Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 3: Nothing at Stake

Two big anxieties got crossed off my list today: the interviews with faculty as potential advisors (referred to around here as "speed dating") and the first day of workshop.

Halfway though this residency, students will be matched with a faculty advisor for the semester. There are 12 poetry faculty members taking students this time around, and first-semester students specify 6 names of people that they would like to work with. The program office does the matching (the faculty have no say), and since it's such a big pool, I felt that the the best I could really do was make sure that I had six people I was compatible with. The first couple of semesters are for experimentation and exploration, and everybody works a little differently, but we were assured (repeatedly) that we'd all be fine with whoever we got. Forms are due on Saturday, but I turned mine in today; match day is Sunday.

Workshop was great. The leaders—two writers I like very much—spent a lot of time at the beginning talking about process and expectations. The highlight for me was when one of them said, "I know it doesn't seem like it, but there is really nothing at stake here." He pointed out that we can try out advice from the workshop and, if we don't like it, we can go back to the way we had it before. I found this very freeing (at least until I started freaking out about critiquing other people's work again) and I'm going to try to remember it for a long time.

Day 2: Already Toast

Yesterday I got oriented. Four times. Administrative orientation. Academic orientation. New student orientation. Library orientation. Throw in a campus tour, a lunch with faculty, a critical writing discussion, and the first lecture I attended. I had to make myself go to dinner instead of going straight to bed.

The advice I heard repeatedly: "Pace yourself." "Don't go to everything." I resisted this advice on Tuesday because (a) I'm so freaking tough, they don't know how tough I am, and (b) I want to get everything possible out of my time (and money!) here.

But I learn fast. I skipped the faculty reading last night and followed my roommate's advice to color-code my schedule.1 I marked lectures and events that I'm required to attend or really don't want to miss, things I'm definitely going to skip, and things I'll go to if I'm not completely wiped out. I feel moderately in control.

Today is my first day of workshop. My roommate (a fiction writer) and I both agree that we're not so much worried about having our own writing workshopped as we are about giving feedback to others. I feel so much less confident about my critiquing skills as a poet compared to my non-fiction days, but I guess that's part of the point of being here.

Also on tap today: faculty advisor speed dating!

1Why yes, I did bring three shades of highlighter. I'm me, remember?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Day of School

I've arrived at my first residency. I stopped off in Hanover to have lunch with an old college classmate, and to pick up a blanket and sweatshirt at the Co-op, having forgotten that "summer" in northern New England is not equal to "hot" or even, necessarily, "warm."

I told my friend that I was as nervous now as I was the first time I went to college. For me, anxiety about fitting in always manifests itself as a preoccupation with clothes. My subconscious apparently believes that if I can just get the externals right then all the other things that feel wrong will take care of themselves.

This anxiety is most effectively alleviated with a short course of retail therapy. For college, I insisted that my mother buy me an astonishing number of chinos in all shades. Had to have chinos. Which I wore for a week and then never again (Sorry, Ma).

This time, Sunday found me making an emergency L.L. Bean run for ... chinos. Evidently I still believe that preppy clothes are what all the Cool Kids are wearing.