This week marks the first post-graduation residency at my alma mater that I am not required to attend. This time last year I was attending my fourth residency in Vermont. I was surrounded by other writers who were just as passionate and excited about children's books as I was. They had just survived another semester of reading at least 60 books, and writing over 100 pages over the past six months. My class had turned in their critical thesis, a paper that explores an element of writing in almost painful depth. We were facing our last semester together before graduation. We were planning the good-bye party for the class before us, and cheering on the newly named class that would follow us. The snow and cold did nothing to dampen our excitement at being together, at facing another residency of lectures, workshops, readings and campus traditions. We loved being there, at what we deemed as something like an adult writing camp of like minded writers who were striving to become better, emulate their literary heroes, and support each other along the way.
Seeing Facebook posts of classes that came after me who are still in the trenches stirs mixed emotions. On one hand, I wish I was there among the supportive, creative, and inspiring masses working towards their MFA. I miss the feeling of community that welcomed me every six months for the last two years. I wish I were facing the excitement of having an advisor assigned to me who would coach me through the next six month of intensive writing and developing of skills that would make me a better storyteller. It makes me miss my Allies tremendously.
Yet, it also makes me feel accomplished. It reminds me that I have come a long way since my last winter residency. I have more confidence in my writing abilities. I have stories I am excited to work on. I have an agent who believes in my story. I have a blog that helps me flush through my feelings and experiences. I have a degree that I never thought I'd have.
It also challenges me to put all these things into practice. I can't sit on what I've learned, or what I've done. I have to move forward with my writing. I have to push myself to write on the days I feel like I'm all out of stories. I have to read even when I feel like my eyes are too tired from the rest of my day. There's no excuse not to try different genres and get to know characters that have stories for me to tell.
I may not have a packet due to an advisor, a lecture to prepare, or a reading to look forward to, but the fruits of my labor in earning my MFA have just begun to blossom. It makes me excited for the future of those who are just getting into the swing of the winter 2015 residency. As I look on from afar, I know that I am still part of a warm and enthusiastic community of alumni who, like me, are nostalgic, envious and happy for those still on their way.