Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Chapter

In January I went away to school to learn
how to write. It all happened when I was
about to apply for the MFA in writing at
The New School, and a writer and good friend
named Ellen told me to apply to a program
at a school in St. Paul Minnesota called Hamline.
That way, it sort of fell from the sky and landed
in my lap, and for December, I got my application together,
got accepted (a nice feeling!)and on January 7th,
I packed hundreds of fleece layers, my new Sorels, and left
for this place called St. Paul. (Home to both
Scott Fitzgerald and Garrison Keillor)

The program takes two years to complete and involves
going to St. Paul five times, all in Januaries and Julys.
Each residency has a theme--this time it was setting.

The faculty consists of seasoned children's book authors who have
been teaching writing over the years, and it was hard
not to be very impressed by the program--which is run
by a group of logistical savants. In my next life, I
will organize an MFA residency and will be rewarded handsomely!
In other words, it's a lot of planning, logistics, therapy,
question-answering, etc.

The fun part is that I got to go to workshop in
the mornings, lectures in the afternoons, and readings in the
evenings. By day four, I began to feel my brain
stretching like a balloon. I was learning how to stop acting
like an editor and start acting like a writer. (That means being less
bossy and acting like less of a know-it-all and just trying to help one another improve our writing.)

Children's book luminaries came and gave talks (Wendy Lamb,
Anita Silvey, Roger Sutton, Jane Yolen), writing exercises were sprinkled
throughout the lectures, and I met person after person who came to
the program with different life stories and crazy, incredible stories
to share.

To show you who some of the faculty are--all women this time--
I am posting their pictures in the margin. I wish I had copies of all of their books, but some day I will! Each one of them was dedicated, luminous, and
open to the silly first semester students--and for someone who never
really felt the need to connect with professors in college, with these women
I felt like I was being given a second chance!

There were two Marshas, a Claire, a Kelly, a Lisa, a Mary, a Liza, an Alexandria, a Phyllis, a Jane, a Jackie, and an Anne. I hear that in the summer, this is a Ron and a Gary.

I left the residency 11 days later after meetings with
my adorable semester adviser, Marsha Wilson Challs. So now my job
is to read and write. A lot. Marsha suggested a book I have fallen hard for.
The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb. If you are trying to write, get this book! I am calling it my bible.

Friends and family asked how Eric coped while I was away, and
I think he did really well. The boys seemed to thrive and survive,
and know I missed them more than they missed me. I cried about ten times more than any of them did!

I go back in July--when the snow will be gone. The theme will be theme, and by then I will feel like
a Hamline veteran.

My reading list for the program has 120 books on it, and although I have
read several already, I will refer to them as I read them, and give
suggestions--but first I wanted to tell you about my new adventure!