2016, Archives, November 2016, The MFA Years

Eye of the Storm

Image: Colin

Well, hello, everyone! I do apologize for the delay in my posts; the start of my MFA career has unfortunately coincided with the worst month or two of my life. So that’s been good.

I’ll try to keep this part to a minimum (though as seriously I work on manuscripts for the first time in 4 years, I’ve been reminded of just how wordy a writer I am). Just as my boyfriend and I got our things unpacked in our new place in Orlando, a repair guy from our leasing company managed to burst a bathroom pipe and flooded half the house. When it was clear that the leasing company had no intention of fixing the damage, we had to make plans to move over the course of October. October is, of course, mid-term season and the small business I work for happens to do costume rentals so it happened to be a busy season there, too. So needless to say I’ve been exhausted!

On top of all that, my 20-year-old cat passed away a little over a month ago (one of the two elderly pets referenced in my previous post). I’d had her since I was six. Coincidentally, she came into my life right after my first trip to Orlando. I’ve just been crushed. From time to time (especially when I’m trying to sleep) I just get really sad all over again about life without her. Oh, and then Hurricane Matthew was slated to pummel Central Florida so I spent quite a few days hoarding bottled water and panicking about that. Of course, school closed on the day I should have had my first workshop! Luckily the storm wobbled out to sea in the middle of the night, and we are all of course very grateful. Here is where I’d insert some drivel about waiting for the storm that is my life right now, to wobble out to sea, too.

In the world of things that aren’t total downers, Orlando is awesome! The new house is a quick drive from downtown/Lake Eola Park, which is home to a farmer’s market and lots of aquatic fowl and an amphitheater that I’m very curious about. I’ve found some great vegetarian/vegan friendly places. Oblivion Taproom in Orlando also has one of the biggest beer menus I’ve ever seen, and lots of cider/mead for my weak taste buds. I can’t wait to make it to a theme park soon, but I’ve found plenty to do regardless. The Artegon bills itself the anti-mall and is a giant shopping space anchored by some larger retailers, but at its heart are lots of independent vendors selling all sorts of handicrafts. We live near a big Barnes and Noble, and attended a reading/book signing with one of my Florida literary heroes, Carl Hiaasen. And there are some great beaches within a few hours of Orlando—Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic was a favorite place of mine in my cruise ship days, and it’s been great spending days there without freaking out about getting a cab back to Port Canaveral in time for work. My mom was in town a few weeks ago, and I got to see her favorite place, Pass-a-Grille on the Gulf. I can definitely tell why she loves it so much – it didn’t feel real, how gorgeous it was.

Classes have been going surprisingly well, considering my brain fog. As stated before, my first manuscript was scheduled to be workshopped on the day the hurricane hit, and was switched to an online discussion, and even though there was less room for idea-bouncing, I got some really useful feedback—it was a piece reflecting on the 2016 deaths of Bowie and other classic rock musicians, and how these events have fit into the narrative of my relationship with this genre of music. My biggest concern with it was ensuring that the piece resonated with readers who weren’t as familiar with the music, and my peers’ suggestions on what needed clarification were a huge help. My second workshop took place a few nights ago; I’ve tried to write pieces on my experience working for Disney Cruise Line before and always get tripped up—I was with the company for less than a year, but with the immersive nature of the job, I feel like I have a decade of material to squeeze into a short essay. This was the first time I’ve been able to finish an essay on the subject and I felt like it was all over the place—and classmates confirmed that it was, but understood what I was going for and gave me a strong idea of how to get there. And everyone laughed at all the right places in the piece which was awesome—I’m beginning to find my own sardonic sense of humor in my writing, which is something I want to explore more!

I am also taking an online LIT course on ecofeminism/ecocriticism. This is the first online course I’ve ever taken and I was a bit apprehensive about the format but it’s turning out to be a real gift. It’s also the first literary theory course I’ve taken and being able to wrap my head around the concepts at my own (slow) pace has been a huge help. I’ve been pretty shy in class all my life, no matter how confident I am with a subject, so having online discussions when the subject matter is all new to me has saved me a lot of social anxiety!

My third course is likely to get more attention in future blog posts; through UCF’s Literary Arts Partnership (LAP), I am receiving credit for teaching writing at an alternative school in Central Florida with another UCF student. Just in the past month, I’ve been amazed at how much more the students have been putting into the writing prompts and class discussions now that they’ve gotten more comfortable with us. The general feel of the manuscripts they’ve turned in has evolved from lists curtly answering the prompts, to paragraphs of fleshed-out insights. Given the nature of an alternative school, there are always students coming and going, but now that the general feel of the classroom is more relaxed and open, the new students seem able to just jump right in!

Looking to next month, I am confident that my life will calm down some and I’ll really be able to take the time to revise my manuscripts, finally put my head around New Materialist theory as it relates to ecocriticism, and come up with more ideas for the Arts Partnership, that the students will love…until then, if you have a cat, please give him/her a big hug for me, even if it’ll result in claws to the face.

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