Yesterday, I returned to Rhode Island from my third MFA residency in Mystic, CT. For ten days, I sat in pews, on beds, and around all sorts of tables, workshopping and eating and writing and reading and listening. More than 24 hours since leaving, my mind still buzzes with stories and inspiration. I’m letting the “real” writing marinate until tomorrow, but I felt a blog was in order after some time away.
Man, my English kicks ass when I get back from Enders, but don’t get used to it. I can see disjointed, grammatically incorrect posts coming down the pike. Damn that 40 hours a week of French.
This residency was not at all what I expected. To say morale was low would be an understatement–or, actually, an overstatement. It was in the toilet; pardon the pun. (I’m sorry. I’ll stop.) You see, by Day Three, the men’s bathroom had overflowed several times. By the end of Day Five, most students moved off-campus, since they had to shut off the water in the main residence hall. Yes, it was a full-blown “Septic Emergency.” My friends and I decided to stay behind, the Great Unwashed, sneaking showers and nursing plastic cups of Franzia while the sane students went back to their cushy hotels with private showers and running water. Wussies.
We made the best of it, but on a social level, there was a bit of a “funk” going around. When it hit me, it was the I’m Not Good Enough funk. The I Shouldn’t Be Here funk. When you spend 95% of the year on your own, working your butt off on your own stuff, you come to the Island with some pride. Good pride. Pride that says, “I kicked some ass on the page this semester, and I’m ready for workshop.” Your stuff is better than it’s ever been, and you have every right to feel accomplished. But there’s nothing like student readings to suck the confidence out of you. So much talent in one room, in one program. It got to me. After a good workshop experience and reinforcement from my buds, the funk passed. Franzia helped.
On a work level, though, this residency was a big one. I thought I got a lot of good ideas last time! This time around, with the expansion of my story more-or-less in place, the feedback I received was about characterization. This semester, I won’t be going out, but in. My characters need deeper roots, desires, consequences. It’s time to raise the stakes and really get inside these bad boys. I’m scared and excited all at once; this is really happening. I’m writing a novel.
It’s good to be back on the mainland, especially with this fire alive in me as I type. I can’t forget to rekindle it over the next six months. This fits perfectly with my New Year’s resolution: finish what you begin.
P.S. I have another story to tell, after this one. It came to me on the Island.