I have just returned to civilization after 10 days in Maine for my second residency (of five) in my low-res MFA program, where I’m specializing in popular fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, romance, horror, crime, mystery, etc.). It’s kind of like summer camp for writing nerds, and given all the insanity going on in the world right now, it was the perfect escape at the perfect time. There’s no way to really capture the experience, but I’m condensing all my Stonecoastian (that’s a word, right?) knowledge into THE five things I’ve learned and/or are taking with me until the next time I get to hang with my crazy awesome writer friends in Maine.
Drum roll please….
- Take risks. We had a whole seminar on risk-taking in fiction, but where I really saw this in action was during our student readings. Everyone gets the opportunity to read their work for 3 minutes, and most of us take it. Some are confident readers, some are nervous as hell, some stare down at cell phone screens and pray nobody calls for the next 3 minutes, some grip papers tightly in their hands. All are brave and inspiring. I loved how as the open mic kept going and nobody was booed off of the stage and/or burst into flames, more people tried to sign up for the last few open slots. Risk-taking. It’s contagious.
- Workshopping stories is THE BEST. I love being workshopped. Maybe I was brainwashed by my incredible Odyssey experience last summer, but there’s something so fun to me about seeing what people saw in your story, for good or for bad. As always, had two stories workshopped this go-round. Things I learned about them – it’s probably good to earn your endings, popular fiction students will see through your handwavium technology, and genocide is a downer. Can’t wait to dive back into these stories and get them up to shape and out to market.
- I want to be AllTheStonecoastProfessors when I grow up. Every night, we got to hear 3 or 4 of our teachers read from their work for 10 minutes. OMG. Talk about something to aspire to. Not sure how to really summarize the experience except to say, in the words of an old NYC TV commercial, “I laughed! I cried! It was better than Cats!”
- Our graduations are the rockingest. I’m not talking about the graduation party, though any group that turns out to the floor en masse for the Time Warp is filled with my kind of people. The graduation itself is just special. In maybe an hour, we were welcomed to the Republic of Poetry, asked to re-examine the blank page, and reminded to “stay gross” and always be who we are. Each time, I know the graduating class better and cry a little more, so I will probably just be a puddle with a cap on by the time I graduate, but it will totally be worth it.
- Community matters. One of the reason I love Stonecoast is that we all care about each other. It’s a heavy time in the world and there are always things happening in people’s lives outside of the program, but being at Stonecoast is like being wrapped in some sort of giant comforting creative hug of understanding. We stay up the extra hour to see how a friend is doing. We let the introverts have their time away. We dance into the night like we’re made of pure joy. We work together to make our writing better, to figure out what we’re each trying to say, and amplify each other’s voices.
I can’t wait until next time!