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Marie-Hélène Westgate MFA '11
What is Marie-Hélène Westgate’s top piece of advice for current and incoming grad students? “Enjoy”.
“Make sure to let enough magic into your life so that once you’re spat out into the world again, and you find yourself struggling, doubting yourself, and yearning for the time to really think and create and give yourself to your craft, you can recall these two strange years when your only duty was to do exactly what it was you had wanted, all your life, to do,” says Marie-Hélène, MFA ’11.
After earning her BFA in creative writing and her BA in gender studies at the University of British-Columbia in Vancouver, and working at a feminist law firm, Marie-Hélène was ready to commit herself to her writing. “I wanted to do away with distractions. In a way I wanted to do away with reality. I wanted to inhabit a utopia where somehow my work and my craft would become the guiding principles of my day,” Marie-Hélène recalls. “Sarah Lawrence isn’t necessarily known for structure in the typical sense—students essentially design their own course work in one-on-one conferences with professors—but the opportunity to live and breathe writing is what I was seeking.”
“I wanted to find out if I would be able to sit with myself day in and day out, and generate words," remembers Marie-Hélène. “I came to [Sarah Lawrence] to write. Writing is exactly the opportunity that Sarah Lawrence gave me.”
Marie-Hélène remains in New York and is writing—in a variety of forms: she will release an e-book of literary erotica, and is editing a novel manuscript. “I hope to soon get back to the essays I started writing in grad school. To revisit these essays from my current vantage point… and to make them better.” She also blogs for Psychology Today and interviews authors for a variety of publications, including The Atlantic, Tin House, and Hobo.
As for current and prospective students, “what I hope will happen is that you will experience the freedom and the privilege of being surrounded by other brilliant, hopeful, inspiring, and reckless artist types and you’ll make exceptional memories... you’ll write, and also take risks, get into messy situations, and spend lots of time in the city. Most of all, I hope you let yourself enjoy this time.”