Prepping for Winter Residency

So, this post is going to be a little different…

The Creative Writing MFA program I am taking is a low-residency program. This means that most of the time I do my work at home on the computer, but twice a year, I go to study with my classmates and professors in Oklahoma City.

Taking a low-residency MFA is a bit different from being a regular on-campus student. First of all, it is quite easy for the rest of the college to not even know your program exists, since much of the time, you are there when everyone else is gone. Secondly, there is a great deal of autonomy, which can be both great and not-so-great. A Low-Residency student is responsible for all of their own work habits, and deadlines can seem less sure. Communication is paramount. Not understanding what is required falls on the student. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure they understand the assignment. Basically, it is a lot more responsibility. It’s a lot of reading and a lot of writing, but hey, that’s what we wanted, right? Of course. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when you have work, and making breakfast and dinner and laundry, etc. ad nauseum.  All of the household miscellany that makes it harder to write every day, also makes it hard to study every day, and yet this is why we signed up for a low-residency program, to begin with, right?

I’d like to pause here and make a distinction. I don’t write these things to complain. In fact, as I sit here writing this, I can feel my own excitement for the upcoming residency, and it is that which I wanted to share. I laid those things down at the beginning of this post to show that while it sounds (mainly due to great ad copy) like it would be a breeze, a low-residency MFA is a lot of hard work. It is a lot of extremely rewarding hard work.

The stacks of books from this semester

You can’t tally up the rewards in concrete ways. You certainly can’t tally them up in a bank account, at this stage either. The real rewards of an MFA like this one (perhaps especially this one) are internal and highly individual. This first semester was highly revelatory for me. One thing I learned is that having the MFA as a goal prioritizes that same thing that had slid so far down the list. The reading and writing are the most important thing if you want to get that degree. Period. Even work comes after. If your family is supportive, like mine, it will be much easier, as they will be willing to take a back seat for a while to what you are trying so hard to accomplish. If they are not, it will be infinitely harder. I am forever grateful for the support I am receiving now. Mental support, moral support, and other forms, like making dinner, doing the dishes, allowing me time to just do the thing, these are the kinds of things I am receiving that make it easier. And boy do I need them. The workload is enormous. Twelve credit hours per semester are the requirement. This past semester I read 16 books. My 2019 goal for Goodreads will be higher than the 25 I had this year. It will be 35. Just to allow for the 32 I will have to read for school, and a few not strictly tied to school. When you read books like I do, 35 is a lot. Many of the books I read are doorstops. Not all, by a long shot, but enough to give me pause at a number like that. I’m not a particularly fast reader. Left to my own devices I would linger over a text, roll the words and turns of phrase over in my mind, and relish the images and associations found there. This work is much different than that.

backgroundbook1

Here, we aren’t looking to draw conclusions about what the meaning of the text is. We are looking to pick apart the exact craft techniques that the author used and how they used them to create the effect that they did. And wow. What a revelation that has been. Perhaps I am sharing too much here, but I wanted to give you all just a hint of what is gained by taking an MFA in Creative Writing. Not everyone would recommend it, and it obviously isn’t for everyone, but if you can, then it is definitely something I recommend. And no, this is NOT a sponsored post in any fashion.

I am working with highly successful authors in a wide range of genres. I am working on the projects I feel are important in advancing my work with the guidance of accomplished mentors. Our program director is one of the state’s premier poets. These are not brags on me, but on the program I am fortunate enough to be enrolled in. (Yes, that sentence ended in a preposition, it’s okay. Here’s a paper bag.) Perhaps more importantly than all of that, I am meeting some of the most incredibly talented, amazingly generous, and openly caring human beings I have ever met in my life. The professors and my fellow students in this program leave me in awe every time I get to experience them. And that time is drawing near again. These are people who care enough about what they are writing to hang everything on it. They care about the impact their writing could have on the world.

Of course, I am excited. I thought I had learned a lot in the bachelor’s program, and of course, I did. I just didn’t realize at the time how much more there was left to learn.

There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon in addition to this program, but some of those things are because of this program. I am, for the first time, giving serious consideration to teaching in one form or another, once I am a graduate of the MFA. Me. Teaching. I am actually looking forward to a life spent in service to creativity and literacy, and it is the best thing ever. I want to share this with you. Share the stories that come from this with you.

Much of this will be done here, but there will be a lot that will go to Twisted Candle Media on the website and the YouTube Channel. Chasing the Muses is to be one of the Main outlets. This path and this program have opened up the world to me in more ways than I can express to you in one post. I hope you will join me as I explore the future and forge this thing people call a writing career. This blog will continue to be my personal link with you but will take on a slightly different tone, which will probably change, and that’s okay. Just know that your time and attention here are appreciated and that I will keep on trying to bring you the stories that you love, and keep on trying to make them better.

Until next time,

Be well

~D~