Category Archives: grad school

Creative Writing and Quilting

Recently, I’ve started learning how to quilt. I went through the lengthy but exciting process of going to the store, purchasing my materials, selecting just the right fabric, etc.

I’ve never really been the “artsy” type, but the desire to quilt has been bouncing around in my brain for a while now. My great-grandmother, Winifred Ruth Harvey, used to hand-quilt a blanket for one family member each year. Though I lack the skill and discipline for hand quilting, I still want to revive this tradition because somehow, despite the years and the fact that she’s gone, I still feel incredibly close to her whenever I sit down to sew.

As I started learning the mechanics of machine quilting – the cutting, the measuring, the back stitches, bobbin threading, string snipping and so on – I found myself making mistake. After mistake. After mistake.  To the point where I decided that, were they to have an actual “quilting class” in school, I definitely would have been the kid stuck in remedial. Dunce cap and all.

Finally, just when I thought I had finished a perfect square, I double checked my measurements and realized the unthinkable had occurred: I was off by half an inch. I crumpled up into a frustrated ball and sat there, staring at it miserably.

It was at this point that my mother quietly entered the room and, seeing the train wreck that was my quilt square, leaned over me and whispered: “Hey. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re still learning.  Anytime you want to create something, you have to be willing to start over.”

Her words hit me like a freight train: Anytime you want to create something, you have to be willing to start over. The true-ness of them washed over me and I realized that what she’d said was applicable not only to my quilting, but my writing as well.

Writing is messy. It is chaotic and difficult and exasperating. Sometimes you get your exposition wrong or cut your dialogue too short or completely lose track of where you started from. Sometimes there is no salvaging the thing that you’ve created. And, when that happens, you have to be brave enough to start all over.

I suspect these words will ring especially true when I get my first packet back from my new advisor. But I’m trying to commit myself to the process, to be gentle enough and forgiving enough of myself to say “Hey. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re still learning.”  And I imagine for most of us brave enough to write, that’s a lesson we need to take to heart.

We’re still learning. And whether it’s a chapter or an entire draft, it’s okay to start all over.

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Filed under grad school, MFA CreativeWriting, writing

The Meat and Potatoes of Life

To whomever may happen to stumble across this blog: Greetings!

Today marks the official launch of my blog: The Writing Life.  In this blog, you will find a host of things: book reviews (especially on YA Lit), craft discussions, opinion pieces, personal ramblings, and so on.

 I may also share snippets of my graduate school adventures with you, advice on the application process, etc, since I was lucky enough to get into the #2 low-res writing school in the country: VCFA. 😀 I’m a semester and a half away from graduating so, suffice to say, things are about to get interesting. 😉 Will I be able to do anything with this decidedly narrow degree when I graduate? Especially in this economy?

Who knows? But that’s not what this is about, is it?

It’s about living. It’s about that delicious moment when your soul gets poured onto paper, when your uniqe take on the human experiences rises up to kiss and caress the mind of the reader who encounters it.

As Bette Davis once said, “To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together.”

We do not write for money, fame, or adoration. We do not write for jobs that we may or may not possess someday. We do not write for security, to indulge our egos, or to deliever sermons. We write because we have to. Because we will go absolutely mad if we don’t. We write, dear readers, to live.

So here’s to living. And thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Filed under Creative Writing MFA, grad school, writing