Learning Lee Ann MFA

A Drexel Dragon at 66

September 6, 2022

Part 1 of an occasional series.

At 66, I don’t have any major regrets. The closest thing to an Official Major Regret is never writing that novel percolating inside me. And now I am about to at least write it, as a graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts program at Drexel University.

Graduate school at my age is probably noteworthy enough to blog about. No creative writing, not even a paragraph, has issued forth from my keyboard since circa 1976. And back then, it was a portable typewriter on Corrasable Bond paper with a chaser of Liquid Paper on the side. That was at the University of Texas at Austin, where I earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree.

In 1997, I was dispatched to the Delaware Department of Finance by my boss, Lieutenant Governor Ruth Ann Minner. Very insecure about being a political appointee who knew little to nothing about finance, I went to work on an MBA from the University of Delaware. By then, typewriters and erasable bond were bygones; writing papers on a laptop and presenting your work in PowerPoint was a breeze. We still used Netscape to browse the internet, though, and Amazon only sold books. The MBA was bestowed in 1999.

About 10 years later, I noticed that our church website had displayed the same static home page for several years. In fact, several people in the single photo on the page had died or moved on. I knew no one else would take on this project, so I started taking night graphic and web-design classes at the Delaware College of Art and Design in downtown Wilmington. I would listen to Phillies games on the radio to keep me awake as I drove the 75 miles home after classes. After a few years, I was a certified graphics and web designer.

Life after the pandemic

This latest academic quest was born of the pandemic. As we came out of it, I wondered what I would do for the next 30 years (the Walling family has good genes). For two years, our world had been streaming TV and takeout and not much interaction with other humans, including family; we stopped going to church. I learned to play the bass guitar and eventually joined a praise band at a new church where I play not bass but keyboard and synthesizer. But ennui had definitely set in, and I knew a couple of trips a year would not alleviate it.

So I contemplated what I could do into my 90s, even if everything else fell apart. And I landed on writing. For my application to Drexel in Philadelphia, I submitted a synopsis of a novel and two actual chapters totaling 33 pages – the most fiction I had ever written. I mean, there was the Town of Laurel Comprehensive Plan, but you don’t get to take a lot of creative leeway with GIS maps and Census data.

Classes start this month. I have no idea yet how much blood, sweat and tears will be required. I have to thank Sue, though, who puts up with my Lifelong Learning addiction that seems to relapse every 10 years or so.

    Leave a Reply