Week One, or: This Is Not a Creative Title

What a week!

(Okay, and plus a half or so.)

Wouldn’t you know, the gentleman and I adopted cats. We’re a regular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song.

Anyhow, look at these girls, like either of us could’ve resisted:


Liddy on the L; Maron on the R

My goodness, but they are playful. All. The. Time. Liddy’s almost a year and a half old. She didn’t have an exact birth date listed, but I worked out the math and she’ll be two in April. And I’m declaring her birthday as April 4, because I’m not a hardcore Marguerite Duras fangirl at all.


Maron is three, almost four months old. She might’ve been closer to four months when we got her, who knows. But her birthday shall be in May. So they’re about one year apart, but sweet as can be. And best of all, even though they aren’t from the same litter, they love each other. They spend all day play-fighting and napping together. I have more pictures. I could show you. But I won’t be “that girl.”

I suppose technically Liddy is “my cat” and Maron is “his kitten,” and though I love Maron and think she’s super adorable, had I gone to the pet adoption center alone I’d have just come back with Liddy. But I’m glad there are two of them, and I’m glad they get along with each other and with us.

So after Thursday a week+ ago – and something like eight or nine agonizing months before that – I officially started my MFA! How exciting, right? Each new day and class was a snowball effect, though really, by the end of my readings class on Monday night I was already smitten. But it crystallized for certain during my craft class Wednesday night.

I’m a little bummed that today is a holiday, which means no readings class tonight. First up on the syllabus is Stephen King‘s On Writing, which I’d read some ten years ago when my dad bought it and recommended I read it. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan. And I like him now, it’s just that my reading tastes have shifted. Anyone who scoffs at you for reading Stephen King should be immediately sat down and handed On Writing. The man is brilliant, an amazing storyteller. (How could he not be with the success he’s had?) I get so irritated with people who scoff at him simply for the literary genres he chooses to publish in. I’m sure he gets irritated with it too, although what’s that old saying again, something about laughing all the way to the bank? Which I’m sure helps, but you don’t write a memoir/instructional ON WRITING if you don’t take your craft seriously. So any Stephen King critic out there can suck it. You don’t have to like his books (though you must read one or more to judge first). But you do have to respect the man. He absolutely knows what he’s doing.

Okay, I went off on a little tangent. Seriously, though, On Writing is part memoir and part instruction, and totally engaging. I’m about halfway through, and if not for a little jaunt out of the city this past weekend, I’d be done with it already. In fact, as soon as I finish this update, I’m diving back into it.

(For some reason just now I remembered that Life’s Little Instruction Book and the parody Life’s Little Destruction Book. How goofy were those?)

So anyhow, that’s the readings class. And we’re also reading short excerpts from George Orwell (“Shooting an Elephant”) and William Zinsser (On Writing Well) to supplement the King reading. At the end of it, we’re to write a 750-word creative piece (mine shall be nonfiction) based on something we picked out from the readings. Which on one hand I’m frustrated is vague, but on the other, I’m excited that it’s open-ended. We’ll see what develops. That’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Wednesday afternoon will see me back in my publishing practicum. The class is centered around Chatham’s literary publication The Fourth River and this week we’re looking at the journal’s web presence. Throughout the duration of the semester we’ll be looking at submissions and how to selected pieces for publication and how to screen rejections, etc. I can’t word it as well as the professor did, but it’s all focused on publishing and all the aspects that go along with it from an editor’s standpoint. The behind-the-scenes, etc.

Then Wednesday evening is another craft class, for which we are currently reading Dinty W. Moore‘s The Truth of the Matter, along with supplemental readings. This week it’s essays from Paul Auster, Charles Simic, and Sue William Silverman. Also, during class last week, we were given a prompt and free-writing time to picture a house, absorb all the sensory detail we could from it, and then write what that image elicited. I easily had 500 words or more, and then the professor said to pare it down to 100 or less and hand it in next week. Hoo boy. Even though I’ve worked with shorter forms, like flash-fiction, flash-nonfiction, and poetry, I am definitely way more verbose than 100 words. It was a difficult exercise, but actually I had a ton of fun working with it and manipulating it into something brief and powerful. I’m really happy with how it turned out; maybe I’ll share it some time.

(I’m a little wary of posting my work on here, both for the fact that it’d be embarrassing to put out a draft that wasn’t finished, but also because who knows which of these things I write I will want to submit for publication?)

We’re also set to hand in a response to the Auster essay, “Why I Write,” which is gorgeous and moving. We’re also to create a list of 25 memories, without thinking too hard about it, with the idea that they’ll have some associative nature. And lastly is a list of 12 delights or 12 un..delights..?? Things we’re either passionate or dispassionate about. I’m interested to see what we do with these lists in class.

All in all it’s been an amazing week and a half. I’ve got good books to read, amazing professors to learn from, and talented classmates to work with. And I’m writing and I’ve got a cat dreaming on my legs, so how can it get any better than that?

Moving in the right direction isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. I am absolutely certain there are going to be times over the course of my MFA that I am burnt out and frustrated and overwhelmed. But there are also going to be times of courage and strength and achievement. If you asked me to imagine my life any way I could have it, this right here and right now is what I’d be picturing. This is my ideal.

I had the thought the other day (which I shared elsewhere, but will say again here) that it is really, really nice to sit back and examine my life at present and think, “Yes.”

That’s it: a simple and resounding “yes.”


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