Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Low-Residency Experience: Writing to the Finish

I have one semester left in my low-residency program at Queen's University of Charlotte. I am overwhelmed by:

  • How quickly time has passed. 
  • How much writing I've done in the past year and a half. 
  • How much more writing I will be doing in my final semester. 
  • How much revision I have to do this summer on my thesis.
  • How absolutely this was the best decision I've ever made.
The third residency/semester, which began in January for me, pushed my writing. Not only was I submitting new work to our workshop, but I began to seriously revise an old piece or two. Not just glance through, or make some quick changes based on recent critiques, but doing the hard work of taking something apart and putting it back together again. And then, taking it apart. Again. There are still a few pieces left, rolling around on the floor, here  - no, there. Can somebody tell me what to do with that chunk of flashback that will not go away?

There's also the reading to keep up with and this May residency, my fourth, included a few books that I could not put down. I think I've mentioned that, at Queens, we're required to read in all genres. I've found I really like the creative non-fiction selections almost as much as fiction.  Angelhead by Greg Bottoms and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn (nope - haven't seen the movie) were two of my favorites on the list. I read Angelhead in one night. It was that good. For fiction, the Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'J Pancake rocked my world.

Technically, I have the summer off. The first draft of my thesis (a collection of short stories) is due to my advisor in October. A few weeks later, my craft paper will also be due. However, there's that whole job thing. So I plan on spending this summer doing some serious revision on the stories. That break it apart and put it back together kind. 

The idea of spending my hard-earned eight week break from the public school system writing...well, this makes me giddy. Seriously. 

This plays into the best decision I've made...every instructor I've had at Queens has given invaluable lessons on craft and provided one-on-one, detailed feedback. My fellow graduate students are like family (Cue the violins. Maudlin is what happens the day after you return home from residency.)

In September, I'll go into academic mode and work on the craft paper and plan for my teaching seminar. I'll also submit pieces throughout the semester for workshop. This is why some folks choose to defer their final semester but I'm going for a January graduation. 

Both drafts will be turned into my advisors (one for thesis, one for craft) and I'm certain, that by November, I'll take a few things apart. And put them back together again. 


Jessie Carty said...

I didn't defer either and I never regretted that decision :) loved Flynn's memoir as well. Found any good Poets? My husband still makes fun of DJ pancakes name.

Sheila Lamb said...

My favorite poets are Morri Creech, Dan Romo, Jake Arnold and Jessie Carty :-) Seriously, listening to a reading makes me fall in love with poetry (and I considered adding on a semester after Morrie's seminar which included ...A Village Life - Louise Gluck and Midwest Eclogue - David Baker). Does your husband know about The Atlantic typo?

Anonymous said...

Right on! Good luck!, I just finished my MFA at the University of New Mexico. It feels good to be done and have a novel under my belt, but I miss it already.

Da said...

I didn't defer, either. It was crazy, but I thrive on crazy. While I was in the Queens U program, I was so focused on finishing, but the truth is you leave the workshops, the required reading and residencies, but the community remains. I'm grateful for that. Good luck in the final stretch, Sheila.

Unknown said...

So proud of you for doing this. Your writings just improved and improved - -and I get to read a bunch of it! Yay.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

"My fellow graduate students are like family"- Oh, I so understand this! I graduated in January (SNHU), and I'm going to meet up with my 'family' next week. Can't wait to see them again. Good luck in the final semester!

Dylan Howley said...
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VicBlogger said...

I did not defer, just like you. I believe you are on the right path. Good luck

Cat Professor said...
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Unknown said...

I was admitted to the Queens U. program this year and deferred admission. I have a lot of student loan debt and when the chips were down, couldn't bring myself to add another $30K.

After reading your post, I am second guessing my decision. Do you have any thoughts on the program's cost vs. the value you've gotten from it?

Thanks for sharing!

Cat Professor said...

I've posted a list of schools with full funding (and hyperlinks!) here: http://katiemcginnis.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/list-of-fully-funded-mfa-programs

Anonymous said...

I did not defer, rightful same you. I consider you are on the sect path. Favorable phenomenon

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Anjali said...

Wonderful news! I'm applying to Queens now and hope to start in January. Good luck with your last semester.

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