Back in Irvine

Name: Julie Schulte

Year: Graduate  

Program: Masters in Fine Arts

1)    Can you give me a summary of your journey to UC Irvine?

Well, I grew up in Irvine. I went to high school here, and I never thought I would be at UCI simply because I had the desire to see a lot of countries and go to a lot of places. But, after going to Berkley and living in Czech Republic and China, I came back here because of the writing program [at UCI]. The MFA [Masters in Fine Arts] program at UCI is really famous – just with the incredible history of graduates, as well as the people who run it. Ron [Carlson] and Michelle [Latiolais] are really amazing. I applied but almost wished I didn’t get in just because of the thought of, maybe I could go to another place. But, I have seen it as a beautiful circle because it’s almost like I had to go back to where I came from to really start a new phase of life. Honestly, I have been so surprised by how much I like the actual school itself despite being in this beige environment of Irvine.

2)    How long is the MFA program?

The MFA in Fiction program is three years. The first two years are workshops and teaching, along with some courses. The last year is where you write your thesis, and for me, it will be a novel. This is my first year in the program and one more year after this of teaching. Then the following year, I won’t be teaching as much because I will be focusing on my novel. I am considering on applying for a Ph.D. here at UCI because I do enjoy the staff and I would like to be more involved here. If I am going to be here with my daughter, I would like to teach a course and still write books.

3)    How did you choose writing as a career path?

Well, I guess it just starts with reading because it was the only thing I ever did. My father would say, even when I was three, when he told a story, I would interrupt him and change it. So, I think creatively, I have always been writing in one way or another. I have written music and poetry, but to actually write fiction became a new thing once I had my daughter. I couldn’t travel anymore and I was at home, so fiction became a way to get the story out while being in one place. Also, tutoring [during] my free time helped me value teaching academic writing that isn’t the “five paragraph essay” because that was where I was seeing my students lacking. That’s why I love teaching the class, Writing 39B, and I wish we had [more time] to actually do more mechanics.

4)    What was one of your most defining moments in life?

I think it would probably be three moments. One would be when I dropped out of a local college, Biola University. It’s a very small, Christian college, and I dropped out in the first two weeks because I wanted to go to a bigger university. I realized that the second I was there, it wasn’t the diverse atmosphere I was looking for. It was kind of a scary and bold choice for my upbringing to actually go through with that, but I ended up at Berkeley.

My second most defining moment would be just living by myself in other countries. When I went to Russia, totally alone on a plane, it was also very defining.

The third would be having a child at a young age because, suddenly, nothing you do is about you anymore. But, [it’s] also knowing [what is] a really important balance for women and, just because that is the case, to know how to be a complete woman too. Because how could you fully give to a child if you are unhappy or dissatisfied? So [it’s] the balance between putting her first and carving out that creative space that she can admire, and feeling like she can learn from it.

5)    What are your top three favorite books and why?

One would be the Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov because that was the first book that blew my mind to what could happen in a story. In the story, there are three different timelines occurring: one in Moscow [during] the 1930s, then, of course, Pontius Pilate, and the artist himself. It was the first book; I cried reading even though it’s not sad or anything, but rather, crying at the thought of how powerful writing can be. Also, the fact that the author wrote the book knowing it would not be published was so bold.

The second book would be Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I think that book changes everyone’s life.

The third book would be Anna Karenina by Tolstoy because it’s exhaustive of every type of human that can be. It’s fascinating because Tolstoy portrays every type of person without judgement which is very hard to do, and I really admire it.

6)    If you could witness an event of the past, present, or future what would it be?

I always wanted to live right before the Russian Revolution, when artists were still “feeling” – before all the chaos of the 20th century and having to be subsumed by all the politics. There is this beautiful 10-year period of creation and hope of what artists can do. I would love to have been in one of those circles, either in Berlin or Petersburg. But now that I have a daughter, I am curious to see any events in her life. I am so interested to see who she will become.