Tag Archives: Spalding Creative Writing

House = SOLD!

Yes, you read that right = we’ve finally sold the house. After more than a year on the market, we’re no longer paying for a home we don’t live in! And the timing is perfect—all on God’s time, of course—but we’d reached that point where we just couldn’t scrape the money together for two homes and had paid our last note. I wish I could tell you I was independently wealthy enough to afford a home here and a “Mississippi summer home!” ha.

121008-1311-itsbeginnin1.jpg 121008-1311-itsbeginnin2.jpgBut, all with most new chapters in life, there are positives and negatives moving on. We have a lot of really great memories in the home in Oxford. We were there for five good years: Brittany was in the 7th grade and Brett was 2nd grade when we moved in: Brittany had graduated and Brett was starting 8th by the time we moved. Man…talk about changes (just look at the pictures).051713_1825_Youaretheon2.jpg

Brett7thgradeWe went there knowing only the person who hired BJ at the University—which is what took us there. We leave with a host of people we know and love (even those who have the misfortune to cheer for the Mississippi school UpNorth)—and it’s really them we’ll miss the most. Fortunately we live in a day and age of Facebook and Twitter and whatever else, so we’re expecting to stay virtually in touch.

We watched the Hogs rise…and then fall in the sports programs, particularly when it came to playing Ole Maid. Heck, prior to moving there, the football team had won 7 of the last 10 games. While we lived there, we only won 2 out of 5 against the mascot-ly confused Black Bears. Many of the other sports were in similar reversals (all but the Track team—which continued to dominate on a national level). I’m hoping now that I’m gone and can’t watch them live, they’ll start winning again!

060111_0437_Gradumicate4.jpgI started—and finished!—my MFA while there. Was part of a great MFA program at Spalding University and made a lot of very cool writer pals who are doing great writer things today! The novel that was my thesis is making rounds with an agent and I’ve had good comments from those few who’ve read it.

We all witnessed our largest snow ever—a full 10 inches! I know, I know, you folks in the northern climes laugh at that, but for us it was pretty cool (see what I did there?).

Anyway, it’s nice to have closure on the home…and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of memories to create! And, of course, I’ll put a good bunch of them here. As always, thanks for reading.

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Spalding reunion the first

I had the fantastic opportunity to return to my Alma Mater this past week and what an incredible time I had. First, I was honored to take part in a panel of Young Adult Alumni on the Care and Tending of Books. Also on the panel was (my good friend and fantastic writer) Marjetta Geerling, Cory Jackson, Kelly Creagh, Edie Edith Hemingway, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen. There were six of us total and each of us had a slightly different story to tell. Dunno if they were just being kind, but several attendees mentioned they thought it was one of the better of the residency.

Those who frequent this spot know that I highly recommend the Spalding MFA program for Writing (Yes, I also teach in an MFA program, but we teach Writing for Entertainment and don’t even cover prose or poetry…so it’s very much non-competitive kind of thing). My experience there was a far better experience than I had with my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Spalding has a very “nurture the writer” mentality, not smash them upside the head and make them feel horrible one.

Rebekah J. Harris, me, Marjetta Geerling

As part of my trip there, I got to participate in the Homecoming festivities for the MFA program. While it was my first homecoming, it certainly wasn’t the first homecoming for the university or program. Part of the festivities includes what’s called the SPLoveFest, a short period of time when Alumni get to set up at a table and peddle their wares—mostly recently published books of one sort or another. I set up at one of the tables and displayed several of my comic series, including the graphic novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Ever the classics, they were popular amongst my more literary brethren at Spalding. I was further excited that several asked about my as-yet-to-be-published The Interns. No news on that yet, but stay tuned.

A couple of you noted that I did not blog last week. I apologize for that. We are trying to sell our home in Oxford so that we can effect a move to Orlando and the task of continually keeping the house ready to show just caused me to let that date slip right on by me. I’ll try not to let it happen again. I’ve got more material for Writer’s Mistakes in the not too distant future, weaned, of course, from my students and just from around the internet.

I’ll be appearing at the Gideon Media Festival again this year August 11-16. There is a comic contest available (as well as some other contests if the dates haven’t already passed), so go check it out. Additionally, I’ll be appearing at the Karitos in July (12-14) [like them on FB here]. Still working out the details for this one, but I’m looking forward to them both. Check them out!

Photo is YA author Rebekah J. Harris, me, and Marjetta Geerling, courtesy of Rebekah.

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Gradumicated

Well, it’s official! As of May 21, I’m officially terminal. Degreed, that is. Hooded robes. Cowhide in frames. After nearly two years, I’m now the proud holder of a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing degree from Spalding University. For those who don’t know (and don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either until I asked just what exactly did “terminal degree” mean…I mean, I wasn’t ready to die or anything like that), an MFA is a “terminal degree” in the same way a PhD is. What that means, is that I’ve gotten the highest education available specific to WRITING. Tis the end of the road. Yes, I could have gotten a PhD in Creative Writing…the difference would have been with the PhD I would have had to have had a lot of extra “fluff” courses to go with it. Things like Literature and foreign languages. But because I knew Writing was where I wanted to be, I didn’t need all that extra stuff.

The funny thing about that is, I’d been accepted into a PhD program for Creative Writing. However, after a 4 hour meeting with the director, he said I didn’t need a PhD, and that I needed to find an MFA program instead. It would be faster and serve the same purpose. The difference for me now (with degree in hand) is that I need to focus on publishing!

So, I’m excited to be done so that I can insert myself into an already crowded job market. I’ve had one near miss (was in the top 3…but didn’t get the offer) and am still on the short list for a couple that I’m very interested in. Plus, I’m still finding announced positions and applying as I discover them.

But I’m also saddened because the Spalding MFA program is such a fantastic program and I will miss the learning, encouragement, camaraderie and feeling of community that Spalding residencies foster. It’s a very “comfortable” place, even though the residencies are grueling days and hours! At my last residency, I had the opportunity to write and direct a short film. What an incredible experience. The University should be posting those soon and when they do, you can bet I’ll be floating the link all over the place. It’s a considerably altered/adapted scene from the opening of my novel, The Interns (which I’m considering renaming to Mississippi Needs Super-Heroes, Too. I’d welcome your thoughts on the titles)…which is now in my agent’s hands! Woo-hoo!

I would publicly encourage anyone and everyone who’s considered further writing education to look into the Spalding MFA program. It is a “low residency” program, which means your time physically on the Louisville, KY campus is limited. Most of the work is done from home. It’s great for the non-tradition student—basically, those with a real life which often consists of jobs and families and responsibilities and such. Not that traditional students don’t have those…yeah, okay, they usually don’t have them.

Anyway, we called PhD holders “Doctor”…so, you may now officially refer to me as “Master Mann”

bwahhhahahahha

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2010 in review

Well, 2011 is here…so long 2010! ’10 was good, but I’m looking forward to ’11 as I’m excited about what’s planned so far and what I anticipate!

I jump right in with both feet in January. I will be attending the Wizard World Convention in New Orleans as a guest on Jan. 29-30. It will be the first time I’ve done a signing session in New Orleans since around 1992! Wow! Hope to see a bunch of familiar faces there.

The very next week, on Feb. 4-5, I’ll be signing books and will lead two workshops on Graphic Storytelling at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.

On March 24-25, I’ll be speaking in Nashville, TN at the public library system; I’ll be at the Goodlettsville and Madison Branches talking about Graphic Novels.

Then, in May, I’ll be graduating with my MFA in Writing from Spalding University. You’re all invited to the graduation ceremonies, of course. J

I hope to announce that my agent, Kimberly, has placed my book The Interns by then, and I’m hoping I’ll know more about job prospects by then as well. I’m submitting my applications for academic year beginning in Aug. 2011 and I think most colleges and universities would like to have those positions filled by then.

WordPress did something neat this year. Below are the stats they given me for 2010. Not sure what it all means, but I DO note that I didn’t blog near as much as 2009–has SOMEthing to do with school, I’m sure. ha. I’m not promising more blogs this year, but I’m gonna try.

Here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 251 posts. There were 22 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1,005kb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 16th with 87 views. The most popular post that day was Plot to the end.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.yahoo.com, livingwordliterary.wordpress.com, sites.google.com, and mail.live.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for roland mann, cat & mouse, buying time, buying time roland mann, and civil war reenacting .

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Plot to the end March 2010
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2

Who’s Roland? November 2007
8 comments

3

Bibliography December 2007
2 comments

4

Projects January 2008
3 comments

5

Buying Time is Here May 2010
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MFA Residency, the 2nd

I’ve completed the second (out of 5 total) residency at Spalding University. My experience this time was different than the last. At my last residency, I did most of the events with a small group of 610 students (meaning first semester) also in the Writing for Children and Young Adults (I just call it W4YA, since that is my main focus). Because of that, our small group experienced a nice bonding process from start to finish at the residency and then stayed in infrequent contact throughout the semester that followed. But because of the way the YA program is set up, YA students in 620 and 630 (second and third semester) must focus on a different concentration (meaning either Fiction, Poetry, CNF, or playwriting/screenwriting). The first few days of this residency, I felt a bit “orphaned” because the classmates I’d bonded with last semester were scattered about, and the other classification students were already bonded. It got better as it went on and I think Admin were alerted to the feelings (I wasn’t alone in my feelings, some of the others felt a bit orphaned as well) and are working to address those issues.

That’s one of the things I really like about the program: the administration seems genuinely interested in the experience of students, realizing that we’re all non-traditional students and our needs are a little different from the traditional 18 year old who comes to campus and lives there for the next few years. Not only that, the program is relatively new (2001, I think, was the first year) and thus it is only expected to have some growing pains. And honestly, I’m excited to be part of a growing group that has input to help make the program better.

So, if you’re wondering, I’m still 100% sold on the program and have no hesitation recommending it to anyone considering this sort of program. In fact, I recruited someone this past weekend who walked away leaving me with the impression that she was seriously considering Spalding low intensity MFA.

I’m also excited about my mentor this semester. Rachel Harper will be my mentor and I had a very good meeting with her prior to leaving residency. Yes, yes, I know it is her JOB, but she made me feel she was truly interested in reading the material I produce this semester and helping me create the best material “I” want to create and not what “she” wants…I can also say that not all writing programs are that way—many of them want you to fit into a mold. For what it’s worth, it is my plan to finish work on The Interns this semester. I’ve been talking it up to Kimberly, my agent, and I’m excited and ready to put it in her hands…but gotta finish it first!

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Plot to the end

Writers are bombarded with endless suggestions of how to improve their craft and what to do to make their work “successful” (successful is, of course, defined differently by different writers). I guess this blog is another of those. My response has always been though—take all the feedback and ideas you can get, pour them into a pot, stir them up, and take out of it something that is useful to you as a writer.

I’ve always been one who’s plotted a story from start to finish before sitting down to the nitty-gritty of writing. Part of that is the nature of comic books, the industry where I’ve gotten the over-whelming majority of my work. Comics are episodic by design and stories must be tailored and crafted to fit within a specified number of pages so that writers have to know what is happening and when it’s happening. It’s not limiting, as some might suggest, but it is what it is.

I’d often read about writers, though, who just begin typing without really knowing what the story is or where it is going. Obviously, I’m talking prose writers—comic writers don’t have that liberty. After having finished two novels, I wanted to give it a try just to … y’know…see?

I didn’t get to finish the one before I started on another (The Interns, listed at the side of this blog page, for those of you keeping score) and started it the same way. Actually, it was much easier for The Interns because I was only supposed to generate 20-ish pages for my Spalding MFA workshop—it didn’t matter what the story was or where it was going, right?

As is often the case for writers, the more I wrote on The Interns, the more I liked the character and the situation in which I’d placed him. It was fun watching him squirm. But I still didn’t know exactly where the story was going. Oh sure, I’d developed ideas because of the situations, but it seemed like endless possibilities and I’d started to really want the story to mean something.

So after 70 pages, and a nice talk from my writing mentor this semester, I knew I had to go back and figure out what the story was and where it was going. To put it simply, I had to go back and plot it out from start to finish. Okay, maybe not from the very beginning because I’d written a good deal of that. I did have to figure out the ending. Getting there was fun as I got to explore the myriad paths of possibilities.

But ultimately, I picked one…and that’s where we’re going.

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