Last night I decided to take a look at my manuscript for the first time since turning in the copies to my committee members.  I re-read the preface, and began flipping through the pages looking for excerpts to read aloud at the defense.

And I know I’m writing about grief, and death and cancer, but geeeez everything is so heavy, so serious.   Where is the humor I was going to sprinkle throughout?  Where are the lighter scenes that were supposed to provide emotional balance?

And why didn’t I fix that clunky passage?  Why did I think white space made for a good transition?  Does that scene really belong there?

At the defense I will be asked to first talk about my process, the creation of this thing called my manuscript which is still a work in progress.  Then I will be asked to read an excerpt aloud. For ten minutes, I think.

I could read the first chapter, that would be the easy choice.  It has context, it sets the stage, so to speak, for what comes next.  I’d also like to read something that includes my sister since she’ll be in the room…  but maybe that will be too hard to do.

The thing I’m worried about most is that I will cry.  I’ve already teared up at Elizabeth’s defense, and at Tanaya’s defense.  The whole thing, the process, the work, the future, is overwhelming emotionally.  I’m proud of my achievement, and so glad my sister will be here with me, but I can’t help but wish my parents were here to celebrate with me too.  (Though who’s to say I would have taken this path had they been alive.)

The defense–in some ways even more so than the graduation ceremonies–marks the end of a chapter.  The defense is the culmination of the work I came here to do.  The graduation is just pomp and circumstance, and while I understand the need for ritual, for ceremony, the desire to wear a black polyester gown and a funny hat, the defense marks the completion of an important milestone for me as a writer.  I have a fully formed draft of a book I’ve been working on in some way since 2005. I have an idea of what the story is and I can see a shape to the narrative.  Putting the work into a physical form, printed pages coil bound that I can touch, and carry around with me, make notes on, has helped me see what needs to be done yet.  I even already, before my committee has made a single comment, have my own list of To Dos for the manuscript.


New Chapters

Friday at 8:30 a.m. I sent “Reconstructing My Mother,” my 226 page manuscript, aka my dissertation, off to the Copy Center where they will print out and coil bind 7 copies for me to distribute to my committee and my colleagues.  A part of me is pleased. I have completed the thing that is the last step towards getting my MFA degree.  There is a sense of accomplishment to have put together so many words and crafted it into a story.  During the past year I was at times overwhelmed, frustrated and proud.  Some days I felt “at peace” with the work, confident that no matter what state it was in at the deadline, it would be defensible.  Other days I wanted to take another year to work on the manuscript, embarrassed by the clunky prose, the incomplete scenes, the awkward transitions, the vague characterizations.

There is so much work yet to be done. I know that already.  There are scenes that I’d written over the last few years that did not make it into this draft, and I want to find a way to fit them in.  There are new scenes I want to write.  The last chapter that I threw together…  at present has only 6 pages to it. It needs more.  I’m eager to get back to work on it, but I’m forcing myself to wait, to hear what my committee has to say about it when I defend it on Friday, April 13.

Friday afternoon I attended the first of this season’s dissertation defenses, my colleague Elizabeth Tannen.  After the defense we all gathered at Kelly’s a local restaurant/bar with a large patio, and a wait staff accustomed to large raucous parties.  On Monday Tanaya will defend, then Suzanne, then me, David, Cassie….

I was wandering around in a daze Saturday morning when my friend Sam texted me, “Wheee!! How you doing? Post pardem depression?”

You see Sam finished her dissertation a year earlier. She knew exactly how I was feeling. It was like post pardem depression in a way.  When she asked if I wanted to be left alone, or if I needed company I chose company…  and she took me out to lunch. I even made her pick the place, and pick me up.  I just couldn’t make a decision. And good friend that she is, she obliged.

I’m still wandering around in a daze, but I’m doing laundry so at least I’m being somewhat productive.

So now what?

I feel at a loss, not sure what to do.

I  have other projects to work on:

I need to find a job.  I applied for a tech writer position at UNM, and I’m hopeful that I will at the very least get an interview.  My cover letter kicked ass! (if I do say so myself).  But I’m not naive.  And I know that one application does not a serious job search make.

Publishing my work.  I could take some of my chapters and craft them into standalone pieces and submit! Like the lottery, ya gotta play to win.

DimeStories. I have a lot of ideas I’d like to work on, the first of which is attending the L.A. Times Book Festival on April 21 where I will get my 3 minutes of fame.

Searching for Rosie.  I started this blog in anticipation of my next book.  I’ve always thought that the project would be perfect for a grant…

Gift of Freedom Award.  The A Room of Her Own foundation grant that has been on hiatus is now available again. the deadline is November, but the application is arduous, not to mention highly competitive…  but if I don’t apply I KNOW I won’t get it.

So even with all these projects, I am feeling sad.  So many of my friends will be graduating, then leaving:  moving back to where they came from, moving on to something else and I don’t know what my life here will look like after May.  I have other friends in town, but these colleagues from the program have been such an integral part of my life here, and part of my development as a writer, I can’t help but feel the loss already.



A Dime For Your Stories

Starting next week I will be the official co-host of Duke City DimeStories.  I am nervous about so many things….   how many people will show up?  Will the stories be good?  Will my digital recorder work?  and mostly, will I make a fool of myself?

DimeStories WHTFOB cardThe truth is I will make a bit of a fool of myself. I will be reading a piece I just wrote prompted from a writing assignment from my Creative Non Fiction workshop (thanks Julie Mars!).  We were asked to write about a humiliating moment…  so if you want to hear about that ill fated ski trip to Seven Springs Pennsylvania…  come on down to the premiere of Duke City DimeStories:

Thursday, February 18 at 7pm (and every third Thursday after that)

at The Source, 1111 Carlisle SE ABQ NM USA

I’d  like to thank my friend and poet Richard Vargas, who introduced me to Merimee Moffit an amazing woman with tremendous energy and heart. Although she is poet, she is a closet prose writer, my co-host, and has been my connection to the greater Albuquerque community–  we’ve got some buzzzzzz going!   I’m so glad to have met her, and if you come to Duke City DimeStories you’ll be glad to meet her too!

I’d also like to thank fellow graduate student Annarose Fitzgerald of the English Graduate Student Association for sponsoring the event and connecting me with another fellow graduate student Kasey Johnson, who’ll be helping out at the event….

AND…  thanks to all my colleagues (writers in the MFA program and in the community) who are furiously editing their fabulous prose into 3 minute stories, or removing the line breaks from their narrative poems.

The best laid plans…

I’m neither mouse nor man, but I can tell you that I always have the best of intentions… Photo Phriday, Wordless Wednesday, Mailbag Monday…. yeah yeah, goin’ to hell am I.

Oh, no, I meant to say I’m goin’ to grad school! and feeling rather frenetic at the moment, sort of all over place. Checking out moving companies one moment and class offerings the next and the constructing a transition plan for work. I’m feeling very scattered.

It’s not a Wednesday, this post is not wordless and it’s not a Phriday, but here’s a pic of me and my sister anyway.

Alls Quiet on the Western Front

Big sigh. I have been holding this one in for a long time, though those of you in my inner circle (Hi Uncle Bill! Hi Debby!) have known about this for a long time…

I have been accepted into the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of New Mexico.

So, I’m going to Albuquerque.

It all began in July 2005 at the Taos Summer Writers Conference….

I signed up for Gregory Martin’s memoir class with the intent of vacationing in Taos and learning a little more about writing. Instead, I saw little of Taos and indulged in the literary landscape of the conference. Rather than enjoying the wonderful restaurants of Taos, I gorged on the readings, the panel discussions and of course the extra stack of essays from Greg—this was in addition to the three books he assigned ahead of time. His class changed the way I looked at my writing, forcing me to see beyond the basics to craft features such as character, persona, dialog, conflict, point of view and time of writing voice.

That first conference also saw the birth of what is now my book-length project, “Reconstructing My Mother.”

For the last two and a half years I have been working on this project with my local Read and Critique group facilitated by Judy Reeves. Working with other writers has helped me stay on track producing prose.

In 2007 I was accepted into Greg Martin’s Taos Master Class so I gathered up all my writing, stuffed it into a three ring binder and called it a first draft. I knew at the time it was premature but I was eager to work with Greg again and the class was an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on my work and address it as a whole. My classmates were all talented writers, with full length manuscripts covering everything from adopting a special needs child to researching a famous naval architect father. All these other writers had master’s degrees, or law degrees. It was a little intimidating.

During my one-on-one evaluation with Greg, he said to me, “You make all these self-depracating remarks about how you’re not as smart as all these people with master’s degrees…. why don’t you just go get a master’s degree?”

In other words, he challenged me, and I took him up on it. I applied this winter, and was accepted into University of New Mexico last Wednesday. Greg called me himself.

So now I find myself excited, intimidated, scared (terrified really) and overwhelmed, but I’m going.

I’ll need to be in ABQ in August. Classes start August 20.

Wish me luck!