I spent today in a room full of MFA writing students. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate graduate students, having been one for several years now. But MFA students can be a different breed. As a writer who enjoys creative writing but has no formal training, being around all of those people who have that writer stamp of approval from a real live university can get a bit intimidating. I woke up for my very first fiction writing workshop this morning and struggled with the eternal first day of school jitters about what to wear and whether the other kids would like me.
Were my jeans too casual? Was my sweater serious enough? Would cowboy boots be ok, or look too affected? What about earrings? Would I look like a real writer or an obvious phony?
This was only compounded by the fact that the published author teaching our workshop had samples of all of our work to read in advance. He walked in with an armful and promised us all individual comments in writing at the end of class. After two hours of discussion on technique and setting, the workshop ended and he took questions. I raised my hand and when he called on me, asked if I was the author of “C-“. Yes, that’s me. “Could you stay after? I’d like to talk to you.”
My first workshop and here I was being kept after school. I waited for a few of the other students who lingered with questions and followed him down on his way to lunch. Finally, he pulled away from one particularly persistent student.
“I read all of the samples, but I wanted to let you know, I think you have the beginnings of a great novel here. The writing was excellent. Here’s my personal email address. I want you to finish what you started and stay in touch with me about it. Read some Faulkner, nail down multiple perspectives and let’s publish this thing.”
Swoon. Pinch me. I think I’m dreaming.