Monday, August 18, 2014

The beginning of a new journey

My first cohort of twenty MFA students begins today.  I'm excited and honored to help guide these gifted writers on their journey as literary artists - and as members of a new creative writing community.  Students have come from all over the country - California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire.  Some are coming in with memoirs already in progress.  Others are interested in exploring different genres: food and travel writing; arts criticism; personal essays about family, feminism, wellness, the body.  Each has a personal voice and style already; each is ready to discover and explore everything that writing has to offer.  

I remember the way I felt when I entered my MFA program.  They first day: taking my seat at the long table in a cramped classroom, glancing at the unknown faces of the other writers and wondering who they were, what they were writing about, why they were chosen...and why I was.  Did I belong there?  Was it a fluke?  Did I know enough, did I have something to say?  Whatever it was, I couldn't remember it that day.  Too nervous to eat, I was lightheaded, susceptible to the old voices in my head that doubted my ability, my agency, my worth.   Who do you think you are to claim your space at this table? Come on.  
Do you really think your voice matters that much?

Well, enough of me did think I had a right to claim my seat in that classroom.  To believe in my gift and to take it seriously.  My voice grew strong during those two years - and stronger still in the years since.  And the friendships I formed during that time are still some of the most important relationships in my life today. People with whom I continue to collaborate, share work, give feedback, travel to writing conferences, go on writing retreats. People who know my deepest heart, and I theirs.   

Audrey, Susan, Wendy, Ben...I am thinking of you as I write this today.  It's not only the years of teaching that guide me as I direct this MFA program.  It's the inspiration and support I receive from you.  I hope my students find the same joy that I did when I began my writing adventures with you.  I have a feeling they will.