Wednesday, January 22, 2014
I remember at my first residency, watching the graduating students file into the auditorium in their black gowns. At that moment it hit me, "I'm getting a masters degree!" Because somehow, through the application process, the writing and reading in preparation for residency, the applying for financial aid, the packing and moving into a hotel for ten days, the sitting through nine-tenths of the presentations and workshops and readings, it hadn't quite sunk in that what I was doing was real. Serious. And then I knew, that would be me someday in the black gown.
Last week's residency was the best one yet (not counting Ireland, of course, which doesn't really compare). There were no workshops, there were no evaluation forms to worry about filling out, I got to spend a lot more time than usual with people in my class, getting to know and love them a lot better. I also stretched myself in new and surprising ways:
First, I gave a one-hour presentation on figurative language. While I've never felt called to teach, I found that I really enjoyed preparing for and giving the presentation and it seemed to go over well with my audience.
Next, I read one of my stories to a packed roomful of students. Although I have been practicing reading my own work in the public speaking club I attend, this reading, before actual writers, and following on the heels of two really incredible readings, had me nervous and shaking, but after it was over, I got lovely feedback from my friends and even a few students I didn't know.
Finally, I gave one of the student commencement speeches. It took me a long time to write the speech. Or, actually, it took me a long time to not write the speech before I finally sat down late Wednesday night (yes, three nights before graduation) and wrote up something I was happy with. It seemed to go over well, too. I was super nervous before going up on stage (I clapped extra-long for things preceding my speech in hopes of prolonging the time before I would speak), but once I was up there, looking out on the familiar faces of my fellow graduates, the faculty, and my family (all three boys slumped and curled in their seats like they'd been held in the auditorium for a month rather than twenty minutes), and especially after I made one certain faculty member laugh really hard at one of my jokes, all nervousness dissipated and I just had a good time giving it.
Now I'm feeling a bit nervous about what comes next: submitting my stories. Finding the inspiration and motivation to write new stories. Keeping the momentum going and creating a writing life. But stepping into that unknown space turns out to feel good, once the anxiety subsides. So here goes...