Even though I’ve returned, I’m not sure that I’m fully recovered from the first “Residency” of my MFA program at Spalding University located in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been so overwhelmed I haven’t had a chance to yammer on here. But what an incredible time I had and what an incredible program I’ve entered.
Lemme back-track a little: Finding myself in need of a higher degree, I’d been accepted into the PhD program at USM, but the coursework would require that I be on campus for six full semesters; that’s three years. I was close to accepting it and trying to commute to Hattiesburg—about a five and a half hour drive—for the classes during the week. I decided, however, that three years of my kids’ lives are worth far more than a PhD. Being gone Monday-Friday would cause me to miss a lot of volleyball, baseball, cub scouts, singing…you name it—for three years! So, I started looking around for these “low residency” programs I’d heard of. My good friend and writer pal, Sid Williams was in one and he blogged about it now and again. After a search of low residency programs, I finally decided on Spalding…and I’m glad I did.
Low residency means that the majority of my coursework will be done at home, with correspondence with my mentor/instructor all online. At the beginning of each semester, however, an intensive 10 day on-campus residency kicks things off. I’ve just returned from the first one. And let me tell you, it was incredibly intensive: Ten to twelve hour days of lectures, workshops, discussions and readings. Even the “fun” things were related to the program. (We went to see an Opera of Hansel and Gretel one night, but then had to complete a writing assignment based on it.)
The workshops were the highlight for me. In it, nine students (see the picture below; our mentors—Luke Wallin and Joyce McDonald—are front row left. The rest are the students in my workshop group, the Writing for Children and Young Adults group) discuss a body of written work by one of the other students. The tenth student is to sit silently—taking notes—while the discussion occurs. Now, most of the workshops I’ve ever been in go almost immediately for the negative aspects of the work. That’s not The Spalding Way, however. The hour’s time devoted to the work is split almost exactly equal with positive comments and suggestions (there are no “negative” comments). Though it may sound a little goofy here on this site, the result of the workshop is a nurturing and encouraging hour for the writer. While most of the writers left with a list of “things to work on and revise,” most were also creatively jazzed and anxious to get to the work. I know I left with a big list of things that needed to be addressed and I couldn’t wait to get to it…unfortunately, because of the “intense” nature of the residency, those things did have to wait until I returned home.
I’m already out of words…more next time!