Thursday, June 19, 2014

The MFA Journey- Preparing for Curve Balls; or In Which We Use Baseball Metaphors

I've been a bit lax on the blog front lately. With a fabulous wedding to attend in Wisconsin, a no less fabulous, though much more sobering, memorial celebration day here in Ithaca, all the components of regular life, not to mention the work for the MFA, the blog has fallen to low on the to-do list. It's June, the summer program doesn't start for five weeks, the fall semester doesn't start for nine, and already I'm getting curve balls. This is no business to take lightly.

Mostly I have been making my way slowly through the assigned readings for the Summer Community of Writers, and writing my essay responses. I am on the last one and am so happy about that!

It also came to pass that I was reassigned to a different mentor for the fall. The first designated mentor and I had not begun planning the fall syllabus, but still this was a bit of a disappointment. I was familiar with the first woman's writings, and was looking forward to working with her. This change-up has left me with a new face that I had never heard of before the introductory email, and that worries me a bit. But life throws curve balls doesn't it. And a simple change of attitude can alter the course of may things. 

So as I finish preparations for the Summer Community of Writers, I begin preparations for the fall semester. My new mentor asked me what I want to focus on, what books I might like to read, what I want to be writing this fall. And I thought Those are very good questions. I have no idea. I guess I thought they would tell me what to write, what to read. However, that old school "go here, do this, think that" mentality of so many educational institutions does not seem to be present here. Which is good, yes. But is a curve ball I don't particularly want to strike out on.

Maybe less a curve ball than a bigger question than I was ready to answer. It hits right to the heart of being an artist. What viewpoints draw you in inescapably? What passions stir your pen to fly across the paper? What are you all about? 

What do I want to say? (This is where I enter my profound and intelligent response, yet all there is is white space......) 

But sitting here on the shady patio, watching the trees dance in the wind, I know I have to stop saying I don't know, because I do. I have a lot to say and I know what I am all about; I am about taking my kids into nature, hiking for days in the wilderness, fighting environmental degradation, celebrating my friends and family, protecting a woman's right to choose and an animal's right to live in its natural territory. I am about love and science and being a good mother. There are no questions in that.

I do, however, wonder who, if anyone, is reading this, and who will read the work I produce in my future as a writer. I suppose that is how it is for any artist- you prepare, you write, you do your best, you step up to the plate and hope that this one you'll be ready for. And when you swing the bat, you don't think about all the things you don't know; you simply trust that all your preparations have succeeded, you breathe, lean in, and hit this one out of the park. 

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Hi Amanda,
I just linked over to your blog from Literary Mama, where I've just joined the editorial team, and I find so much I can relate to in this post! I completed an MFA program this past January, juggling the reading and writing with work and kids and all the stuff life throws at you. I, too, had a last-minute mentor switch in one of my early semesters (I hope yours goes well!). I, too, have found myself cadging answers to those questions: what do you want to read/write about? I, too write about motherhood and nature and the environment, and I too wonder who wants to read what I write (especially now that I'm in the submission phase of things!).

Anyway, just a little note to say good luck with the MFA--you will make it through and it will be great! And keep writing about those things, because there's at least one other person in the world who wants to read about them!