We are so excited to welcome another guest blogger today, first semester fiction student, Frances Nevill. Few students jump into their first residency with the same enthusiasm and work ethic as Frances. She is a talented writer who only wants to improve and has no ego about her writing — all eagerness and energy. And so she makes the perfect person to give prospective students a peek into the program, of what it’s like to jump in feet first and hope you can at least doggie paddle. Enjoy her post. I’m sure you’ll find her excitement as infectious as we did.
Don’t forget that applications for the January Residency are due October 1, 2017.
Immersion & Inspiration: The Converse College MFA Residency
If you are thinking about jumping into a low residency MFA program, you might be wondering, “What is the ‘residency’? Will it feel like going back to school? An extended workshop? A writer’s retreat?” Quite possibly, it will be a little like all of those, and yet I think it’s something more.
Converse’s MFA residency is a 10-day combination of workshops, lectures and readings, all pertaining to your craft that takes place on the beautiful Converse campus. The workshops afford you the time to delve into the fine details of your creative work as well as the work of others. In this intimate, faculty-led setting, students are able to not only refine their own work, but to play a crucial role in helping their fellow classmates reach the next level in their own writing. And by way of that process, your own work begins to improve.
Daily craft lectures enable students to take a tour of genres and techniques. While there will be plenty of lectures offered in your chosen field of study, exploring the landscape of other genres opens up a new lens for the writer from which to see. The poet gets insight from the fiction writer; the young adult author is infused with tips from a creative nonfiction writer. The ways in which to learn and see our own work continues to grow and develop.
The evenings are filled with readings from faculty and visiting writers. These evenings give students the opportunity to hear work from published writers from all around the country. The whole act of listening to work read aloud adds another dimension to the student’s experience and enjoyment of the written word. Book signings and time to socialize are also fun parts of the whole residency experience.
On a personal note, my decision to attend Converse was confirmed during my first residency. Workshops were small enough that each student received a lot of individual attention. The MFA faculty loves what they do, and it’s evident in how they participate and interact with students. The faculty gave us in-depth, written analysis of our work, and they made themselves completely accessible. I don’t think I had one meal where several members of the faculty weren’t at my table. I also don’t think there was one workshop, craft lecture, or reading where the entire faculty, or nearly entire faculty, wasn’t in attendance. I realized I was part of a program where the teachers and the students are all invested in each other’s work and long-term success. I don’t know if this is common in other residencies, but during mine, it was clear I was someplace special.
Writers might notice the bronze statue of Emily Dickinson near the campus library. Her statue stands to remind us all of the lasting power of words and how writers endeavor to craft art that will live on from generation to generation. This is what the faculty strives to instill in its graduate students. I found this to be of the utmost importance from my own residency workshop instructors, Marlin Barton and Leslie Pietrzyk. As writers, they conveyed, we aren’t just striving to get better for today; we are striving for our work to last beyond these days. It’s the great legacy of art and the great challenge of the artist: to create those works that resonate with people we will never know. No easy feat.
But the journey is also part of that complicated marathon that writer’s run every day. It’s a journey that is punctuated by the relationships—the shared experiences created by those who have committed their life’s work to the same path. You walk this path together at Converse, and the residency is the beginning. It’s the starting point of two years of literary critiques, book recommendations, deep discussions about your genre, and bonding moments where we all share our writing challenges. Residency offers the student the time to “build their writing life” as said by faculty member, Leslie Pietrzyk. Aside from the wonderful circle of friends you will foster, it’s also those simple moments you might experience alone. Those moments sitting near that Emily Dickinson statue or in the library or in your dorm room contemplating your next poem, story, character, or plot. It’s a journey I encourage you to jump into with full commitment and not look back. Now is the time to do it. You will have lots of writers beside you sharing your struggles and successes, and ultimately creating those moments and works of art that will endure.
Frances Nevill is a first semester MFA student from Florida. Find her on Twitter @francesnevill or Instagram @floridayall.