Residency Top 10

Top 10 things I learned at my first MFA residency:

1. Take your own printer. I did this and was VERY glad I did.

2. Take more PEPSI. A 12-pack doesn’t last me 10 days when I’m stressed. (Okay, maybe even when I’m not stressed.)

3. Take the rest of your office. I didn’t do this, and ended up going to Walmart to buy a stapler, a 3-hole punch, an extra notebook and more copy paper. And Pepsi.

4. Even when you’re doing something you love, ten 12-hour days are long and exhausting.

5. Writing your emotional truth at hour 10 on day 9 is a BAD idea. I ended up skipping the reading that night, taking a hot bath and trying not to cry because I left my children for 10 days. (That ol’ mom guilt taking its toll.)

6. Taking a break to have lunch with my sister was a much needed sanity saver. We rarely get to see each other without kids, so being able to talk all afternoon was SO nice.

7. People’s opinions about publishing differ and no one has the “right answer.” You have to find your own way. This was brought home to me by two sessions (back to back in the same room) where one presenter gave us a handout entitled “Self-Publishing– Just Don’t Do It” followed by a presentation by a self-published author who started her own imprint and built a successful business.

8. No matter what path you take, the book business is full of supportive, amazing people. This is why I chose the Whidbey MFA over another program. I wanted to meet people who were actually working in the business, not college professors whose focus was on finishing a novel rather than selling it.

9. According to Aristotle, plot is king and all other elements bow to it. Even though agents and editors say voice and character are the essential things of a novel, they won’t read page one if it doesn’t have a good hook. If my goal is to know myself as an author, I am in Aristotle’s camp. This helps me on the craft end to clearly define what belongs in a story and what doesn’t.

10. Even in the summer, Whidbey Island is cool. Take more long sleeved shirts and sweaters. Pretty much, I dressed warmly in the morning, changed clothes in the afternoon when it got warm, then changed back in the evening. Good grief. I need to learn to layer better.

I came home understanding (most importantly) that this is only the beginning. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will pay off. It is already paying off in my WIP that I work-shopped during the residency. It is the beginning of lasting friendships and fond memories. Hopefully, it is also the beginning of successful writing careers… for all of us.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Sounds like you had fun and learned lots. Congrats on surviving ten days without the kiddos.

    1. It was the longest I had ever been away from my kiddos, so it was hard. However, I think it was good to get away and come home missing them.

  2. It sounds like you learned a lot. I’m glad it was a worthwhile experience for you, and thanks for sharing what you learned.

    1. I guess from my post you wouldn’t really get that I learned anything except that I can’t live without my office supplies. LOL! I did learn some things about writing, and I will try to post about them, too.

  3. Looks like a good list. Did you have the trouble tracking time that I had my first few residencies? I swear that, in the early days, without the meal schedule I would never have understood that time was passing. My mind was just too busy to worry about such trivialities.

    This last time was different because I knew my wife was coming up. Amazing how the anticipation of that changed the experience.

    I’m sorry you had to go through #5 on your own. There are plenty of other parents in the program who would have commiserated with you.

    #6 sounds like an important sanity break, but I’d be careful about afternoons off. They do expect students to attend afternoon sessions. Although I suppose you could have been skipping graduation. I’ll try not to take that personally. 😉

    1. I lost track of the days for sure. I kept asking, “What day is this?” And, yes, I skipped graduation. I felt like a stranger crashing the family party. 🙂

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