Sunday, December 18, 2011

Me and the MFA - Part 5

To continue my occasional posts about studying an MFA in Writing for Children and YA at Hamline University in Minneapolis/St Paul...

I’ve reached the end of my first semester, and am looking forward to the next residency at Hamline, despite the snow and minus temperatures! When I look back at the work I’ve done this semester, I’m amazed at what I’ve produced, especially when it seemed so daunting at the beginning. Daunting because I still had to go to my teaching job as well as do school visits and write and revise some commissioned work.

But I have survived. Four essays and 130 pages of a novel later, as well as about 35 pages of reflections and many pages of writing exercises and revisions, I feel very happy with it all. The novel was an experiment, something I wanted to write without any thought of publication, something I could write several versions of, just to see what worked and what didn’t. The lack of pressure (will an editor like this?) freed me up to do all kinds of writing of and around the novel in ways I haven’t tried for many years.

The reflections were useful as I wrote them kind of like a diary, one or two entries a week, about what I was reading, writing and puzzling over. Maybe other people don’t do theirs like this but it was interesting to read back and see what had evolved over the four months.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the essay writing, but each topic was something that I wanted to know more about, and wanted to investigate more deeply. How a particular writer creates character on the page, voice in historical fiction, dual narrator novels – all of these led me to new work and re-reading familiar novels, as well as delving into theory. I finished the semester with a personal essay, something I have little experience in, and I delved into Sheila Bender’s book on writing personal essays for some help and writing exercises, which then gave me some more ideas on other things I could write about!

To me, this is the perfect writer’s life – reading, delving, thinking, coming up with new ideas, waking in the morning and laying there thinking about what I will write that day. Then getting up and making a start on the next page of the current work. A pity that many days I had to get up and go to my job instead!

Now I have a big pile of books to read before the January residency, and notebooks, laptop and pens to get ready. I’m also looking forward to seeing everyone again, finding out how their semester went, and celebrating that I’m now a Semester Two girl! But somehow I doubt I'll be counting squirrels this time.