On the Cusp of Autumn

First weeks are hard. There are countless adjustments to be made: new time schedules, meeting new people, figuring out where you need to be at what time, and of course, there are tons of assignments to be done. It is imperative to keep track of what is being asked of you, because your body and mind are surely being asked to stretch into a zillion directions. (Carl Sagan, I’m sorry, we are not made of star stuff, we are made of Silly Putty.) But, as a master of the sticky-note, my desk is plotted like a military graveyard with periwinkle and teal Post-Its, describing each and every task I need to accomplish (with only minor coffee stains coloring the text).

I’ll quickly share a few of my greatest experiences this week during class:

Julianna Baggott, my Forms professor, is a prolific writing superstar. She has perfected something called “Efficient Creativity”: the art of writing without being at your desk. By this, she means that she is always creating scenes in her head while taking care of children or driving in the car or walking through the grocery store, so when she sits down to her computer, she already knows what she is going to write. Because of this method, she has written 20+ books while taking care of four children, holding two professorial gigs, and managing to do other human things, like sleep, eat, relax, exercise, go out. One of her goals for our class is to help us become more efficient writers and through that, she believes in running writing drills, which I actually love! For me, drills aren’t only for me to practice my skill and actually WRITE, but they are an opportunity to play and experiment in a pressure-free space. For example, one of the drills included using our own memories inspired by random words (think: snake, teeth, scar, bad job, fire) and then threading those memories together to create an outline for a short story. In addition to these drills, we also read and critically respond to fabulous short stories: “The Rememberer” by Aimee Bender, “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” by Tim O’Brien, “My Man Bovanne,” by Toni Cade Bambara, and “The Owls,” by Lewis (Buddy) Nordan.

-My latest room decorating project was also inspired by Baggott. She suggested that instead of constantly worrying about how we compare to the others in the MFA program, we should be looking up at the horizon, at those writers and artists who we admire and strive to emulate. She said we should print out their pictures and hang them above our writing space so we can always have their spirit near us. For me, it was very important to have my wall enriched with the faces of inspiring and innovative female artists—the women who weren’t afraid to create something new and push back on any boundaries set on art. This is only the first half that I’ve been able to put up so far, but there are more coming! I may need more wall. 

-This week also saw my first day on the job as Managing Editor of VCFA’s Hunger Mountain annual literary and art journal. I gratefully received this position by winning the Editorial Fellowship and I already know that this is a place I was meant to be. I love the energy and camaraderie that is felt in that office, as I work alongside Editor-in-Chief, Miciah Gault and Program Assistant, Lizzy Fox. I love that I have a direct connection with all of the writers who contribute to the magazine. My first correspondence with many of the writers was to congratulate the winners of our 2017 writing contests. I am so happy to be able to contribute my energy and ideas into creating a tighter-knit writing community. Writers need to support each other and this position will allow me to help make other writers shine in the unique glow that VCFA has to offer. I work 10-15 hours a week on top of classes, and do a little bit of everything on the journal, so again, sticky notes are a savior.

In other news, what with all of the homework to do, during nights and weekends, I am in a sort of cocoon of coffee and green tea and writing and reading, accompanied by the sonic comforts of Philip Glass, Zoe Keating, Tycho, and Emancipator.

It feels like it could trip over autumn at any moment. It’s summer sunny and yet the air is getting crisper, like someone above poured extra bits of oxygen into our airy fishbowl. I am loving wearing layers of sweaters and jackets and scarves. My nose is on full alert for pumpkin spices. It is my favorite time of year, all cinnamon and leaves and the sound of breeze rustling the earth. Any day now.

But for now, there are still sunflowers and beautiful birch trees and that’s okay, too.

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