I’m back in school again. I’m at the start of my fifth semester in my MFA program in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University. I am on the three-year plan (with two summers) and anticipate receiving my MFA in May of 2017. Because I’m doing my thesis work this year (next year I will be finishing up my teaching/publishing concentration and internship), it seems that this year will prove the most challenging.
I entered this program with 98,000 words of a work-in-progress on a memoir and the intention to gain the skill and understanding to refine those words into something that I would be proud to publish. I am pleased to say that this program, in conjunction with classes at The Loft Literary Center and writing retreats like Kate Hopper’s Motherhood and Words retreat weekends, are all helping me find the Situation and the Story (nod to Vivian Gornick) of my memoir.
When I started at Bay Path University (a completely nonresidential program) in August, 2014, I was hungry for writing mentors. I’ve certainly found those mentors in the likes of the ever wise author and teacher, Kate Whouley, and the incomparable visionary and editorial critiques of my thesis advisor, Lisa Romeo, as well as the “old school” (as my six-year old would call it) reporting and writing guidance from teacher and editor of Yankee Magazine, Mel Allen–truly a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. Mel is so good at this editing business that he can, with just a question or two, change the trajectory of an essay and help a writer transform a piece from “just okay” into a captivating read. I am pretty sure that Mel is a word alchemist.
Although it feels somewhat difficult (it is a transition after all) to head back down into the pit of writing fire for the next sixteen weeks, leaving aside most of my “own” projects for homework assignments and thesis work (which, after all, dovetails with my memoir work), I am happy to already know, at this half-way-through-the-program point, that “Yes, my MFA program has definitely been a worthwhile endeavor for me” and Bay Path was the best choice of program to fit the demands of life raising a special needs child.