Monday, June 11, 2012

Converse Residency: My "Time-Is-A-Blur" Wrap-Up

Wow.  I absolutely cannot believe 10 days just passed while I was teaching in South Carolina at the Converse College low-residency MFA program.  It felt more like 10,000 days…10,000 VERY FULL days.  I can’t possibly cover everything, but here are some random thoughts:

--I was paired up with fiction writer Keith Lee Morris for the workshop, and we had a good time.  I knew we’d get along when I discovered that he’s as much a maniac about misused commas as I am.  The class was smart and chatty, and I loved the last day, listening to everyone read their homework assignments out loud…exciting to witness such progress and genuine break-throughs.

--I greatly enjoyed hearing a teeny-tiny snippet from colleague Dan Wakefield’s novel-in-progress at his reading.  And the two of us were lucky enough to squeeze in a lovely talk over red wine at my super-special, top-secret, private place on campus.  (Don’t ask where it is, because I’m not going to tell.)  Also, we were quite lucky not to get busted for drinking outside by the rabid members of campus security who seemed overly-obsessed with stopping anyone from even thinking about wine or beer.

--Even now, as an older-and-wiser woman, there is something evocative about cruising down an empty downtown street on a dark summer night, music spilling from the windows…that sense of wanting to break free, the possibilities ahead if only you keep driving.  When you’re in that car, hot wind rushing through your hair, you can forget what you think you know about the world, and everything feels fraught with possibility.

--I don’t care what anyone says, I greatly enjoyed my can of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the dive bar, especially since it was only $1.50.  $1.50!!!   !!!!!

--I can still stay out until 4AM and show up in a presentable state at 9:30 the next morning…but only once.

--People in the south are always bragging about the great pizza at the Mellow Mushroom, and while I wouldn’t stack it up against Chicago or New York pizza, I’d be pretty pleased if a branch opened up in around here.  Plus, you have to love a waitress who doesn’t mind writing out 20 separate checks.  (No, I’m NOT exaggerating.)

--I teared up several times as graduating students read from their fabulous work.  So much progress, such fine writers.  As always, it’s an honor to guide their journey the tiny bit that I do.  I love that in this small, intimate program, I can remember the writing exercise that started the story that landed in the thesis, or the workshop discussion that led the writer to discover the heart of the story and find the surprising yet inevitable ending.  I love that I personally know how hard the struggle is for each of these students, and how sweet the success.

--Fiction writer Marlin “Bart” Barton’s craft lecture on the lyric register almost made me want to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel.  Almost.

--I still love cornbread salad, and I was excited to get to eat it twice.  (If you make it, I suggest replacing the pinto beans with black beans, and the green pepper with red pepper.)

--It’s very sad to report that grits were not available in the dining hall.  Shouldn’t that be illegal or something?  Why can’t campus security get on top of that situation?

--I drove home in my usual state:  exhausted, inspired, already eager to return in January for another round.

Note:  Join us!  Applications are due on October 1, 2012.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.