Fitting That Stuff In

I was talking about my time getting my MFA at Lesley University, and I mentioned how in awe I always was of the moms who worked full time and also decided to go to grad school.

“Mom’s just figure out how to fit that stuff in,” my coworker said.

And I realized how bad of a job I’ve been doing of that, of fitting my writing and editing and blogging into my life. Yes, I’m busy, yes, I’m sleepy, yes, I’m way too anxious, but writing is important to me, and I can’t not do it.

I starting by keeping myself accountable, marking off time spent on writing (or writing related tasks) in a notebook, little purple blocks for every 20 minute increment. So far it my log looks mostly like a single column of blocks, as most days I squeeze in a little time while she’s sleeping. But keeping count forces me to not let myself just skip a day, so I don’t have a horrible little blank spot.

I’m also remembering just how much I can get done in a block of time. Twenty minutes, if I’m on a roll, is 2 notebook pages of writing. It is a short blog post. Even when that’s all I do in a day (and right now, that’s usually all I do in a day) it stacks up noticeably.

I was never the best at utilizing my time before I had a kiddo. With her around, I’m forced to go against part of my nature and be organized and motivated. Kind of like when I was working on my MFA, and those deadlines nearly crushed me. There is less spare time, and that can make me feel like I’m getting less done, but maybe those little chunks will, eventually, add up to more.

Final MFA Residency: Day 2

Today the big event was a series of graphic novel seminars run by Mark Siegel, the president of First Second Books and the author/illustrator of Sailor Twain. Siegel went over how he came up with the idea for Sailor Twain, how he created the images (with charcoal), and what he did over the 9 years it took him to create it. Part of the discussion went into the language of graphic novels, which I already know, but it was interesting when he went over one of the reasons many people don’t like graphic novels, that they don’t understand how to read them. Overall it was extremely interesting and engaging. Lesley put this seminar on in part to test the waters about creating a graphic novel track in the MFA program, and though I won’t be in the program anymore to see it, it will be great if that happens.

There are still a couple of days until my reading and then my seminar. Oddly enough, I’m not too worried about the reading, but the seminar has me nervous — I’m worried it won’t run for as long as it should. Hopefully people ask some questions so we can stretch it out.

The End (of my MFA) is Nigh…

The schedule for the January residency for the Lesley University MFA program has been posted, and it carries a lot of different meanings for me.

First, there is the thrill of all the things I’ll be doing at this one. Obviously there’s the whole graduating and getting a degree bit, but I’ll also be running my own seminar, and reading a chapter of my thesis work.

This, of course, bleeds into my feelings of anxiety and fear. Getting up on stage to read is nerve-wracking enough, but everyone will be tucked into their seats, and with the bright stage lights in my face I probably won’t be able to see them so they can all just take a nap and I won’t even notice. Now, the seminar, for that I’ll have to hold people’s attention for at least 45 minutes, and those people, whether few or many, will be sitting close enough that I’ll be able to see the disinterest in their eyes if I make a muck up out of this.

There’s also the general excitement of the residency. Since it’s not required, I’ll be getting there a couple of days in, but for the first few days I won’t have any responsibilities. I can hijack seminars I never had a chance to go to, I won’t be freaking out over upcoming workshops, and I can just hang out with all my Lesley friends.

There’s also a bit of depression over the whole thing. While the end of the whole thing is exciting, it’s still THE END. While I’m personally close enough that I can still conceivably poke my head in on the residencies, most of my dearest Lesley friends do not. Instead, they are completely ridiculous and live in other time zones, or even countries, and will no longer have student loans to help cover airline fare over to the east coast. And, even if I do go back to Lesley, it’s not going to really be mine anymore. Even if I’m there, it will belong to a whole new crop of writers.

I’m excited for the upcoming residency, and there are so many things that I have gotten out of this program that extend well beyond just an improved ability to write. But it’s also a little sad, and it’s going to be a bittersweet feeling when it’s finally over.

MFA Semester 4 – Day 2

Thanks to the strangeness of a new place and the discomfort of dorm beds, this day started far earlier than it needed to. When the rest of the day caught up with me, I went to David Elliott’s seminar on humor for young people. David didn’t express a lot of personal confidence in this seminar, but it was quite good, trying to examine what exactly made certain children’s books funny. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t go over our own examples that we were supposed to bring in, especially since I struggled to find one I thought worked. But it did help me articulate some of the things that I do find funny, but couldn’t quite point out how. Simply, the humor comes out of the story itself, and it’s the use of language that makes something overall funny, even if there’s no punchline.

Later was a gathering of fourth semester students where it was explained to us how our graduating seminar (I have to figure out how to teach something to real actual people in 6 months) works. Some alumni were present to explain what they had done, and how the both came up with their topic and executed their seminar. It was good to get this early on, before the scheduled discussion with our mentors, and this seminar helped to give me some confidence about the ideas that I do have. I think the most challenging thing for me will be finding a way to make the seminar interactive so the people who do actually show up feel involved.

Later in the afternoon was the meeting with the large groups to figure out how each mentor wants their workshop run and also who goes when. I go dead last on the last day. Fun.

The dorm I’m in this year seems much more lively — people actually gather on the couches and talk, rather than lock themselves in their rooms! I missed the chit-chat tonight since I was out with friends and doing workshop work (I would have ditched ANYTHING else) but I hope they keep meeting up so I can join in. Last semester — last chance for new friends.