Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dead On Arrival, Or How I Survived My First MFA Residency

So after a prolonged absence, I am back. Perhaps a little worse for wear. I had 9 whole days of break between graduation and my first residency in my graduate school program. If I had known how tired I was going to get during the residency, I think I would have slept the entire 9 days between graduation and the residency.

The Converse College MFA Program's inaugural residency was amazing, but it was also very intense. For 9 days, I was either in a lecture, workshop, reading, or huddling over my laptop and wishing I didn't have to squeeze in a rewrite. The other students were great, however, and the faculty was unbelievable. Every day ended with a reading (both faculty and student) followed by a reception, which involved drinks and laughs. (One reading actually began with a student reading an epigraph by W.C. Fields in the voice of Christopher Walken. You can't make that stuff up.) I guess that is one theme that ran through the entire week and a half - laughs.

Of course, I learned lots of stuff during my week of intense study, and much of what I learned will greatly benefit my writing. Then there were the things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing. For example, my friend Rebecca taught me at least one new word meaning (which I won't be sharing in print.) I learned that people in the south put mayo on everything. I also learned that sleep deprivation and alcohol are an interesting combination. It's amazing the effect that one beer can have on someone who's had 4 hours of sleep. And by somebody, I mean me.

Then there was Rock Band night. Yes, my Rock Band obsession has spread to my professors, and we actually had a Rock Band party during the MFA residency. It was so great to see everyone loosen up and participate after they saw someone else make an idiot of themselves at the microphone. And by someone else, I mean me.

My favorite part of the week, though, was simply the time spent with friends and fellow writers. There were deep conversations and all that heavy stuff, but there was also a lot of flat out cutting up. Why are writers so much fun? There was truly a sense of solidarity among all of us, students and professors both. I got to meet some new people, and even more importantly, I got to spend time getting to know some of my Converse friends even better over Thai food and chocolate chip cookies and tapas and overpriced cocktails.

Of course, there were a few occasions when we almost got to know a little too much about each other. With 9 days of constant contact, everybody starts to let their real selves show. I read somewhere that if you are sleep deprived for long enough that it is like being intoxicated. If that is really true, then most of us were, in fact, quite buzzed most of the time. There were oversharing incidents and Freudian slips and invasions of personal space on a daily basis. Just a lot of glorious, messy life. One professor commented that she couldn't remember what her real life was like after so many days on the Converse campus. I must admit, I'm looking forward to remembering what my real life is like. At least until January.

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