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.