Classmates Receive Grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation

Yu-Mei Balasingamchow and Pritha Bhattacharyya were classmates in Boston University’s MFA Fiction class of 2019. In January, both of them were awarded creative writing grants by the Elizabeth George Foundation. The Creative Department was thrilled to hear of this news, and department administrator Annaka Saari conducted a short email interview with Yu-Mei and Pritha after learning of both of their awards. Their answers to her questions can be found below.

How did you feel when you heard you had received the grant?

Pritha: Shocked and grateful. I really went into the application process with a good dose of skepticism about being able to get the grant, as I try to do with any sort of application. To see it come to fruition at the end was a sign that, for now, I’m on the right path. I can’t emphasize enough how transformative this grant is for my writing life this upcoming year, nor how much I owe my recommenders for advocating on my behalf.

Yu-Mei: Stunned, ecstatic, grateful – I still am! I gave the application my best shot, of course, but so many good and worthy writers apply for these grants, you never know what your chances are going to be like. Plus I’d received a number of other rejections in the months before, and I was prepared for another one (you know how the writing life is).

Getting the grant is certainly a huge boost of encouragement to keep pushing on with my novel. I’m super thankful to everyone who helped me along the way: the writer friends who went over my application with an eagle eye, and my professors at BU and other recommenders who endorsed my work. On a practical note, as someone who juggles various part-time and freelance gigs to pay the bills, a gift like this is a real windfall – much as the fully-funded MFA at BU was.

How did you feel when you heard your classmate had received the grant?

P: I was incredibly happy to know that Yu-Mei had been awarded the grant too, and both of us getting it this year was the cherry on top! Although it’s been a while since we were in the same classroom, I remember our cohort as a whole was super kind and supportive of one another, and Yu-Mei and I have stayed in touch ever since graduating, updating each other on our progress of our respective works. I’m so excited to see where this grant helps her take her work and will be cheering wildly for her as it happens.

Y: I was absolutely thrilled for Pritha! She’s an amazing writer, a steadfast friend, and a lovely human being. We did a fair bit of screaming on the phone (in a good way) when we found out. I can’t wait for more people to read her stories! Also, since our BU days I’ve been bugging her to write a novel (she knows which one).

How do you think your time in Boston University’s program prepared you as writers for opportunities like this?

P: My year at BU was invaluable. To put it bluntly: that’s where I learned to write. I am incredibly grateful to my teachers and cohort for their support, encouragement, and critique during that time because it made me a stronger and more assured writer. My MFA year also gave me the confidence to pursue writing seriously and to consider myself competitive for opportunities such as the Elizabeth George Foundation grant.

Y: The program made me a sharper reader and writer, and I know some of the advice and ideas our professors mentioned in class have taken up permanent, subconscious residence in my writing brain. I’m also glad I got to know Pritha, our classmates and other alumni that I’ve met since. Writing, submitting and applying for things can feel like a solitary endeavor. Having friends to talk with, especially when nothing seems to be “happening” in one’s writing life, keeps me going and helps me psych myself up for the next possibility.

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