It was exactly three years ago before the Thanksgiving break that I made the decision to leave teaching in order to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer. I was full of trepidation and self-doubt when I arrived at my first residency at Wilkes University’s MA program in Creative Writing, which only confirmed that I was a real writer. Wilke’s low-residency MA/MFA program is rather unique. Students attend classes, workshops, and readings on-site twice a year in January and June. The residency, which consists of eight twelve hour days (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily) is equivalent to one whole semester’s work. In between the residencies you take on-line courses from home in fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, poetry, and non-fiction. I chose fiction and playwriting for my second semester.
I would describe my first residency as exhausting but exhilarating. I probably averaged about four to five hours sleep each night as I would arise at 5 a.m. to complete writing assignments which were due that day. I would generally get to bed at 10 p.m. the night before after attending readings that evening by authors who were either teachers or graduates of the Wilkes MA/MFA program. Our days were devoted to writing exercises. We wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote: short stories, poems, ten minute plays, one act screenplays, and non-fiction.
These writing workshops affirmed my decision to pursue the writing life. More importantly, the coursework allowed me to tap into my creative abilities which had largely lay dormant while working in other fields. At the end of my first residency I was given an exit interview by the great writing professor and author Dr. Nancy McKinley (be sure to check out her novel St. Christopher on Pluto as it’s a great book and reflects her humor and compassion). Dr. McKinley asked me what was the most important thing that I would be taking away from my first residency and I responded that maybe I had a little talent and she replied, “You think so?” Her affirmation of my writing abilities still sustain me every morning when I show up at my desk to face the terrifying blank page.
Since I completed the MFA program this past June and the final revision of my first novel A Bold & Brazen Article, I continue to pursue my crazy, but satisfying writing life . I have been working on my second novel while simultaneously converting my screenplay Downsize This into novel form. In addition, I have established a platform with my author website from which I launch these weekly blogs and have been sending query letters to literary agents in the hope that one will represent me in my writing career (Hail Mary, full of grace…). Finally, I am in the midst of researching a historical/suspense novel, which will take me into an entire different direction from the first two. While the aforementioned projects are quite challenging and labor intensive, they still bring me great joy and satisfaction. I am also eternally grateful to God, my family, friends, and teachers and mentors like Dr. Nancy McKinley and Dr. David Hicks who have guided and supported me. So, for all of you and my writing life, I give thanks.