Today was my graduation, my final day of being a Lesley graduate student. But let me backtrack a bit for the days leading up to it.
Thursday night, I read the first chapter of Speaksong, my middle-grade fantasy novel, for my graduate reading. My hands shook, and I stumbled on a sentence, but I’ve been practicing this, so I read it carefully, and I think clearly. My aunt, grandmother, and sister came up for the reading, which absolutely thrilled me. I think everything went well. I got hugs from Susan, Tony and David (the three greatest teachers I could ever know), and went out for drinks with my husband, Lesley peeps, and an undergrad friend.
Friday was my seminar (cutting out the narrative distance between the reader and your third person point of view character). I had been worried that I would fall short of the minimum time limit, but between questions asked by the students and the writing exercise I coasted right in on 45 minutes. After that was Rachel Davis’s (my residency twin) seminar, which focused on how you can characterize your setting.
Then came today, graduation. In the morning we went to Sharon Chan’s seminar on showing your character’s emotion. Then was a publishing panel with a group of editors, followed by breakout sessions where some of the editors looked over the first pages of people’s work. I went to the session with Liz Bicknell from Candlewick Press, and she gave me some good notes on Speaksong. Following this were the last readings, which included both Rachel and Sharon. Both were so fantastic.
Finally came the graduation. Pam Petro gave the faculty speech, but the real show was Jodi Sh. Doff’s student speech. Jodi’s speech was funny, and touching, and was the greatest sendoff we could get.
Afterwards was the usual reception. Tired as I was (still am) I stayed for a while, talking to friends and mentors. I kept dry-eyed through the final goodbyes, until Rachel Davis gave me a wonderful, unexpected gift: a piece of art commissioned from an ex-MFA student we both know, based off a scene in my first chapter. I fell apart. I love her so much. I miss this already.
I have some retrospective things to say about the program in general, but I’ll save that for later. Now it’s time to rest, soak it all in, and remind myself that it’s real.