After eight months of focusing solely on literature and criticism for the English component of Chapman’s dual MA/MFA degree, I head back to workshop this week. While I had hoped to return with a portfolio of freshly written chapters and short stories, Woolf, chaos theory, ancient mythology, the GRE reading list, and seemingly endless critical essay revisions have consumed most of my available creative writing time as of late. Well, that and laundry. Further, a more stubborn than usual case of writer’s block and an increasing passion for and comfort with the technical ruthlessness of the nonfiction essay compared to the experimental license of creative prose have me contemplating this next workshop, my third at Chapman, with one important question: When is my first submission due?
I’d like to think the words are there, nestled cozily in the dark quiet of my brain’s right hemisphere, and that they simply need to be roused. My fear, however, is that they were there but became fed up with neglect, packed their bags, and walked out. And my protagonists…what has become of them? Did Fawn survive a horrific accident only to marry the soulless Kevin? Did Callie ever learn the secret of the blood puddle at the bottom of the slide? Did Olivia escape the cookie-eating psychopath who stalked her on her morning runs? I haven’t a clue, but I can’t wait to find out.
Despite my empty New Words file and general discomfort with criticism, I’m excited for the opportunity to network again with my peers and discuss issues related to the craft and business of writing. I look forward to reading what they have been working on and even to receiving critical feedback on my own work in progress, stunted as that progress may be.
To read Billy Collins’ poem “Workshop” from The Art of Drowning (1995), visit www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=176048.