Remembering Residency

I am feeling a bit melancholy for this blog posting – perhaps it’s the realization that another residency, which I was unable to find time to participate in, has passed by. Memories of residencies flooded my mind as I read each of the comments offered by the more recent graduates and viewed their postings popping up in my Facebook feed. Megan Mallory Martin, my co-editor, tells that returning to WVWC feels like coming home. David Evans shares the reminder that we all remain lifelong writing students, soaking up all wisdom offered by our cohorts. Rebecca Elswick shares a lighthearted “first poem” with us. Finally, Larry Thacker shares his own blog post where he writes of his stacks of books separated semester by semester. I have since organized mine into a few shelves for craft books, poetry chapbooks, and literary magazines, many shelves of fiction (novels and short story collections mixed), and a shelf for my books on the craft of teaching, but I recall many of the same stacks he refers to, with my Post-it notes peeking out of the pages. These books share space with not only my desk and computer, but also with my supplies for scrapbooking, a hobby that preceded my first short story by many years. Looking back, though, these things have always been about sharing memories and special times from my heart, so the likeliness for them to share what is now my sacred space is just right.  --Dee Sydnor (Fiction '15)

Megan Mallory Martin (Nonfiction ’17), my co-editor, was able to visit WVWC for an evening reading and spend some time with the faculty and students. She writes:

As an alum, it was such a joy to return to residency for some of the public readings. I had the opportunity to hear talented writers share their words, visit with current students and my former professorsall friends, and celebrate the upcoming graduation of six from our group. I graduated one year ago, but I truly believe that no matter how long you've been an alum, coming back to residency feels like coming home.

David Evans (Nonfiction ’18) shares a realization he had during Rebecca Howell’s seminar on publishing:

What struck me … was her reminder of how tough it is to write well. What I carried away were her parting words: “Never forget, we are all apprentices.” Howell talked about attending workshops where accomplished and older writers were in the front row taking notes. That's what I want on my obit: He was seated up toward the front, seriously listening and scribbling away.” I would be proud to have those words chiseled on my tombstone.

Larry Hacker (Poetry ’18) refers us to his blog posting from the 7th of January, “Vertical, Horizontal, & Other Reminders.” I love his talk of the life of books and stacks that carried him through his semesters at WVWC. He reflects:

 A regular reminder of this life within words has been the life of books throughout several rooms. The dozens of books for each new semester always stayed vertical for that work period. The books of past semesters, when done with, were placed, as we might expect, horizontally into shelves by loose semesterly groups for ease of location as the program progressed. But for the most part, any book – and there were always several – cover up, was a current interest: on the desk, the side desk, on the floor near the work desk, by my recliner, on the kitchen table, on a shelf waiting for another flurry of work attention, in the back seat of the car (perhaps not so neatly vertical) on the way somewhere to do more work. Those books will take on new homes this week as I begin moving into new routines of post-MFA life.  

Thacker finishes his post with:  I can’t help but wonder where I fit into things, too. This new anxiousness I feel vibrating just under the surface must be something akin to what it’s like to be tossed sea-bound for a time and to then step upon sudden still shoreline. That instant change of expected balance. Something in the ear, heart, or mind, shifting. Vertical to horizontal. 

Rebecca Elswick (Fiction ’18) playfully looks back on her final residency as a WVWC MFA student in her first poem:

What I Learned at My Last Residency Besides All That Writing Stuff
(Dedicated to Larry Thacker, a Fellow “Gilmore Girls” Fan)
Once I dreamed of wintering in Stars Hollow
A room at the Firefly Inn,
Lorelai Gilmore would teach me how to smell snow
And take me to Luke’s Diner for coffee.
What a time I would have!
Walking around town square in the snow,
Bundled in coat, hat, and gloves,
My face aglow with cold
Snowflakes in my hair.
What a time I would have!
Then I came to Buckhannon, West Virginia
Cold and snow – wonderful swirling snow!
Why! This is like Stars Hollows.
Bundled up, I ventured out into my imaginary Stars Hollow
What a wonderful time I would have!
But there was my car covered with snow.
Why hadn’t Luke cleared it? Why hadn’t he shoveled
a path for me? And the snow-covered road –
Where was the Stars Hollow snowplow?
What a miserable drive I would have!
Finally, I made it to campus.
Why, what’s this? Snowy sidewalks,
the buildings positively freezing!
Where was the Firefly Inn’s enormous fireplace?
What a miserable day I would have!
Sub-zero temperatures,
Snow, snow and more snow,
Icy roads and sidewalks,
I can’t feel my toes.
What a ridiculous idea I had!
I will do what I learned at residency.
Revise! Dream of summer vacation in Stars Hollow.
A room at the Dragonfly Inn and cheeseburgers at Luke’s Diner,
Evening strolls around town square with Lorelai
After all, it was Lorelai who said, “Hey, did anyone
Ever think that maybe Sylvia Plath wasn’t crazy,
She was just cold?”

Photos shamelessly taken from WVWC MFAers' Facebook posts.....