We could have been in a murder mystery. The room we found ourselves in was at the very top of the building. To one side were views of trees whose leaves were just starting to change colors, construction to the other. Rain pounded the huge slanted windows on either side of the room to the point that they had to be shut as not to drench one side of the semi circle. Behind me was access to a tiny balcony. The glass door was cracked and the autumn air breezed in and made me shiver. We all waited, chatting quietly, waiting to hear our fate and talk about the one thing the 20 of us, all different ages and from all different places, had in common.
There has been lot written about the pros and cons of MFA and MAs in Creative Writing. A LOT. The whole debate basically comes down to this: you do not need a Masters degree in writing to write. Many, if not most of the greats never went to school for writing and probably never even considered it or regretted not going. By no stretch of the imagination does it say anywhere that your chances of being published will greatly increase if you have a Masters degree. So why do people get them?
I'll tell you why I'm getting mine. I want to be better. Look at that first paragraph. I spent a good ten minutes trying to think of a way to describe the room where I met my professors, thinking of any way to describe the room without starting with, 'the room.' That first paragraph could be a lot better. There are infinite ways to describe a room, and all of those ways are better than the way I chose to do it. That's just the way it is, someone is always better. There is always a more creative way, always something more you can learn about what you are doing. That goes for everything in life actually, every single thing. I bet Ray Bradbury could describe the room without even using the word 'room.' I don't bet, I know.
When I went to my first session, I was excited. More excited than I can put into words, which is exactly why I'm taking this course. There is always a way to describe something in words, and I want to figure it out. I sat in the semi circle and listened to my new professors talk about the books we were going to read and the things we were going to write and I honestly felt like I was going to cry. If you know me, you know that this is weird. I don't cry, at least not when I'm happy. I make fun of my mother for doing that all the time (sorry!).
The head of the department, Jim, talked to us at length about why we were there and how we should feel. He told us we should be applauded for being there at all, because by applying and getting into the MA course we have proved that we take writing seriously. We are not just undergrads, sparknoteing our way through an English major just to have a college degree. We are all here because we all believe that we have something to learn about writing and we take our craft seriously. He kept saying that, using the word 'seriously,' which I liked. He said that being in that room proved that we are all committed to being writers and we want further help and instruction to do so. I like this guy a lot. He said all of this extremely fast with the biggest smile on his face. He said, "It's so fucking simple," in reference to doing what we want. As long as we know what we want to say and how we want to say it, it's just a matter of putting it down on paper. I love this guy. I'm not apologizing for the curse word. I know I've always tried keeping this blog to a PG rating, but I'm a grad student now. All bets are off.
After discussing all the important things about our course, we had a visit from Phillip Pullman. I'm going to try and not use a million exclamation points to describe this, because I have to stop being so star struck when I run into him at things. I am going to see a lot of him this year, so I need to start looking at him as a person and not a celebrity. So anyhow, he came into the room and talked to us about, again, why we were all there and what we wanted to get out of the year. He talked to us about how we must learn to write even when we are not inspired, and how he does not believe in writers block. He talked to us of the importance of writing everyday (something I need to work on) and how we need to have a place that we write and a time that we write and stick to it. If we write at different times every day in different places, it will be hard to get into a routine and concentrate. He said, "If you are in the same place every day, the Muse will know where to find you." (!!!) I could have listened to him talk all day.
After his talk, the whole class made our way through the M.C. Escher esc building that is Tong, the English Department, and to another room to hear Marilynne Robinson read and talk about writing. Ironically, Marilynne Robinson wrote a book called Housekeeping, which is the book my Southern Literature teacher, Gail Adams, gave me to read for fun after I took her class sophomore year of college. That is the teacher who encouraged me to start taking Creative Writing classes in the first place. My life has come full circle . So there I was, sitting in the very front row which was reserved for the new MA Creative Writing students. Marilynne Robinson was directly in front of me, Phillip Pullman was sitting directly behind me and for a time, Jim Hawes (my new professor and tutor) was to the left of me. I sat there and thought to myself, "am I really here? Is this really my life?" It is, it is my life and I am loving it.
So this was my first day of class. Well, not really. This week will be my first day of actual class. I have homework and everything, it's amazing. Stay tuned for, well, for whatever happens next. I can only imagine.