Perhaps I should begin this the second installment on my winter residency with an explanation of the low-residency program. I had no idea when I entered this program how many times I would have to explain it to people. Sometimes the listener looks at me like I'm making it up. So allow me to assure you that these low-residency programs exist across the country and that we actually have several nearby (Queens College and Warren Wilson, both in NC.) The purpose of the low-residency program is to offer an MFA degree to the student who is unable to relocate to a city whose university or college offers a residential MFA program. It also allows the student to continue to hold down a real job. This is accomplished through two 10-day residencies that are held on campus, followed by a semester-long study and writing plan coordinated with a faculty mentor. Packets of the student's work are sent in to the faculty mentor throughout the semester. The workload is fairly extensive, but the student is free to schedule their semester work around their lives. Acceptance into these programs is based on the quality of the manuscript submitted. Because many potential MFAers are grown-ups with jobs and families, the low-residency program is increasing in popularity.
With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, I feel more free to share the rest of my week with you, the well-informed reader. As you can imagine, winter residency (and summer, too, for that matter) is an intense week of workshops, lectures, and writing with little time for sleeping or resting. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, however, our benevolent leader did schedule a bit of a break for us on Wednesday that was much appreciated (especially by the 8 months pregnant lady with puffy feet!) Wednesday night I did return to school for a screening of the film, New York in the 50's, a documentary based on Dan Wakefield's book by the same name. Though the film did have the misfortune of being shown in the scorchingly overheated Hartness Auditorium, it managed to rise above the steamy circumstances to entertain and charm. The only downside was that Mr. Wakefield was ill and unable to be at the screening. So we're all saving our questions for the summer residency when we hope to see him again.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday went by in a haze of workshops, lectures, and vain attempts to find a comfortable chair and a place to prop up my feet. There were a few standouts, however. R.T. Smith's (yes, he's my mentor!) lecture on place in short fiction was amazing. Who else could read their lecture and still be so interesting and enlightening? Plus, he brought his Edgar Allen Poe action figure! Albert Goldbarth also made a last minute appearance in both a reading and lecture. On Thursday night he read with the always brilliant (and funny) Susan Tekulve, who read an essay on Scottish food and beverage. I also picked up a copy of her new book, Savage Pilgrims, which I can't wait to read. Albert Goldbarth's reading and lecture were both mind-blowing (and as always, entertaining.) My only regret was that the reading had to be held in Cleveland Hall, which managed to be both cold and uncomfortable. At least I got to sit next to the charming Peter Meinke and his wife during the reading. I can't remember the last time I met two kinder or more friendly people. (He's an amazing poet, too.) I can't wait to go to his reading at Converse at the end of the month (January 26.)
So, now it's all over. It's just me and my computer and a UPS guy loaded down with a massive book order. I have two deadlines before the baby gets here (let's hope she's not an early bird, which doesn't seem too likely considering her parents), not to mention the deadlines and work I'll have to do after she gets here. Here's hoping the muse does not forsake me. I've certainly been given more than enough practical advice and inspiring speeches to carry me through. I guess, now, it's up to me.
For those interested, here is a list of the books I purchased during Winter Residency and also my Reading List for the semester. Feel free to read along with any of these and let me know what you think!
Books I purchased:
Savage Pilgrims, Susan Tekulve (fiction)
Uke Rivers Delivers and The Calaboose Epistles, RT Smith (fiction)
To Be Read in 500 Years, Albert Goldbarth (poetry)
Winter 2010 Reading List:
Fiction 100 (anthology)
Lie That Tells The Truth, John Dufresne (craft book)
On Writing, Eudora Welty (craft book) *
Naming The World, Bret Anthony Johnston (craft book/exercises)
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (fiction)
The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers (fiction)
The Optimist's Daughter, Eudora Welty (fiction) *
I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, William Gay (short fiction)
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (craft book)
* It's like Rod read my mind! I was so wanting to reading some Eudora Welty this term. I mean, I did go Flannery O'Connor mad last term, so it's only fair.