Tennessee Texan

DSCN0151Hello again! Long time no see. I know it’s been ages since I’ve updated you on my progress along the road to my MFA. I apologize for the lengthy absence. I have truly been busy. Since my last update I got through another Tennessee Christmas without seeing my family in Texas and went back to Kentucky to attend my thesis residency in January. Right now I am in the middle of my thesis and to say I’m stressed is a huge understatement.

It has been one year, nine months and ten days since I have seen my friends and family back home in Texas. Sometimes I miss them and sometimes I just miss Texas. I’ve added Texas memorabilia around my apartment to remind me of home, but nothing takes the place of actually being there.

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What is it about Texas that makes me long to return? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it is familiarity. Maybe it is simply me being tired of the cold weather and limited choices here in Jackson, but I’m sure once I’m back home I will be wishing to be someplace else (after a little while) because I just have one of those restless spirits. The good thing is I truly feel like I have stepped foot into Dorothy’s shoes. Oz was beautiful, but there truly is no place like home. Tennessee is nice (for the most part), but there is for me, no place other than Texas that I want to live permanently. I wasn’t so sure about that before I left. Leaving was good. Now I know.

Today is the first day the weather has warmed up in quite some time and it is greatly appreciated. I’m sitting outside now on the patio with 5/6 of my household trying to work on thesis materials for my second packet which is due in sixteen days. Yes, I’m counting days because lately there is never enough time. While I’ve been here I’ve experienced many things, a double (almost triple homicide) too close for comfort, numerous tornado scares, racism, a sweet little place that makes the best ham sandwiches I’ve ever tasted, snow, frozen car doors that won’t open – then won’t close, true southern accents, and apartment leasing.

Have you ever received a blessing that brought complications along with it? I guess you might say then it’s not a blessing, but I think it is. It’s just complicated. I’m now working full time – right in the middle of my thesis. The major difference about this position and the positions I’ve held for the past several years, while in school, is there is no downtime and no allowances for being a student. Considering the fact that I moved out here to be closer to MSU one would think I’d drop anything that interfered. It’s not that simple, but I’m doing the best I can and reminding myself to be thankful for each and every blessing. I’ve learned that even hardships can bring about amazing outcomes.

I was planning to attend the AWP Conference in Seattle this year and had booked everything but plane tickets. Then my pet sitter canceled on me so I had to cancel AWP. At first I was really upset about it. Not only did I want to attend my first AWP Conference, I really wanted to see Seattle. If I weren’t working I would have loved nothing better than a road trip, because then I could have seen other parts of the world I might not ever have a chance to see. I do believe everything happens for a reason – even reasons I may not understand. Had I attended,  the packet I’m so desperately trying to complete now would have definitely been late and I would have been even more stressed. There’s always next year’s AWP in Minneapolis. What can be better than checking out Prince’s digs?

Thesis residency in January went better than expected. I chose my first mentor as my thesis advisor and it turns out she only had one other person. We were able to cover all of our material during the residency – something we would not have been able to do had we had a larger class. It was pleasing to have her read the material I’m working on now and see that I have truly grown as a writer. If you asked me what I’ve learned or what changed, I can’t point to any one specific thing. There are so many little things that make up the big picture of progress. I can definitely say if you are on the fence about whether or not to pursue an MFA to go for it. It really is worth it. There is no formula for writing (at lease I don’t think so).  Sure there are things you learn to make it better and methods that help you get to where you want to be in the story, but if you have no creativity inside, no drive to write something really good, and no willpower to keep going even during the tough times then school won’t help. As writers we all have something special inside that churns out stuff that makes us unique. If I had not pursued my MFA I probably wouldn’t have recognized my strengths as a writer or learned  how to nurture them to become a better writer.

It amazes me how you go along in life with one idea about where a journey may lead and end up with so many other amazing gifts when it is almost time for it to come to an end. Since I’ve been here we’ve started a “Something Good Happened Today” box. It was actually an idea I got from someone back home. She was posting on Facebook things she was grateful for, but on a daily basis, and I realized how much easier it was to complain than to recognize the good things (even if they are sometimes small) that happen to us. My daughter and I take a tiny scrap of paper, jot down the event and the date it happened, and put it in a box. At the end of the year we put the little scraps of paper in a plastic bag and read through them. If I were really disciplined I would do it on a weekly basis instead of every time something good happened, but baby steps.

To help me deal with thesis stress I’ve started an exercise program – one that was long overdue. I wanted to lose weight to fit into an outfit I wanted to wear for the banquet after thesis defense, but I also wanted healthier eating habits and a change in my lifestyle. I have a definite goal, but once again baby steps. I’m focusing on three miles a day right now, and getting up in the mornings when I’d much rather stay in bed for an extra fifteen minutes is brutal. So is exercising in the evenings when I get off and remembering to cut down on portions, but I’m optimistic. Exercise is a great way to burn off stress, especially after a day at work.

The leasing industry has a lot of potential for a creative person with tons of energy. With that being said, I don’t recommend it while in the middle of thesis. Time off is unrealistic, writing time must be crammed into a lunch hour (if nothing else is more pressing) or after work, and sleep is the enemy. The great part is that you get to meet some really amazing (and some not so amazing) residents and you get to work with some really fun people. I love trying to meet the needs of our residents and take pleasure when things work out. On the down side I had two evictions this month, but knowing I did everything I could to try and help them, before it got to that point, allows me to not be too upset. I’d be even happier if some of the proposals I’ve submitted to improve our property got approved, but then again baby steps.

My goal when all this is over is to leave here with a completed (or close to finished) novel of fiction. I’m working with linked stories and really enjoying the characters that have introduced themselves to me. Defense is in July and if all goes well, graduation is in December. Who knows what journey will be next after that. Right now, I’m just focusing on one thing at a time. I put them on the refrigerator in case I get sidetracked or overwhelmed.

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Until next time.

 

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BALLOONS

I do not own the rights to this image.
Copyright: Megan McMillan

Every morning at work part of my responsibilities includes putting out new balloons to welcome new prospects to the property. For the most part I get to choose what colors to inflate. Just so long as what I choose is inside the package of balloons within the office. I tend to like bold, bright colors (which are not usually inside the package within the office), but I have made good use of the colors that are available and managed to put together some interesting, yet presentable combinations.

“It is all in the twist of the wrist,” the balloon expert at another property said when I asked how hers looked so pretty. Actually, it is a bit more than that. The sizes have to be right, the pattern has to be right and the string has to be the right length. A thin balloon and a bit too much helium leads to a loud gunshot erupting from within the office. I can tell that my senses have either dulled or I’ve grown accustomed to the environment because now I rarely scream when one pops. I just dig in the bag for another one of the the same color and start the process again.

Once they are inflated, I wrap them with string. Then I do the same with the next sets, layering and joining until I have something that remotely resembles a pattern. Most times the image in my head doesn’t fit the finished product, but I acknowledge the fact that I’m not a balloon expert and make a mental note to ask a clown for some lessons. Then I maneuver the large, flying mass out to the road where the welcome sign is and do my best to tether it so that the string is least visible.

On a good day I accomplish this fete and am able to walk back to the office, task complete, with my head held high. Then there are days when, during the process of tethering, the balloons refuse to cooperate and instead find a way to escape from my grasp. When this happens I take my walk of shame back to the office and pray for rain. On sunny days I console myself with the idea that the neighborhood children were going to steal them anyway.

My thoughts are on balloons now because so much has happened since my last post. In fact, that is the reason for the long delay between posts. What has changed? For starters, I’m working full-time, and it is no longer temporary. The two classes I’m taking this semester are coming to an end, but the past few months have been filled with numerous reading assignments, editing assignments, writing assignments and discussion board posts. While this is the normal graduate school course load most students probably don’t combine it with full-time work, and if they do, there is usually another breadwinner in the family. Don’t get me wrong – it is doable, and I’m certainly counting my blessings, because I couldn’t have fallen into a better opportunity, but sometimes I feel like one of those balloons tethered to the welcome sign. Some days I too want to escape.

The life of a writer is not easy, but it is definitely one worth embracing. Every writer has a different path and each uses different tools to produce their craft. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them felt like balloons sometimes too – especially when the rejections start coming in. I haven’t submitted anything lately, although I did start a new piece the other day. My time at MSU has taught me to soak up every experience – with that in mind I’m currently working on a story relating to apartment life. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Thesis semester is just around the corner and I haven’t even booked my hotel room yet for Murray. I’m excited, scared, overwhelmed, eager, and apprehensive all at once. More than anything I’d kill for some away time. I’m definitely going to have to follow suit and lock myself away in a cabin like my poet friend Whittney. She will be defending this coming semester and I’m so proud of her. If you recall, we started the program together and were supposed to finish together, but I took this past semester off. I’m glad I did. Out-of-state tuition is a killer and I really needed the time to find my writing voice.

I can’t say I completely know my style or can give you authors I think I might share similarities with (the normal questions everyone asks when they find out you want to be a writer), but I can know when I’m not being true to myself and that is a great start. I’m so much farther along than I was when I started the program. I can even say I might have a smidgeon more of confidence. It has all worked out better than I could have ever expected.

I’m a balloon. Maybe today I’ve escaped and am soaring, enjoying my freedom in the skies. Tomorrow, who knows, I might be tethered to float above the welcome sign, providing a path for those unsettled.

I’m free. I’m floating. I’m good.

Road Warrior

I have a million and one things I should be doing, but the only thing (besides writing) that sounds remotely interesting is taking another road trip. My road trip warrior partner is all tripped out, but my heart yearns to see something new even though Tennessee is beautiful this time of year. About this time I would normally be surrounded by numerous suitcases and getting ready to head back to Kentucky for residency, but I’m sitting this one out. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m used to going. I postponed my thesis residency until January because I knew (1) I wouldn’t be able to afford it without financial assistance and (2) I’m not finished with my thesis pieces. This last mentor semester was amazing. I was really able to make a lot of progress, but when it ended I think life stepped in and I haven’t been able to really focus on my writing. I’m in the final week of the summer literature class I mentioned in my last post – the Latin studies one. Surprisingly it hasn’t been bad at all. I still would prefer not to do cultural studies classes, but I was amazed to find some new authors I really liked. We just finished reading Drown and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. I found both books to be extremely helpful in terms of my own writing – especially my thesis project. It was as if someone handed me a book with answers I didn’t know I had been searching for. When I actually find time to give my thesis project attention again I will at least have more authors to reference in terms of trying to piece everything together in a manner that will stand up to a defense. It seems as if whenever I have a serious project or impending deadline the sky decides to fall about that time as well. Since I’ve been in Tennessee the job situation has been unstable. Besides the fact that the economy is still in the toilet, small towns like the one I’m in don’t really have many options. I never imagined when I decided to get my MFA that there would be times when I would have to pay out of pocket for classes. Financial aid is not what it used to be. Add out-of-state tuition on top of all that and you’ll get the picture. Right now I’m working, but it has been insane trying to jump through hoops to meet the demands of my online class as well. Unlike past online classes I have taken, this particular one requires daily postings and a paper every week. It is only a five week course, but I started it and the job around the same time and I can honestly say there have been times when I have only gotten about two hours of sleep before having to go to work the next day.  Basically it is a five-week course with seven books. To me that is insane. This week I’m scrambling to put together a final major project which requires  reading, research, writing, and some desktop publishing. If I had more time it would actually be fun, but I also have to make time for the last book we are studying and frankly, I just don’t see how it will all add up without me losing my mind in the process. I don’t know how to successfully balance all this with work, but when the class officially ends I will have about four weeks to pull my thesis works into order so my new advisor can have something good to work with. I might have collapsed from exhaustion by the time thesis rolls around, but as long as it’s ready I’m okay with being a zombie for a while. I’ve been thinking a lot about home as well. I miss Texas, but feel I have so much unfinished business to tie up before I return. I can’t believe it has been a year since I have set foot in the state. I don’t know exactly what I miss about it – maybe familiarity for the most part, but there is a sense of pride that develops for one’s hometown once you leave. You never know how much you miss something until you have the courage to leave it. I strongly recommend everyone leave their comfort zone at least once. It definitely builds a stronger appreciation for what you left when you return. On the movie front, I haven’t found time to see Man of Steel, but I hear the soundtrack is great. One thing I’ve had to sacrifice during this MFA journey is watching movies. There are so many I want to see and they just keep adding up. If only there were more hours in the day. Weekends are reserved for reading and completing assignments and everything else just sort of falls wherever it lands. It’s hard trying to explain that sometimes to people. The other day someone accused me of being self-absorbed because I don’t have time to devote to them like I used to. In all honesty, I didn’t have time then, I just sacrificed some things to make myself available. In graduate school there is no free time. If it doesn’t come first you may as well pack up and go back home, because it is impossible to succeed in this program playing catch up. That is why I love having friends who are doing this too. It is like we are suffering together. We feel each other’s pain and speak the same language. We are there to give encouragement when the rejection letters pile in, to collectively indulge in spirits to nurse our wounds, and to kidnap a highly opinionated muse who doesn’t’ know when to quit. I don’t think I’m going to get to do any traveling this year, but if I do you can rest assured I will fill you in on all the details. For those of you lucky enough to get a summer vacation, safe travels and remember to have lots of fun. Happy reading and happy writing! Oh, and Happy “early” Independence Day as well.

Here We Go Again

IMG_1444I survived another residency and I’m glad to be home – sort of. Before I get into all the bitter-sweetness of driving back to TN let me first tell you about my latest residency.

It amazes me how they can pack so much into nine days. Towards the end my brain was turning to mush and pleading with me to pull the plug and succumb to my hotel mattress, but I persevered. It took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes  to drive from Jackson,TN to Murray, KY. I arrived with time to spare and a really full bladder. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Like the last residency I brought along the entire family: my daughter/pet sitter/emotional picker-upper, an extremely touchy Cockatiel, two high-maintenance tabby cats, and a twelve year old Jack Russell Terrier aka The Light of My World. The bird didn’t adapt well the last time I put him into a smaller traveling cage. In fact he was so angry he screamed all the way to Kentucky, so this time I decided to bite the bullet and take his much larger cage. So large that I had to tilt it quite a bit just to get it in and out of the car – hence the birdseed all over my back seat. The cats hate car rides, so we dulled their anxiety by placing one carrier on top of another and covering both with a sheet. The overly eager Jack Russell rode in a carrier in the front seat with my daughter, because (1) there was no place for her to fit in the back seat, and (2) she’s just special like that. She wasn’t too keen on the carrier though, and expressed her thoughts on the matter in a shrill whine all the way into town.

I’d filled up on water and juice on the drive with no bathroom break because I’d gone before we left home. Apparently my bladder is shrinking, because by the time I pulled into the parking lot at MSU I was fighting the urge to wet my pants. After I parked, I sat in the car and wiggled a little, trying to decide how to inconspicuously get into the building and to the bathroom without it being obvious that I had to go.

My daughter offered to show me some potty dances she does when she has to go really bad, but I declined and pleaded with her not to make me laugh. Finally I just went for it. I opened the car door and walked as fast as I could into the building. Each residency the kindest volunteers are waiting by the front doors to welcome you back to the program. They hand you your packet of materials and get the info for your parking pass. I breezed in, then in a flash gave my name, told them I was in fiction, and said something like, “I’m about to wet my pants. I’ll be right back.” So much for being subtle.

After that the ball got rolling and a banquet kicked things off.  The next several days were filled with meetings, speakers, teaching presentations, craft lectures and mentor sessions. Speaking of mentors, I got a new one this semester. After last semester I wasn’t sure what to think; in fact I was preparing for the worst. I hate to jinx myself, but I’m really hoping something extremely positive comes out of this.

For starters, this time around the rules changed quite a bit. I’m no longer working on the novel I spent my first two semesters revising, revising and revising. My program doesn’t recommend students do a novel as a thesis project, but never before had it been told to me or explained in the method my mentor did. I have to thank him for that.

Short stories are sort of the meat and potatoes of the writing world. Once you master that process and develop your writing skills the sky is the limit. Was I disappointed? Hell yeah! I was so devastated it took me a good two days to wallow in self pity before I could put my big girl pants back on and give the short stories a go.

Looking back on it now – I’m okay with it. I’d much rather start from the beginning instead of the middle and work my way up. I just wish someone had told me sooner.

As you can see from this semester’s reading selections I’ll be reading a lot of short stories as well as a few novels. As far as my relationship with my mentor goes – it’s different. Not bad at all – just different. My mentor genuinely loves teaching and he wants to make sure I’m learning. So much to the point that sometimes when we’re one-on-one, and he’s talking he’ll ask if I’m listening (which annoys the hell out of me), but alas his heart is in the right place so I try not to get offended.

My goal this semester is to learn as much as I can and try to turn out some decent short stories. Thesis semester is up next and I need to be prepared, so I’m going to try and milk this semester for all it’s worth.

Thanks again for following along with me on this journey. I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise there will be few dull moments.

Long Time No See

It has been a good while since my last post – I missed the entire month of October. Man what an excruciating month that was.

In October, I was preparing to submit my third annotation which included two short stories I’d been working on. My mentor wanted me to get in touch with my emotions and use those feelings to enhance my characters. So I revisited the beginnings of a writing sample I’d started, but never finished which I called Three Days Grace. It was about a woman on the verge of suicide, but I hadn’t really gotten anywhere with it. It was raw and dark.

Then I began work on a piece I called Happy, because it seemed as if unconsciously I’d been contemplating the simple meaning of the word. It kept appearing in whatever it was I was working on, and I realized I was searching for the meaning of it. Then I added a twisted ending to Happy and called it a day.

My novel chapters needed work as well, so I began rewriting the character entrances and adding depth to the scenes to add vitality. I also did a lot of heavy work on the showing/telling and character development areas, thanks to the help of some excellent craft books, Showing & Telling, Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition).

The month of October was so grueling, not only because of the increased work production, but my part-time job (which qualifies as its own private trip to hell) refused to work with the schedule I’d given them for my availability. I was also finishing up a literature class which required a minimum 5,000 word paper at the same time. Needless to say I was working too many hours, had too many assignments, and was extremely overwhelmed. By the time I got everything submitted (on time) I think I must have collapsed.

Surprisingly the feedback from my third annotation was extremely positive. I was shocked. My mentor liked where I’d started with Three Days Grace, but cautioned that I’d need to open it up and add some additional characters/dialogue. She also liked the quirky ending of Happy but pointed out that I’d started off in second person and switched to third midway through. My first thought when I read that was “I can’t believe I wrote in second person. I never write in second person. No wonder I switched to third.” Then I made a quick note to rewrite the whole thing in third and of course lengthen it since it was presumably short. She also liked the additions/revisions I’d made to my novel chapters, and looked forward to reading more.

I submitted the fourth and final annotation a little over a week ago and I’ve yet to get feedback, but I should hear something very soon. For this last annotation I first went through a period of about four days of absolute (curled up in fetal position) illness during the time I was supposed to be writing, and then once I was able to sit up again I tormented myself over what a horrible writer I was. Ever experience those days? Then I lamented over the fact that now, because I’d been ill, for the first time my annotation would be late (which was totally unacceptable).

After my pity party I sat down at the computer and started writing. At first I had an idea of where I wanted to go with Three Days Grace, but it didn’t feel right. I started on it anyway and by the time I finished the almost final draft and read it to my daughter/editor, she realized that what began as Happy was really a missing part of Three Days Grace so I added it. When I finished it was thirteen pages and had gone into a direction I never thought I’d write. It had romance and a happy ending. Definitely not how I thought it would turn out, but I was happy with the progress I’d made.

Then once again, I started on the novel chapters. I swear it should be called Those Chapters Still Need Revisions, but once again I tackled the opening, revised some areas which I’d put off for later, and started on the next chapter. Anyone who says writing a novel is a piece of cake has no idea what they are talking about. Writing truly is a labor of love. It’s the number one reason why we torment ourselves.

This entire semester has been an experiment in pushing me beyond my limits (as far as writing is concerned) and something tells me the worst is yet to come. I have a new semester beginning in January, with a new mentor, and word is he’s intense. I’m sure the time I thought I spent in hell this semester will seem like a cakewalk compared to next semester. As it stands I have no idea what letter grade I will receive for this semester. Remember, this is the mentor who gave me a B for residency, so I can honestly say I’m just glad it is finally over.

Even though the semester was difficult, and even though I’ve temporarily put my criminology studies on hold, I have to admit I learned a lot this semester. Nothing truly worth having comes easy. It felt like I was always trying to rise to the occasion this semester, and when you think about it, that is really not a bad thing. Complacency doesn’t make good writing if you have nothing to strive for. Of course I’ll complain throughout the experience, because I have to vent, but in the end I truly believe it has made me a much better writer which makes me look forward (just a little bit) to next semester.

Happy Writing!

Home

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I’ve heard it said many times that “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. If that is the case then what tells your heart that it has found the place to call home? Is it familiarity? Friends? A sense of comfort? Possibly it is none of these. I’m asking, because although Tennessee has been nice, I’m not sure it’s home. Lately my heart has been longing for the familiar sights of Texas which is truly all I’ve ever really known.

I must say for a girl who (up until 2010) never set foot out of the state, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in the past two years. First I drove to Baltimore (for a job interview) and crossed through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, touched Georgia, Tennessee (Knoxville), Virgina, and finally Maryland. The entire trip took five days.

For my first residency to Murray I left Texas, touched Lousiana, drove through Arkansas and Tennessee to get to Kentucky. The trip took three days. On the way back home we drove through Jackson. That’s when I finally saw the apartment I’m now living in.

When I relocated to Jackson it took two days to drive through the upper part of Texas, then through Arkansas to get to Tennessee.

Since 2010 I’ve stayed in at least fifteen different hotels and can honestly say I’m tired of packing, unpacking, and re-packing. Nevertheless, my travels aren’t over and won’t be for quite a while. I have a trip home (Texas) planned for sometime in December, another residency (Kentucky) in January, most likely a conference (Chicago) in March, and fourth residency (Kentucky) probably in July.

I tried to recall how I felt when returning from each of these places in hopes of finding the place I call “home”. Each time I returned to Texas (even though the drive through it was lengthy) I felt a surge of pride seeing those flags, the star and sign. I have relatives in Louisiana that we used to visit as a child, and I can’t say I ever thought twice about any of these things upon returning home.

The return to Tennessee after this past residency was more of a relief to be back in semi-familiar surroundings, because we hadn’t yet had a chance to bond. After all, I’d only been in Tennessee a month and had finally gotten settled before having to leave for residency. Also, the hotel I stayed in during this residency was a complete nightmare, so I couldn’t wait to get back. Since it’s only been four months, Tennessee and I may need more time to bond – or maybe it is something else.

What I’m learning from this traveling experience is that it is not really the place that makes people happy. Sure it is nice to see something beautiful and enjoy the weather, but those things are cosmetic, and only a band-aid placed on an open wound.

When I lived in Texas I longed to travel, to live in colder weather, and to see something new. For some reason I thought if only I got out of Texas, life would be different – somehow better, as if Texas was holding me hostage. I know now it wasn’t, and realize I took what it did have to offer for granted.

Don’t get me wrong, Tennessee is absolutely beautiful. I only wish I had time to take my camera and capture more of it so that I could share.

Still something is missing, but it would be missing if I were in Hawaii, California, Scotland, Europe, Australia, Texas, or any other place on the map.

Home is where we’re at peace, and peace is found within. No matter how many places you visit or how many hotels you stay in will ever change that fact. Once you find peace within – you’ll find your heart, and then you’ll truly be at home. That’s my epiphany.

Are you at home? My challenge to you is to do some soul searching and find out. I’d love to hear what you come up with.

Until we talk again, have a beautiful weekend (no matter where you are), and remember to keep writing!

 

What Doesn’t Kill You

My daughter’s biggest fear upon learning that I’d been accepted into an MFA creative writing program was that I would lose my creativity in the midst of format and rules. I promised her that I would never let that happen, and vowed to be true to myself. My first mentor and I really seemed to click. I recall her saying that she actually “got what I was trying to do” with my story. Those words meant a lot to me, because without having to crawl inside my head she understood what I was trying to convey.

I think that is one of the hardest things about writing, telling the story without actually “telling” the story. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the workshop portion of my first residency, but once I returned home and had a chance to regroup I took what I wanted from the feedback and chucked the rest in an effort to remain true to myself. I realized that not every person will “get” what I write, because people have different likes and tastes. What is hilarious to me may not sit so well with you, and I’m okay with that. I felt I worked hard during my first residency and was pleased when grades came in to find out I earned an “A” for my efforts.

This second time around my grade was not so pleasing. Grades came in and this time I got a “B” for my effort with a different mentor. My first thought was what on earth did I do wrong? Then I began to re-evaluate my presence at the second residency. I was probably more stressed, because of course I had just moved, but otherwise I was the same as last time. The difference was this time I was required to do a lot more reading than last time, and there were also more in-class projects. My grade suffered, because I wasn’t prepared for the change. Next time – I’ll know to prepare for the worst case scenario to be safe.

Also, I don’t feel the bond this time around that I felt with my first mentor. You know how you meet someone and get this feeling that you just don’t click? I feel like my new mentor and I can see each other, but only from a distance.  It seems as if we are miles apart in understanding where the other is coming from. After reviewing her comments from my first annotation packet I know this is true. She doesn’t seem to “get me” which means it’s going to be a rough semester. I’m the kind of person who doesnt’ want to fit into a pretty little box. I’d rather have points and edges sticking out in wild colors. So if I’m a triangle, and my mentor’s a circle now what?

It means I keep writing, and find a way to form an entirely new design from both our shapes (at least for this semester or until I get a new mentor and it changes all over again). By the time I graduate and finish this novel I’ll be an excellent motivational speaker, because I’ve lived “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” a hundred times. It has been said when you face a challenge to remain persistent and keep knocking at the door. That would truly be the polite thing to do in such a case, but sometimes I’d rather just kick the hell out of it until the frame breaks, and go on about my business.

I’m supposed to be working on a short story assignment from a creative nonfiction piece I started.  I warn you now it will be an extremely dark piece (which actually sounds like fun). I will probably post a tidbit of it when I get it back. It’s due at the end of the month. I’d love to hear your feedback on it or anything else I’ve discussed.

Until next time, keep kicking those doors in!