I'm applying for an online writing course with the University of Iowa, and I have to write a statement of purpose as part of my application. This is the prompt:
300-500 words describing why you would like to take the course and what you hope to learn. We're seeking students who will be enthusiastic and committed to doing the assignments and participating in the discussion forums.
And this is my essay:
For the better part of 2014, and some of 2015, I spent a large portion of my time reading the Hunger Games. I read other books, like Michael Grant’s Gone, and Ally Condie's Matched, but I always came back to my worn copy of the Hunger Games. I'd read it at lunch, in bed, in the car. I have the plot of the first book practically memorized, from the little goat cheese Prim left out the day of the Reaping to the glass of orange juice Katniss held as the Capitol helicopter lifted her out of the arena.
It should come as no surprise, then, that my main aspiration in life is to be a prolific author of YA fiction. Someday, I'd like to be able to walk into a Barnes and Nobles and see a bookshelf dedicated solely to my work. I want to be a permanent fixture, like Harry Potter or Twilight, with a movie franchise and a line of merchandise that still makes millions years after I've published my last book. I want to be an author who inspires people, who makes them feel passionately enough to read my work over and over again, to obsess over it, even to write fanction about it.
Of course, being a successful YA author is a difficult task, one that involves quite a bit of hard work and a little bit of luck. That's why I'm applying to be a part of this writing program. I hope to learn how to make characters that delight and inspire, like Katniss Everdeen, and how to build fictional worlds that feel realer than reality, like the wizarding world of Harry Potter. I’d like to learn how to make plot twists that leave readers breathless and wanting more, and weave in themes that leave a permanent imprint.
Most of all, I'd relish the opportunity to communicate with other young writers like myself, and hear their different perspectives. One of the reasons I love YA is so much is because it has space for so many different voices, and encourages readers to interact with the world around them. I'd love to be able to do that with my writing, and form friendships over common struggles with an essay or short story. I'd hate to be a writer who always approaches the craft with the same stilted, trite perspective.
I'm prepared to dive into the course as deeply as I dove into the Hunger Games, and to commit myself as fully as Katniss committed to her role as Mockingjay. I'll take it as seriously as a tribute takes the three day training period before they enter the arena, a time to learn and practice before the final test. Because for me, that final test will be taking all the skills and knowledge I've learned and using them to write a book worthy of the distinction of being a YA novel.