Sunday, July 1, 2007

501: Memories, Motivation and More @ Wilkes' Creative Writing Residency

When I woke up in my own bed this morning, it took me a little while to adjust. I didn't have to be in Breiseth 106 at 9 a.m. That's right. My first eight-day creative writing residency at Wilkes is over (ENG 501). I'm home- counting down the days until January when I will see my new friends again.

I've always enjoyed learning. But, there is something so special about this MA residency program. You don't just have classmates here. You meet people who will be friends and mentors for life. The learning situation is set up so personal bonds are formed... we spent eight days living, eating, learning, writing, breathing and sleeping together. Since I am so close, I came home the first two nights-- I knew I had to stay to get the whole experience. So, I decided to dorm. My roommate Nicole, an 8th grade teacher from the Lehigh Valley and I bonded right away. I also had a few people I hung out with more than others, but overall, I did get a chance to talk to every one of the 36 of us. Everyone is so great. We were all different ages-- 21 to 60 from all over the country.

I have never been so motivated to write. Not to put anyone in my personal and professional life's support aside-- but being in a community of writers is so different. There is a certain air about a creative person-- and when you shack up 30+ of them together for more than a week, a lot of fun and energy ensues. FINALLY! People with the same goals. In somewhat of a drunken Donna rant, I talked about how cool it is for so many people of the same personality to be together-- yet we are still so different in our ideas, our appearences, etc. What I said was that we're same same up here and in here, pointing to my head and my heart, respectively. So, amongst us- we're different but our goals are the same.

We didn't get to talk to the students who were further along than us too much- but when we did, it was nothing but inspiring. The residency ended with a kick-ass party on Friday night. The program rented out a bar for us for the whole night-- Keenan's in Wilkes-Barre. I was among those who closed down the bar. (I got to show off the SCHOOL BUS drink!! ) And then, the camraderie continued until 4am-ish-- no one seemed to want the week to end! Also, I've been to Bart & Urby's in Wilkes-Barre more this week than I have since it opened. Love that place and am glad I got more acquainted with it. Our MA cohort claimed it as 'our' bar!

John Rocks- my new screenwriter pal- said it best during our closing exercise, "Today, I go back to being misunderstood." That's so true. Creative people ARE often misunderstood. Now I am part of a group that understands me.

Here is what I wrote during our closing statement exercise on the last day of class, which I read aloud in class-- kind of misty eyed:

Those aren't times- they are room numbers; where memories were made.

I lived on a diet of cafeteria food and then an occasional trip to Pete's where I dined on grape leaves and hummus.

This week I was fueled by laughter, sexual innuendo and Yager. (Or was that Lager? Or both?)

When I cried last night during the graduating duo's song, I meant it. Our group already has an unbelivable connection, but I want these bonds to continue. I can't wait to see everyone here become successful.

It's an awesome feeling to be a part of this community of writers. No doubt some lifelong friends and mentors will come out of this.

We talked a lot about the element of craft this week, but character is the element that most defines our group. I love you guys!

I had a lot more to say than that, but we only had a few minutes to write something. So- now we work on our portfolios for the next few weeks. Then in late July, we begin our Foundations classes, which we do online. Then, in January we have the second residency. Then, the next year we spend with our mentors working on our manuscripts.

REGRETS: My camera died and I didn't even have time to get batteries. I posted a few pics here from Tuesday night. I wish I had more. Some other people are going to send me pics soon- the ones I posted here are the ones I had. They are me and my new pal Scott, my roomie Nicole and Matt & Joe.

Here are some people in the program- faculty-wise who are very accomplished. We were able to hear their most recent works at readings every night of the week:

Sarah Pritchard- She wrote a novel called Crackpots and read from it. It was HYSTERICAL. I can't wait to order it. I soooo enjoyed talking to her.
Kaylie Jones: (Her father is James Jones, who wrote From Here to Eternity)
Philip Brady: He is the co-founder of Estruscan Press which is now housed at Wilkes. He read part of his new book, To Prove My Blood, a memoir about emmigration. The excerpt he read was pretty darn funny.
Norris Church Mailer: She is the wife of famed writer Norman Mailer. She published her first book, Windchill Summer at age 50. She read from her second book, a sequel to the first. (Cheap Diamonds). (Norman is on the advisory board to the program and the Mailer family gives a scholarship to one Wilkes MA in Creative Writing student each year....)

There are more-- to be honest, I am getting lazy of googling everyone! Haha. Can you tell I was impressed and had a great eight days?!

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