Alumni Profile: Chris Belden

Submitted by Web Communications on May 1, 2011

It took me about an hour on the island to realize that this was going to be one of those absolutely right decisions.

Chris Belden

Program: MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction

Hometown: Ridgefield, CT

Honors/Awards: 2009 CT Commission on Culture Fiction Writing Fellowship

the right choice

There are only a few decisions I’ve made in my life that strike me as absolutely right. These are heavily outnumbered by the absolutely wrong ones, which include my choice of undergrad university (U. of Michigan, a great school but far too big for an insecure, immature, lost soul like I was at 18), a not-very-well-thought-out move to Washington DC back in ’86, my first marriage. The less said about these decisions, the better. The absolutely right ones include my move to NYC in 1987, my tenure with the Bronx WritersCorps (an Americorps-sponsored group of writers sent into the beleaguered borough to teach writing), my second marriage, and my decision to attend the Fairfield University MFA Program.

why fairfield?

I had been considering an MFA for many years. I even applied to the low-residency program at Vermont College, but was turned down. As my life got more complicated – the move out of NYC, home ownership, parenthood – the MFA idea became less and less likely, until I heard about the Fairfield Program. The school was close by, it was a new program (which made it more alluring to me – I would be a part of something from the beginning), and it was affordable. I had been teaching writing locally, at a continuing education program, and wanted to step up into teaching at the university level, so this was a good way to get the necessary degree. And of course I could always use help with my writing. My 3 completed novels were languishing in a drawer, and my 4th was still mostly in my head.

mission accomplished

My wife (the good, second one) got her MFA from The New School, and I watched her work hard only to give up writing upon graduation. I swore, if I ever got an MFA myself, I would not give up so easily, nor would I spend those 2 years in school without milking every opportunity. I would learn as much as possible, write like a mad man, volunteer for thankless tasks. My goals were: 1) improve my writing, 2) find an agent (by networking, begging, whatever it took), 3) use my degree to teach at the university level. I’m pleased to say I’ve accomplished all 3, thanks to Fairfield’s program. I realize this sounds a bit mercenary, but, before I drove onto Enders Island to attend my first residency, I didn’t know that there would be so many other benefits to the program: the camaraderie, the friendships (with both students and teachers), the fun and good food and the invaluable feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. It took me about an hour on the island to realize that this was going to be one of those absolutely right decisions.

journeying onward

I’m enormously proud to be among the inaugural cohort of the FU MFA Program. (Hell, I’m proud to be associated with any program with those initials.) I’ve learned even more than I thought I would – about writing, about the writing life, about teaching, and about myself as a person. They say the journey is more important than the destination, and in this case, they are right. Now that I’ve reached the end, I find myself wishing the journey would last forever.

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