Life is in chaos, medical bills keep rolling in, we’re moving within six months, and who knows what’s happening with this 100-degree heatwave hitting Seattle. But one thing I’m sure of? My annual homeschool MFA writing residency.
Most low-residency MFA programs require at least two residencies for a cumulative total of 20 to 30 days. These offer crucial opportunities for student writers to network, meet their instructors, and connect with the campus.
And sure, this isn’t the same. But too bad. Life doesn’t go the way we plan. So I’m sticking to my homeschool MFA program plan: 49 days of residencies over six or seven years. This week I’m setting everything else aside and taking seven days off to focus exclusively on writing.
Will we feel the hit to our pocketbook? You bet. But I need it. Taking regular time off, even without sick leave, helps me keep functioning with the migraines. And my writing residency will bring me some of what’s missing from my Accessible MFA: guidance from the pros.
Last year, my residency was focused entirely on craft. This year it’s all about publishing, marketing, and building an audience. Each day includes one online class and one after-dinner reading by a 2020 National Book Award nominee. I’ll also be studying Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal as my textbook for the residency. Here’s my itinerary starting today (with embedded links, so you can enjoy these riches for yourself):
- Keynote: Randall Kenan on Place
- [Although he presented this craft talk at Hugo House in 2015, Randall Kenan died last year at the tragic age of 57, just weeks before his National Book Award nomination was announced. Kenan was a Black Southern writer whose use of place and magical realism were widely lauded, from The New York Times to ABC News. He was a master writer and teacher, and even before “attending” this lecture, I count myself indebted to him for his artistry and generosity in allowing his talk to be posted on YouTube.]
- Some time in Animal Crossing (in lieu of a day trip since we still have to distance for health reasons)
- Journal about goals for the residency
- Bubble bath and spa night
- Class: Jane Friedman on The Art and Business of Author Platform (This pre-recorded webinar is available on Inked Voices. You can start their 14-day free trial here or become a member for roughly $8 a month.)
- Light a candle, fix an iced coffee, and sit down to write
- Go shopping online for my next novel to read, though it will probably be Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
- After-dinner reading: Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind
- Class: Fiona Kenshole on How to Make Your Manuscript Stand Out (Another pre-recorded webinar on Inked Voices. If memory serves, you should be able to access these recordings for free if you sign up for the free trial.)
- Meditation or walk outdoors (depending on the heat)
- After-dinner reading: Lydia Millet, A Children’s Bible
- Class: Kris Asselin on Queries: Hook, Line, and Slam Dunk Class (Another pre-recorded webinar on Inked Voices.)
- After-dinner reading: Deeshaw Philyaw, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
- Class: John Cusick on What to Expect from Your Agent (Also up on Inked Voices.)
- After-dinner reading: Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain
- Class: Andrea Dunlop on Marketing Your Book (This week’s final class on Inked Voices.)
- After-dinner reading: Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown (I’m not totally confident of the quality of this recording, so if I find a better one, I’ll update the link.)
- Closing keynote: The magnificent Ellen Bass (award-winning LGBTQ+ poet, founder of poetry programs that serve incarcerated individuals, advocate for child sex abuse survivors, and writing instructor) speaks on Controlled Chaos
- Transition back to normal life, whatever that means to you