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.