MFA Update: Final Feedback of the Semester

Today I received–and gave–my final feedback for my first MFA semester. My mentor wrote such a beautiful letter to me, beginning by acknowledging the work that it took to produce 120 polished pages of fiction in just five months. I specify polished because, as a veteran Wrimo, I could easily produce 120 pages in about two to three weeks…but they certainly wouldn’t be polished. She summed up some of the lessons we discussed–at a macro and micro level–and gave me some advice for moving forward and for editing the two chapters I’d sent her a couple weeks ago. Finally, she advised that I rest now, both from writing this book and from the 17th century–and for the most part, I am. I’ve started drafting chapter seven of my thesis, but only a page or two at a time, at a leisurely pace. I won’t touch these chapters again until next semester or perhaps the semester after that.

Giving my own feedback was a challenge because I realized that some of the advice I’ve received since July is still processing in my mind. Because my mentor advised me on both macro and micro concerns and ideas, there are simply some that take longer to ingrain in my mind. I mentioned, in my feedback, that I keep a running list in my head of all of her tips and suggestions, and run through it as I rework first drafts–and sometimes as I draft. This slows my writing process, but I’m okay with that because I’m churning out stronger material.

In less than two weeks, stories will be sent out for peer critique. I’m going to enjoy looking at my peers’ work because aside from occasionally sharing work among my cohort over the last semester, I’ve not had the chance to read what my fellow learners are producing for their MFA. I enjoyed the critiquing period last spring–even when stories were not of a genre I would usually read. It felt good to step outside my comfort zone, and to work with a text that was not my own. Peer critique is one of those processes that’s at the core of becoming a more effective writer because we tend to learn about our own writing from others strengths and weaknesses.

I’m also anticipating my next residency. Not only am I looking forward to visiting the Mountainview Grand Resort again (which I hear is a little creepier in the winter and I can’t wait!), but I’m eager to see my friends again and to welcome a new cohort into the fold.