This week — music news only for Inside.com!

I feel like a kid at Christmas unwrapping that Red Rider BB Gun. I’m writing music news — and only music news — all this week for Inside.com (and the Inside app for Android, iOs, and Blackberry). Follow the news feed here.

A couple of the stories I curated today -- Miley getting tracks readied with the Flaming Lips and good old CB getting in trouble again. Also, Iggy Azalea responds to Spears song leak; George R.R. Martin is a Deadhead; Joni Mitchell lands court-appointed conservator; and Vegas pool party brawl for Ludacris (whom I have met and he's really short btw)

A couple of the stories I curated today — Miley getting tracks readied with the Flaming Lips and good old CB getting in trouble again. Also, Iggy Azalea responds to Spears song leak; George R.R. Martin is a Deadhead; Joni Mitchell lands court-appointed conservator; and Vegas pool party brawl for Ludacris (whom I have met and he’s really short btw). 

I have found myself in a music journalism position over and over again in life. If I hadn’t found one, I created one. I remember being on the air for mornings at KZZP — well before the Internet got all fancy and we had Facebook, social media, even video. I didn’t even know what a CMS was back then. I probably only had five things online to log into and one was Hotmail… So things weren’t very far advanced. But I decided I would somehow create a “celebrity guestbook” feature on our website since we had so many famous people coming through our studios. I was met with resistance so it never came to be. I remember my morning show host bitching at me, “You’re wasting your time with this web stuff! It’s not going anywhere!” Now it’s 2015 and we can add that to the list of “I told you so’s” I’ve given him over the years. He also thought “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” would be a flop and wouldn’t let me play my interview with Nia Vardalos and John Corbett on the air! Ha!

Times have changed and I am happy to change with the times. It’s 2015 and I have 16 years of radio under my belt, a liberal arts degree from Boston University, a journalism certificate from Paradise Valley Community College, actual print/web/online journalism experience, and just basic life experience. (Yes, I have been blessed with much life experience most wish they never have to have). I think I’m just so happy to keep my journalism skills going right now. I’m also happy to be back in love with writing again.

Thanks for checking out my blog and progress this year. I have a freelance writing career as well as a creative writing practice that involves three novels in progress as well as much poetry… There is a lot more to come!

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Should I get an MFA in creative writing?

I really hope someone will see this post and comment openly and honestly. Because I came across this blog started by some ’08 MFA grads and it’s really got me thinking.

I really just want a master’s degree. I could get it in anything. But getting an MFA in creative writing just sounds so fun to me. I work full-time in radio as a morning personality and my writing has therefore taken a backseat over the last six months. I just now started freelance writing again for HalogenTV.com. I usually write general interest-type features. This marks the second time I’ve written about a vegan lifestyle, which is one of my interests. I wrote a “How I Went Vegan” piece years ago for Veg News magazine. (See it here on my Media Bistro profile).

I like writing for HalogenTV.com because Halogen — the cable channel and website — is all about social good. As someone who wrote “bad news” for so long (local, national, and entertainment gossip) it’s really refreshing to write about topics that affect society in a positive way. I’ve done journalism for broadcast, online, and print. It’s a great skill to have and I’m certain it makes me a better broadcaster.

As a morning personality, I have a responsibility to my city to be responsible on the air. If you’ve heard our show, you know we play a lot of music and have a ton of laughter happening every morning. But every once in a while some major newsy thing happens, like the day Bin Laden was killed. And we can’t go on air our normal joking selves on a day like that. It’s then that Journalist Heather Larson snaps to attention and comes on air with proper presentation of the facts so our listening audience is served properly.

So again, journalism is a good skill to have. I wouldn’t get a degree in it these days just because of the job outlook on that. I think now if you want to do journalism for a living you should get a degree in new media or just learn how to make tablet apps.

But really, why get a master’s degree in creative writing? 

It’s probably worse than the bachelor in liberal studies I obtained from Boston University last year! Every time I tell someone I have a BLS, they ask me if I can say, “would you like fries with that?” in Latin. But how many of us actually use the degree we have in our career? Radio personalities certainly don’t need a degree in anything. I know many in my industry who have no degree at all.

So this decision I am struggling to make isn’t about a career move, although I’m sure a master’s degree of any kind can’t hurt a person no matter what their chosen career path is. Wanting to get an MFA in creative writing is about feeding that part of myself that actually liked to attend creative writing class in summer school. As a kid in Scottsdale, AZ, I used to love the long bus ride in summer school in 100+ degree weather just because it took me to my creative writing class. And sadly, it was the only true creative writing class I ever had. I have taken screenwriting at the community college level (twice!) and every English class I could lump into my schedule. I love language classes too (you mean I can sign up for Arabic next semester? Let me just register for that right now). I’m the type who has a box of old journals — a really big, heavy box — stored in the darkest recess of my home. I swear, I will do something with them someday… You also may have noticed you are reading WriterHeather.wordpress.com. Enough said!

So I think my desire to do an MFA program is really about taking my creative writing side to the next level while getting a degree. Is that a good reason to dedicate a huge chunk of time in my life to getting an MFA in creative writing?

Because let’s face it — school is for people who need to be taught. 

I can write creatively on my own. I can write on my own time and figure out how to publish. Anyone can do that. It’s like people who take classes on how to blog… Really? You paid to take a blogging class? All you have to do is open a Blogger or TypePad or WordPress account and get it done. You do read blogs don’t you? I mean, I don’t want to be that person who has to be taught something that can just as easily be figured out with a little curiosity and independence.

But if I enroll in an MFA program, I’ll be around other writers! I’d be in a community, an environment! I’d feel like I was a part of something. I’d feel like I had peers. I’d have professors who would encourage me. Right now, I’m writing in what little spare time I have (like right now, on a national holiday). No one encourages my writing, save for my Halogen editor who is awesome and just doing her job.

Sorry for the long posting today. Thanks for reading down this far! I’m really not sure if I will enroll in the MFA program that has caught my eye. I’m just a year out of BU and still remember all too well how much time and dedication it takes to balance work, school, and life while doing a degree program. At the moment, I really am enjoying lazy Sundays with coffee, a gluten-free bagel with vegan cream cheese and HBO. Maybe in seven more months, I’ll be adding homework to that Sunday morning ritual…

Follow me on Twitter @heatherlarson or leave me a comment here, please!

I finished my degree at Boston University!

I finally finished!  I’ve been attending the Boston University Executive Undergrad Degree Completion Program online since January 2007.  The program is run through BU’s Metropolitan College and is designed for adults who wish to finish their college degrees.  I was in my 20s when I began and I wasn’t even the youngest person in the EUDCP.  (Actually, I think they dropped the “executive” and just call it “UDCP” now).  We all began college somewhere and took a detour for whatever reason  —  jobs, kids, family, life.

Now I have a bachelor of liberal studies, or BLS, from Boston University.

There were semesters I sat out because of financial aid problems or because a class wasn’t available for me to take.  I moved three times during the program.  I went from working at home as a freelance writer to going back to work full-time outside the home.  People I loved passed away.  There was a point in the program where I worked three jobs during 19-hour days.  I even took my laptop and reading material on a Princess cruise ship once during a family vacation in order to complete my degree.  I even managed to pass a physics class despite having a math learning disability.  I probably lugged my laptop to more events in my life over the past three years than could ever be deemed “normal” or “healthy.”

But I finished.  Finally.

If I can do it, anyone can.  I encourage you to go back to school if you’re thinking about it.  You may even want to take a look at Boston University.  We’ve got one helluva hockey team.

Graduation is in May.  I’ll get a diploma.  But I think I’ve already had the best, most memorable day. It was March 2, 2010.  I submitted my final exam for my very last class at 11:57 a.m.  It was a happy feeling I will never forget!  Everyone should have the chance to feel like that.

The downside of sovereignty

Now that I’ve raved about the sovereignty of working for oneself as a freelance writer…let me tell you about the downside.  The one thing that was lacking for me as a freelancer who worked at home was one of the most important: peers.  Say what you want about your coworkers, but they are essential.  Having a second opinion sitting one desk over from you is invaluable.

Can you recreate this experience as a freelancer?

It’s an important thing to ask yourself if you are thinking about going out on your own and stepping away from the corporate environment.  A lot of people here in Phoenix like to go to co-working places and/or coffee shops.  To be honest, sometimes I like working in coffee shops but other times, not so much.  I guess it depends on the atmosphere on any given day.  I most often like working in my own home office where I can control my own atmosphere.  But sometimes it gets to feeling like an island and the coffee shop starts to become appealing again.

But as a writer, peers are so important.  I work in a newsroom and can’t begin to tell you the importance of a second set of eyes on a piece of copy.  When I work on my own I have to change my work habits to give myself extra time for revisions.  I write and then let my work “cool” for a while before I re-read and revise.  Without a coworker sitting next to me to serve as my second set of eyes, I can only depend on my own.  So I come up with little tricks like letting a draft “cool” for a couple hours or overnight before I come back to it.  (This method has really helped with a few Boston University papers, too).

Freelancing from home means I have to create my own peers.  Twitter and Facebook are great for this. But so are instant messaging, email, and Skype.  It never hurts to have someone you can call or IM for advice or a second pair of eyes when needed.  I’ve met a few great freelance writers online and they have given great help over the years.  It’s also great to keep in touch with others to see how their careers take shape and see how they market themselves.  It’s so good to see how others succeed — it’s inspiring.

Sometimes that’s the most important thing.  Do your coworkers inspire you?  Do they make you better? Do they make you want to step up your game?  Are they supportive?  If not, maybe you would be better off creating a community of peers on your own.