Once again, I have disappeared from my blog for an extended period of time. Since the last time I wrote, I have completed my MFA program and will walk in graduation at the end of the month. My final residency was at the beginning of June. It was so much fun, but also a little bittersweet. Here's the quick wrap-up of the culmination of two insanely busy and wonderful years.
On the first day of the residency (for the 5th semester students, everyone else had been there for several days already), I gave my reading. I wasn't really nervous about it, but still, it's never easy to follow the super-talented poet, Philip Belcher. Mostly, it was just a fun time, though. I got to share a selection from my thesis and listen to two of my ridiculously talented classmates read from theirs. Steve and Lucy Addison came, though Lucy Addison spent the reading hanging out in the lobby with Rick, the program director/founder.
After the student readings and dinner, I stayed for the faculty reading - Susan Tekulve and Robert Olmstead - both of whom were wonderful. Despite my determination to leave as soon as the reading was over, I ended up staying and chatting until much later than I should. As I drove home, the unsettling feeling that I had been trying to shake all day completely took over. The first student craft lectures (ever) were in the morning, and I was up first. Though I had been working on my craft lecture for ages, I still felt unprepared and unhappy with my lecture. I decided to rewrite/restructure my lecture no matter how long it took. (My lecture was scheduled for 9 in the morning!)
Sometime after 2 am, I declared my craft lecture done, and I felt about fifty pounds lighter. I may not have slept long, but at least it was untroubled sleep. I won't say I was nervous as I got up to give my lecture, but it was a weird feeling being first. Sure, there are fewer expectations if you're first, but still, if you're spectacularly bad and first, people are probably going to remember that.
Overall, I was pleased with how my lecture turned out. Certainly there were things that I wished I had said better or points I wish I had made (as soon as I sat down, they all flooded my brain.) But it could have been worse. I even held my own against a particularly persistent questioner, and at one point, one of my previous faculty mentors came to my rescue. The best part of going first, however, was that I then got to just sit back and enjoy the rest of the residency. I was done. I floated from event to event.
The remaining time was a blur of readings, lectures, and spending time with friends. The final night, we had a dinner to celebrate graduation followed by a party with the band, The Wheresville Project. There was much dancing (though not by me - I spared them that.) It was all fun and sad at the same time. There is something about the low-residency program that fosters relationships that are far closer than would be expected from such a short amount of time together. Maybe it's due to the intensity of the 9-day residencies. Whatever the cause of the closeness, it was sad to think that we won't be seeing each other anymore.
Since the end of the residency, my life has been a crazy blur. I've barely had time to process the end of six consecutive years of school. It all still seems a little unreal. Vacation Bible School began almost immediately after the residency and was followed closely by our annual pilgrimage to visit family in Maryland. Upon returning home, I received a package in the mail - my bound copy of my thesis. I didn't expect to be so excited to see my thesis bound, but there was something powerful about holding that book. I can't explain it, so I won't try.
Now begins the really hard part: keeping up with the writing life after school. It's easier to write regularly when you have deadlines that you have to meet. There are no deadlines anymore. Wait a minute. That's not true. My faculty mentor, Leslie Pietrzyk, has said that she expects me to finish my novel this year. So, I guess that's my deadline. Better get writing.