Alexandra Hewett mulled over the idea of a Master in Fine Arts for years before deciding it was time to take the next step.
She has two children and multiple jobs, leaving little time for writing.
Then she turned 50 and her parents had both passed away in short succession and she knew it was time to act. An M.F.A. program, she decided, was the commitment she could count on to finally write the story about her parents that she's always wanted to share.
"I have these ideas constantly, but now I have a due date and now I'm actually going to get grades so I actually have to finish it and polish it and rewrite it and revise it."
The professors and reputation drew Alexandra to the University of Baltimore's M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts program. She couldn't wait to take classes with and advice from acclaimed author Marion Winik, for one.
"I just really felt that this is the place," Alexandra says. "The book is like you're having a baby and everyone here is like your doula."
As she's been working on her book, Alexandra has uncovered new facets of her family's history, such as that multiple family members had been sent to internment camps. She's also learned more about her parents' relationship, from their meeting when her father was serving in the Korean War, to her mother's diagnosis of schizophrenia and the decades of care that followed.
"There's really a lot of think about. They left me with quite a love story to write about," Alexandra says.
She was also left with her father's poetry, which turned out to be the beginning of a new adventure for her.
"It's all in Belarussian. I speak minimal Belarussia. When he was alive, he refused to translate it for me. He was like you should learn Belarussian," she recalls.
Alexandra tried for years, but had difficulty learning the unique language. After her dad died, she learned about a man who both fluent and a poet. With help from a Turner Research and Travel Award she received from UB, Hewett was able to visit with the interpreter in Florida and read her father's poetry for the first time.
One, she discovered, was about her.
"As writers, we're totally different," Alexandra says. "My father was very private. Culturally, too. Everything was very quiet. I'm very open.
"I produce a storytelling show where people share their diaries. Memoir is, you've got to be honest and sometimes that's hard, so I'm the complete opposite, but I understand his point of view. He probably knew at one point I would do this and it's beautiful to learn. It's emotional, it's hard, but I think it's rewarding for me."