot of focus. And patience. I suppose it doesn’t do us much good to know the classics by rote or have a hundred degrees if we can’t cross the street without getting hit by a car. Cheers!

  8. Beth Hoffman says:

    Talent has absolutely nothing to do with education. You have a dynamite blog, a blog I look forward to reading, a blog that makes me laugh, think, and wonder. You’re one heck of a good writer, and it’s clear that your life lessons have brought out your natural talent…and wisdom.

    As Oletta said to CeeCee, “You read a whole lot of books, and readin’ sure has made you smart, but ain’t no book in the world gonna make you wise.”

  9. pennyjars says:

    Thank you so much, Beth. You have been very generous in your thoughts. Here’s hoping for a prolific year ahead. Congratulations on CeeCee’s 1 year anniversary!

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