Saturday, November 19, 2011

Forgetting Myself

I'm at a party or in a bar, and the question comes up. 

"What do you do?"
"I'm a deputy director at a business improvement district." 

Right, what does that mean?

I'm part of a team that works to make downtown a better, more livable place. I talk about how the organization helps support local business owners. I talk about the Downtown Ambassadors, the visitor center, special events and advocacy. I talk about how I like making a difference in my community. 

One of my friends will say, "AND?"

Oh, right. I'm in graduate school. I'm working toward an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University. I'm writing a book. 

Why do I forget to mention that part? It's not that I don't think it's important. It is important. It might be the most important thing I've ever done for myself. But sometimes I forget I'm doing it. It's a lot of work, but it doesn't feel like work. I'm doing something I love and pursuing a dream. One that seems more attainable than, say, dancing with Gene Kelly. 

Maybe I don't mention it because it is kind of private. As private as writing a memoir can be. I'm shy about it. Yes, me.

Maybe I think people won't care, or won't get it. I have to get over it. 

It's what I do and who I am. I'm a writer.

Monday, November 07, 2011


By Thanksgiving weekend, my last packet for this semester will be in the mail. Another thirty plus pages of original work and three critical essays on the books I'm reading are all due by November 20th. This means I am (almost) halfway to completing my MFA. Holy. Crap. I am actually doing this. It still amazes me. A year ago I was getting ready to leave for my very first residency. I was a wreck. I didn't know if I could really do this or how I would manage. Balance my full-time job and the MFA and all my community work (yeah, I took on two board positions AFTER I started the program. I know.)? How?

Guess what. I'm doing it. Not brilliantly, but I'm not half-assing it either. I'm learning how to manage my time, how to focus when I need to and how to say no to things. That's the tricky part. Saying no means sometimes feeling like I'm letting people down. But saying yes to too many things means my work (and my health, mental and physical) suffer.

If anything has "suffered" it's been my social life. My friends are not only understanding about the "New Haven Maven" becoming "Daisy the Disappeared", they are supportive and encouraging and loving. Even when I don't show up to Trivia for weeks at a time. Even when I ask if we can meet for coffee on a weekday afternoon instead of dinner and drinks on Saturday night. They want me to succeed, they believe in me. I love them for it.

So, two semesters down and two to go. A third semester project and my thesis are down the road a piece. And somewhere in there are holidays with my family, residencies on Enders Island, work events in the Have, board meetings fortieth birthday. Yikes! And, hooray!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Senses of Loss

There is not a day he is not in my thoughts. Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa on my music player, someone whistling to a friend on the street, a change in the air stirring up a man's cologne as he brushes by me. He's there, reminding me. I'm fine. And then I'm not.

It is the muscle memory of that last week. My arms remember the weight of his body as I steadied him on his side while my mother and brother changed the sheets on the hospital bed we set up in the back bedroom. I smell the peppermint lotion I rubbed into his legs and feet every day to soothe him and myself, the coolness of his skin under my hands. I hear what they call the death rattle shaking his insides on the last morning of his life. I knew what it meant. We were losing. We lost.

And today, almost eight years later, I am reminded again. My mood shifts and there's a change in me I cannot shake. A sadness I pretend not to understand, that I try to ignore until I realize there's no fighting it. It's not work or school or other obligations getting me down. I know what it is. I remember. And I grieve. Still.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

D Essentials: Family Matters

I've got family on the brain. Makes sense since my school work is focused on learning and writing about my family. Between thinking about (and doing) the writing, reading, my full time job and other obligations (Mason's Road, two different community boards and two City committees), it's no wonder I've been a bit sleepless. You know what helps? Lists.

Instead of counting sheep, I make alphabetical lists (authors, actors, books) to quiet my mind. The last time I did this, I started with actors. Astaire, Bridges, Cooper, get the idea. That got me thinking about acting families (or dynasties, depending on how you look at it). Then I started thinking about signature films for each family member. I know, how can this possibly help me sleep? It does. So here's a list of great film families and my favorite movie(s) from each member.

Note: There is nothing even remotely scientific or sanctioned by any Academy or Institute here. These are based on my personal (and occasionally cheesy) taste. Feel free to disagree with me.

Henry Fonda
Yours, Mine and Ours.
He's got ten kids, Lucille Ball is his love interest and she has eight kids. Comedy ensues!

On Golden Pond. "You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it." Tears. Every time.
Jane Fonda:
Nine to Five. "Judy Bernly, please hold. Judy Bernly, please hold. This is Judy Bernly."

Peter Fonda:
Easy Rider. Badass. And he wrote it.

Bridget Fonda:
Singles. "Somewhere around 25, bizarre becomes immature." Oh, the 90s.

Lloyd Bridges:  
Cousins. "You've got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad."

Airplane. "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines"

Beau Bridges:  
The Fabulous Baker Boys. Down on his luck, playing piano and sparring with his brother.

Jeff Bridges:
The Contender. The Dude plays the President.

The Last Unicorn. Watched it every time it was on TV. Come on, she's the LAST one!

Tony Curtis:
Some Like it Hot. Still can't decide if I like him better in lady drag or Cary Grant drag.

Janet Leigh:  
Bye, Bye Birdie. Because watching her dance with Dick Van Dyke is infinitely less scary than watching her get stabbed to death by Tony Perkins.

Jamie Lee Curtis:  
Amazing Grace & Chuck. I know you've never heard of it. It's an 80s movie about a kid who gives up baseball in order to stop the threat of nuclear was. Yes, really.
Judy Garland:  
The Wizard of Oz. Was there ever any doubt on this one?

Vincente Minnelli:  
An American in Paris. Kelly, Caron, Gershwin, Paris. Perfect.

Liza Minnelli:  
Arthur. When she steals the tie from Bergdorf's and goes off on Chester the store detective? Brilliant.

I know I've got more of these in me. Favorite ensemble pieces, dynamic duos, bad movies I can't stop watching...suggestions are welcome. Making lists plus thinking about movies equals enough brain unscrambling to allow me to get back to the big project feeling somewhat relaxed.

Now...back to work! I've got a packet to finish!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Belles

Kate & Nicole Gorton
My Fairfield MFA roomie got married last Saturday. Kate is hilarious, super-smart, gorgeous, up for anything and so generous. She is, as AJ once said, the American Hermione Granger.

Her wife, Nicole, is equally fantastic.

Kate's siblings and Nicole's brother joked in their toasts about the brides' constant public displays of affection, the pet names and the giggling they do, but they also agreed these two people are meant to be together.

Kate and I werqing the dancefloor.
photo by Kate Taylor

Watching Kate and Nicole take this step, surrounded by people who love and support them, gave me hope and renewed my faith in a lot of things.  I cried through the ceremony, the toasts, the first dance. I'm a soft touch anyway, but this was one of those times where my main line was busted. Good thing I brought my hankie. Once I dried my eyes, raised my glass and ate a wedding cupcake, I joined the bridal party, family members and friends on the dance floor and rocked out all night long.

One of the catering staff said it was the happiest wedding she had ever seen. No doubt.

Love is love. And seeing it in action is so awesome.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MFA Residency II: Summer Writing Boogaloo

I just got home from my MFA program's summer residency on Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. My days were spent learning about the craft of writing in morning workshops, attending seminars on everything from the poems of Zbigniew Herbert to what to do after I receive my degree (the short answer: keep writing) and sitting in the chapel after dinner, listening to my professors read from their work. And, yeah, there was some downtime. Bonfires and s'mores, swimming and wiffle ball, fellowship under the stars and a talent show.  You know what they say about all work and no play...

Brian Hoover swings for the gazebo

Some notes from my Isle of Write:

Kate, me and the dread pirate Cisco aboard the Argia
The right roommate makes all the difference. Kate, thanks for bringing the fan, the fun and the fierceness. You are my Jiminy Cricket.

Don't be afraid to ask for you want or need. Whether it's a meal, a mentor or a chance to do something new, don't hesitate. Or, as Kate said to me: "just f'ing take it!"

No matter how much bug spray you use, mosquitoes will get you.

No sign of Chuck Johnson this time around. He's probably going to the Galway residency.

Let your word nerd flag fly. Instead of playing f*%k, kill or marry, think about which literary character you don't want to wake up next to, which fictional party you want to attend and which movie villain you want to kill you...well, not want to kill you.

Gregor from Kafka's Metamorphosis, Holly Golightly's party in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Leon from The Professional. What? Who would you pick?

Sit in the tent for "fellowship" long enough and you'll find out which literary character is the most desirable mate. Mine? Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

You can learn a lot about a person by asking about literary crushes.

Honor the traditions of those who came before you. Kate and I co-wrote a parody song in honor of the graduating cohort and performed it with A.J. and Erin at the talent show. Writing Queen (yes, as in Dancing Queen by ABBA) was whistled or hummed for the rest of the residency. That is, when people weren't whistling or humming Phil's and Linsey's awesome Mason's Road, the Fairfield University MFA program's version of John Denver's Country Road. Pat O'Connor, we tip our hats to you.

The only way to get more comfortable with public speaking is to do it every chance you get. Not only did I read some of my work in front of my classmates, I had the honor of introducing three of my fellow students at a reading. Brian, Sam B. and Erin, I meant every word I said.

It's back to the day job in the morning, but as I drift off tonight, I'll be thinking of my classmates and the words Phil borrowed from John Denver to make the song his own, our own.

Mason's Road, take me home to the place I belong. Enders Island, Mystic Mama. Take me home, Mason's Road.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Digging Deep

"What did it feel like to go back to work after Daddy died?" 

I sat on my front stoop on Saturday night, shielded from a light rain and working by streetlight as I tried to remember.

I've written twenty-one pages about losing my father; his illness, deterioration and death, diagnosis to funeral. There's still more to write, more details to include, memories coming back slowly. What I haven't explored is what happened afterward. How I grieved and tried to find my way back.

I sat outside for an hour conjuring those feelings. I wrote in broad strokes all the things that came to mind. Re-reading every sympathy card. Going to the cemetery on the first Father's Day after he died (which, like this coming Father's Day, also falls on my birthday). Sitting in a ladies room stall at work and crying over something that reminded me of him. Telling people who didn't know what had happened that he was gone. The first time I went to a wedding and realized I would never have the father-daughter dance I'd imagined. Five pages in longhand.

I finished, came upstairs and went to bed. I woke up early and went to my neighborhood coffee shop to type it all up, adding these new pages to the previous twenty-one. 

I haven't looked at those pages since I came home late Sunday morning. I know I have to go back and fill in some blanks. The editing, adding detail, taking things out, shifting paragraphs, unpacking the work and trying to make it all fit together is the part I enjoy -- well, not enjoy -- but it's the thing I'm learning and when I think I've hit it right, that's enjoyable.  What I did over these last two days--remembering and grieving all over again is what got me and I still haven't shaken it. I shouldn't be surprised. I'm glad I was able to start this next section. I know there is going to be some crying and writing along the way, but I do feel good about it, even if it means feeling bad for a couple of days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I am not my hair

I'm in my own world when I walk to work. Headphones in, listening to some dance track that causes me to do what I still call the "Hudson County Strut," even though I haven't lived in New Jersey in twenty years. I can't help it, especially if it's nice out and I'm wearing heels. On one of these days, I smiled good morning at an older gentleman as we passed each other. He smiled back and said, "Gorgeous." Felt nice.

On the next block, I walked by some fresh-faced, peaches and cream blond straight out of a shampoo commercial, her hair bouncing and behaving in the sunlight. My moment of gorgeous slipped away.  

"Right, that's what beauty is."

I know what you're going to say. That's not what beauty is anymore. Eye of the beholder and all that. But it still stops me when I see a woman with long, flowy perfect hair, no matter the color. And it's not a "poor ugly me" thing. I think I'm cute. It's being reminded no matter what I do, I'm never going to be Olivia Newton John, the ideal beauty to my six year-old self.

Olivia as Bad Sandy

My friends and I used to take turns performing the role of Sandy in our marathon sessions of singing and dancing to the Grease soundtrack. Good Sandy, blond hair swinging as she does the hand jive with Danny in the high school gym.  Bad Sandy, working that mass of blond curls as she struts around in those red Candie's and leather jacket. I wanted to be Sandy, a pretty girl with the long blond hair that all the boys wanted to be around. I wasn't.

Ia and me with our long hai

My mother had long wavy hair; "good hair." I used to sit behind her on the couch and brush it with a pink handled bristle brush from Avon. I loved parting it down the middle and seeing all the white hair that was coming in underneath the dark waves.  My sister was a master with hair. She had Fawcett waves, could do any kind of braid or twist. Her friends would come over on Saturdays and she would do their hair before they all went out. Me? I never got the hang of it. I learned to braid my hair, but I suspect my braids were always crooked. I had bangs in the 80s. You know what I'm talking about, the kind of bangs that look like a claw on the front of your head. Of course, all of this was achieved through the burning magic of relaxer. Every few weeks, that plastic of tub of lye and whatever other chemicals were in there was purchased, cracked open and applied to my shoulder length hair in sections. I knew it was working when my scalp started to burn. Then the chemical was rinsed out, my hair  set in giant, purple rollers and I sat under the dryer for hours.

Thirteen years old with a long bob, a blob
The result was straight, soft, silky hair and a scalp covered in itchy scabs. It stayed "nice" until I washed my hair again, then it went to shit.

I cut my hair short before I graduated high school and never went back. In the intervening years, I have had many lengths of short hair, I even had bangs again in the mid 90s, but the back of my neck has not felt a ponytail or braid against it in two decades. Sometimes I dream about brushing my long, dark hair or putting it up in a French twist, but I don't really miss it. OK, I don't miss the hassle. I won't ever have long hair like Sandy or that woman on the street and, most days, I'm OK with it.

short and sassy, like my momma.
I've grown to love my haircut. It suits me. People say I "have the face for it," whatever that means. And they comment on how easy it must be to manage. I go to the barber when my hair starts to feel heavy or when the gray (it's coming!) starts to show more than I would like it to; about every three weeks. Danny sets the clippers at 1.5 and does my entire head. Takes about 20 minutes, costs less than 20 dollars and puts the strut back in my walk.

The next time I see that blond Breck girl walking down the street, I'll remind myself that we're both gorgeous, but I got to sleep in while she was blow drying her hair.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Cleaning Mix

I've been letting the piles in my apartment get a little out of control lately. I come home from work at night and just toss stuff around. The chair in the bedroom is covered in the outfits I wear to work, the recycling is piling up (hey, at least I'm recycling) and my "sleeping companion" is made of books, notepads and magazines. Everything is out of order, not so much dirty, just really disheveled. Every night I get home and end up on the couch or at my desk.

"No one is coming over, who cares what the place looks like?" 

Oh. right. I LIVE here  It shouldn't look like hell, especially now that I'm spending more time here than anywhere else. The clutter makes me crazy and it distracts me from the work I need to be doing. I needed to suck it up and get it done before I wrote or read another word.

All I wanted to do when I got home last night was take a big nap before I  dinner and the MFA portion of my evening, but I knew if I did that, a twenty minute power nap would turn into an hour and a half dream session and  I'd wake up too groggy to read or write (or that's what I would tell myself). The place needed a speed cleaning before I did anything. I didn't even switch my boots for slippers. What I did do was grab my ipod and set it to the dance mix. Here are the choicest cuts from last night's Grooves over Grime session.

"I can sense it / something important /is about to happen / it's coming up"
Oh Bjork, I didn't even know what this song was about until a few years ago. I just like the beat and the fact that it reminds me of dancing with Douglas at BAR. Oh, the 90s.

"I'm gonna take this itty bitty world by storm / And I'm just gettin warm"
Badass: the man, the song and how the song makes me feel. That is all. 

"Ten years from now we'll still be on top / Yo, I thought I told you that we won't stop"
Any song with a Diana Ross sample is OK by me! Yes, I know all the words to Biggie's verse.

"What makes you think you can just walk back into her life/ Without a good fight?"
Memories of dancing and drinking with my best girls at UofH. CBs forever. 

Back to Life, Soul to Soul
"No more room for trouble and fuss / Need a change, a positive change / Look it's me writing on the wall"
One of those tracks that puts me in the zone on the dancefloor. Also works while scrubbing kitchen counters. 
An hour later, my place was in order and my mind was clear of clutter. I still had time to shower, eat dinner, and catch up on Glee before I settled in to study! Aw yeah! Works every time. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying & Love the MFA

I'm trying to balance a full-time job with what amounts to another full-time job. Deputy Director of a Business Improvement District/Fairfield MFA Candidate. How's it going? Well...

I'm at the office from 9am-5pm. Emails, phone calls, meetings, event planning. I'm home by 6pm and allow myself two hours to unwind (reading non-school stuff, a hot shower, a real dinner) before I'm in pajama pants and working at my other job until midnight. Writing, reading, revising. Sometimes I'm just THINKING about writing, reading and revising. Yes, thinking about the writing, reading and revising is a huge part of the process, but I must be careful not to do too much thinking or I freeze up. I'm learning this one slowly. 

Thinking about writing has begun to overlap with thinking about work. Here's a sample:

"Don't forget to bring the packets for the board meeting. Remember what Elizabeth said about slowing down when you're working on that scene. Call Brad about that meeting tomorrow. Did I put the office husband's birthday card in my datebook or in my purse? How many pages is too much for submission to a publication? Who gives a shit about what I'm writing?"

Yep, all that before 7:30am. I'm not a morning person and having that much going on in my head before I've had coffee is especially annoying.

I'm exhausted and irritable. So much so that I said I hated the writing and the reading and the revising. OK, what I said was:

"I do hate this whole process, because most days I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, but I love it more because I know what it is doing for me. Stupid character building."

As my dear old (best friend's) Dad says, "No one ever said it was going to be easy." I know it. I knew this would be hard, maybe the hardest thing I've ever done for myself. And that's my real struggle. I'm doing this for myself. I'm doing this because it's what I've always wanted. I love writing. I love reading. I love thinking, talking and learning about writing and reading. And this MFA program is the way to get more of that in my life.

Only took 38 years to figure that one out. I always was a late bloomer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Issue of Diminishing Return

I received the 2011 Vanity Fair Hollywood issue. Based on what I've seen in this magazine, I'm surprised Vanity Fair bothers to call it "The one and only Hollywood issue." I have purchased every Hollywood Issue since 1995. I've saved them all and still enjoy looking at them. I refer to this collection as "the archives." I'm sorry, but this is no Hollywood issue.

The Cover
From left: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow,
Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Angela Bassett, Sandra Bullock.
Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
The cover of the first Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue (1995) featured a group of up-and-coming actresses  photographed against a white backdrop and referred to as the Class of 2000. Yes, Gwyneth is the only one fully dressed here, and that caused a stir, but VF hit the mark on calling these ladies actors on the rise. All of them have since been nominated and/or won the Golden Globe, Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Screen Actor's Guild and Independent Spirit Award. 

Vanity Fair continued to put rising stars (some rising higher than others) on the cover of the Hollywood issue until 2000, when it was time for a Master Class.

from left: Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep,
Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Redgrave, Kate Winslet, Chloe Sevigny, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
It's a gorgeous cover and all but one of the four women who didn't have an Oscar at the time the photo was taken now have one. Chloe Sevigny, the pressure's on now.

This year's cover? It's fine.

A promising group of Young Hollywood stars looking glamorous in an old Hollywood way? Yep. The four most famous of the group under the masthead to get you looking and hopefully buying? Yes. A little skin showing in fold out panel two? Sure. Robert Duvall behind the bar? Wait. What? Why is Robert Duvall behind the bar? The "behind the scenes of the photo shoot" page reveals nothing. 

The Portfolio
Scarlett Johannson & Javier Bardem recreating a scene from Rear Window. Photo by Norman Jean Roy

Early Hollywood Issues feature portraits of everyone from George Burns to Johnny Depp, group shots of writers, directors, producers and a closing reunion shot, a tip of the hat to a classic film (To Kill a Mockingbird, American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High). The 1995 spread includes Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in full drag makeup reliving the Some Like it Hot days. Oh, speaking of hot:
Daniel Day-Lewis. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
Yeah. I went there.

Follow up issues were a mixed bag, but there were still some standouts. The 2006 salute to film noir, entitled Killers Kill and Dead Men Die, and the 2008 tribute to Hitchcock with recreations of scenes from Psycho, North by Northwest and Rear Window.(see photo above) gave the photographers and actors a bit more room to play. In 2010, the scope was smaller and the focus was on collaborators, directors and actors. Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, Lee Daniels with Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe. They were trying something new. This year, I feel like VF didn't try. The 2011 portfolio is much smaller. How small? The 1995 issue had thirty portraits. The 2011 issue has twelve. Twelve. You're telling me Vanity Fair couldn't find enough actors and filmmakers to fill an issue? If you're only going to focus on nominees, fine, but how about ALL of the nominees. The acting categories alone give you twenty people to photograph. Throw in the directors, producers and screenwriters and you easily clear thirty. Something to consider for the 2012 Hollywood Issue. 

Oh, and the picture of Christian Bale? Obviously from a red carpet event. Don't you have some of the best photographers in the world on the payroll? You couldn't get Christian Bale in a room with Annie Leibovitz or Bruce Weber? OK.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Trying Times

Not the best week. I'd call it a trying one. I've been trying to

find my balance
do my best
be braver
not feel isolated
stay focused
not take it personally
remember to eat
remember everything
get enough rest
not lose my mind
improve myself
improve my work

Yeah. I'm frustrated and a little blue. It happens. It won't last. A cup of tea, a slice of my friend Heather's awesome lemon curd pound cake and a new episode of Law and Order: UK are making things a bit better right now. Tomorrow, this girl gets back on her feet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things I Learned at my First MFA Residency

Ten days on an island with one hundred writers? Yeah, I learned some things.

Name, semester and genre are the equivalent of name, rank and serial number. Meet, greet, repeat.

Daisy, first semester, non-fiction.

Big siblings are the best. Even when they break a foot, they still look out for you.

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a hot shower in before breakfast.
Do NOT go near the sea wall. 

Chuck Johnson is not who you think he is.

If you have a question, best to ask Mother Hastings.

You can get up at 10:00am to jump in the water on New Year's Day, or you can get up at 10:30am and run down to the water in time to watch your classmates do it.

It is possible to get a nap in somewhere between meals, seminars, workshops and readings.

Photo by Erin Corriveau
Getting up in front of a large group of writers to read my work is still scary, but not impossible. 

Writing is a solitary act, but being in an MFA program is not. There is always someone to talk with, confide in, ask questions of and receive answers from, beginning at breakfast and lasting well into the evening social time.  When the residency is over and everyone has gone home, we're still encouraging each other.

I'm a writer.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Facing the Page

I started a new piece this week as part of my first packet for school. It came out of a writing prompt in one of my seminars, and it's been floating around in my head since I got back from the residency, so I decided to go with it. I spent three days on it, one for each page I ended up with before sending it to E for some initial feedback. She reminded me that I was doing that thing again. I was glossing over a lot of things, leaving out details that end up being questions in the reader's mind in order to get the scene over with quickly. I'll spend the next few days fleshing it out and turn these three pages into at least five. I've got to really go back to that moment and get it all down. I'm afraid. This isn't a funny story about my mother or sweet memory about my father. This one is mostly me and it's not pretty. But I can do it. I have to do it. I will do it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Change in Me

"1/9/10. A new year, a new decade, a fresh start. A chance to believe in myself, believe in what other people see in me. I don't think I've ever been stronger, and yet there is that little bit in the back of my mind that doubts. It may never go away, especially not late at night when it is just me and my thoughts. I imagine it would be worse if not for the medicine. I still can't believe I waited so long to begin that process. I was afraid of the change it would bring. Who am I if not that weak, scared girl I've been for so long? Who am I to try something that might actually work, might make it easier to get through the tough days and the easy days? I was afraid to be even remotely happy. But I am getting there. I am learning."

"1/24/10. Change is good when you know what the change is going to be. I still don't know what my big change is going to be, but I sense it coming."

The change I sensed a year ago? It came. It's here. I'm writing this piece from my dorm room at the MFA residency I started seven days ago. Me. In an MFA program. For writing.

I didn't even know I wanted this until E sent me a link to the program on facebook. She gave me the information, answered my questions, arranged for a campus visit. She nudged me as only very few people can nudge me.

I knew I wanted this before I arrived at Enders Island. I submitted my application and transcripts the night before I visited the program in July. Spending a day on the island meeting people and sitting in on classes only made me want it more. I gave myself a month to get recommendations and a portfolio together.

I was scared. The last thing I wanted (or thought I wanted) this badly didn't happen. And it took a long time to get over it. If I failed at this...I didn't want to think about it. But I got it.

The first couple of days were overwhelming. There are all these people. All these
writers. I felt like a phony. At least I had my big sis and E. After some seminars and workshops I began to feel better. I've made some friends. I've started to participate. I've read some of my work in front of faculty and students. Here's the most important thing I've learned so far: I'm a writer. I'm part of a community of writers. I'm not alone.

The residency ends on Thursday, but this is my beginning. I'm ready to do the work.