I feel the need to wrap up this blog, given that I graduated in May with my MFA in poetry and fulfilled my purpose for being in Wilmington, NC. I wrote three years ago that I hoped to catalog my progress turning into a writer. And so, I turn to reflect on my successes and failures in that area.
- I published four poems from my new manuscript.
- I won three poetry contests.
- I published a year’s worth of literary news round downs for a prominent literary magazine’s blog.
- I completed a poetry manuscript.
- I zeroed in on my research interests: namely, historical underpinnings of sexism in mental health fields/our current conception of what it means to be “crazy”.
- I served as an editor for a literary magazine I love and learned a great deal more about publishing and editing than I set out to, about which I am so super grateful.
- I attended national writing and publishing conferences.
- I read my creative work aloud at several venues, both here in the States and abroad.
- I received my Master’s in Literature from Bread Loaf at the time time I finished up my MFA from University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
- I landed a tenure-track position teaching English at a small college in Alabama.
- I received encouraging rejections for short stories I never thought I’d write.
- I learned from prominent authors in my field: A Van Jordan, Nikkey Finny, Aimee Nezukumathatil, Sarah Messer, Malena Morling, Michael White, Mark Cox, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Ruth Forman, Tracy K. Smith…and countless of my fellow emerging writers from the program.
- I finally took my own mental health seriously and started taking care of my mind as well as I had been taking care of my body.
- I figured out how to submit my work and to more fully engage as a literary citizen in the community of writers that now feels familiar and small.
Failures/what MFAers charmingly call “opportunities”:
- I lost my sense of regularity when it came to updating here or on Twitter. I’m not sure where I stand anymore on the idea of “needing an online platform/presence” if I hope to publish. I worry I’ve been too open, or not open enough in my posts.
- I’m working on building a more sustainable habit while at the same time opening myself up the the unpredictable nature of the muse.
- I still get too anxious and paralyzed and self-sabatoging when it comes, oh heck, to all areas of life, but especially to my writing.
- Consistency. Consistency.
- Many more rejections than acceptances, but this is to be expected in my field.
- For a while, I forgot to believe in my own potential. I swan dived from being bossy/sure of myself to being utterly insecure and unsure. I’d like to find a more happy medium in myself.
I feel so grateful to have landed where I did, knowing full well the perilous nature of the job market for creative writing academics. I am so entirely thankful my hard work paid off. I wouldn’t be here with the help of my colleagues, family, and professors, so this win is as much theirs as it is mine.
As I prepare to look ahead, I’ll have to figure out how to balance being a good teacher for my students and being a productive writer. It’s bittersweet to say my career ambitions trumped my romantic ones, and that I choose to move away–and that my now ex-boyfriend decided not to come with me. I’m reminded of that Roxane Gay essay where she writes about sometimes wishing she’d chosen the man over the career. That the career takes you to the middle of no where. That the career can be lonely.
But to that, I’ve answered my own yearnings with a brand new puppy and a second cat. Fluffy cuddles are almost as good as human ones. Especially times three. I’m already meeting new people who give me hope loneliness will not be too overbearing here.
And the middle of no where is actually quite pretty. The landscape here is more rolling than I expected. The foothills of the Appalachians. Kudzu covers the national forest here, making green latticework over the shrubs and trees. The air feels like a giant dog is panting right above you at all times. The grass grows crazy fast. Yards sprawl, neighbors are far apart but so kind. They bring fresh baked goods and host “welcome to the neighborhood” parties. The school prepares to offer you an office that overlooks the quad and comes with bookshelves waiting to be filled. The house you rent is cheaper than your studio apartment in Wilmington, and allows you the luxury of having a guest room, a porch, a parlor, a dining room, a den, and two baths. The backyard is replete with rose bushes, magnolia trees, fig trees, hydrangea bushes, and gardenia bushes. The size of the bugs here makes the flying cockroaches in ILM seems cute. Life is slower. There are literally three restaurants. If you don’t count the Hardee’s. And I don’t. The road to civilization (i.e., a college town with lots of strip malls and sprawl) is straight forward and scenic. The airport is an hour and a half away. There are a surprising number of people from Michigan living nearby. I’ve already found places to camp and hike and bathe in the river. Now if only the heat index would chill a little, I could enjoy having a huge front porch.
Overall, I feel optimistic I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Especially after the number of losses 2016 brought, I feel sad to be far from home, from family–but eager to continue to forge new, lasting relationships, while carrying the memory of those who’ve passed deep within my heart.
Thanks to all those who kept up with my ILM adventures! I probably won’t post much here about life in AL, for a variety of reasons, but drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to catch up.