Last week I got a follow-up call from the CFC. They told me that they liked my writing, but that applicants in general were extremely strong this year. They gave me some very insightful notes on my pilot and spec, and implored me to apply again next year. They knew about my writing group (5 of us applied to the CFC, 3 got to the interview stage, 0 got into the program), and they said that having a writing group is a great thing, but that I'm at the point in my skill level where I could use the eye of a professional story editor, someone who does TV writing for a living. Well, OK, I said, that's a great idea but where would I find a person like that? "Oh, we might be able to help you find someone." That blew my mind - that a program I didn't even get into would go to all that trouble! I'm not sure what exactly it entails, but it's certainly above and beyond what is expected of the CFC, and it really gave me a confidence boost.
I'd like to note, on the spec vs. pilot debate, that they had not read my pilot. In fact, they couldn't have cared less about it, and it was only on my surprise about that fact that they even offered to read it. They said the reason they don't care about pilots with new writers is that our first job is going to be writing on someone else's show, so it's important that we have 2 specs of other shows that are brilliant.
So all in all, this has been a sobering, humbling past month for me. I've realized that I still have some ways to go before I'm at the level that I thought I already was at. But it's also given me hope because at every point, I have been encouraged and nurtured, even by the people who have turned me down, and this has to mean something. So I carry on.