MFA Update: Research Appt. Booked

I got in touch with the curator at Fort Ticonderoga, because I want to conduct some research there, and set up an appointment for my trip next month. He asked me to look through the online manuscript catalogue–which I estimate at being 1,000 cards in size–to see what I might want to view.

I whittled it down to a list 89-strong.

I’m going to become a member because I believe in supporting museums whenever and however possible, and because I anticipate that one research trip will not be enough. I haven’t even gotten my eyes on their card catalogue for books yet–that’s not digitized.

So my plan is to look through that when I get there, and then spend the rest of the time reading as many of those 89 manuscripts as I can. I made a spreadsheet of them so I can track which ones I view. That’ll make it easier when I go back to the fort. I’ll probably try to get there in the autumn, since travel to upstate NY can be annoying in the winter and I won’t likely want to wait until spring.

I could try to shuffle some things around and go up a day early to get more research time in but I’m hesitant because the play I’m in is the weekend before my trip. I wouldn’t mind a day off in between performing and taking a four-hour drive.

I also have to see what resources my local libraries have. I should do that before I go to Ticonderoga, to make the most out of that trip. I’m looking forward to wandering around the fort, too. I’ve been through the area but never to the fort itself.

I have to say, I was impressed with the manuscript catalogue, which ranges in time from the 17th century through the 20th.

MFA Update: Submission 3 Progress

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I’ve finished drafting the fiction portion of my submission. I feel pretty good about it, but I expect I’ll have plenty of tweaking to do next week. I’m going to let it sit over the weekend and just rest so I can come back to it with somewhat fresh eyes on Tuesday (going to try not to touch it Monday after I get home from TA work).

I’m woefully behind on my craft essay progress, but I still think I might be able to bang one out by Sunday night, which leaves one more for next week. My submission isn’t due until 5/1/18, but I’m going to try to have it done early as always, just in case. One never knows when it will be beneficial to finish work early.

With the third submission drawing to a close soon, it’s time to start thinking of mentors to request for next term. My current mentor made some great suggestions that I might just run with, but I need to read some more of the work by two of the mentors first. That might be a good project for after this submission while I wait to hear back from my current mentor, especially as my last two craft essays should be fairly easy to complete–I’ve already read one of the required books in my MA program.

In teaching news, my second TA semester is almost over. I have three more trips to make to campus and then that’s it–then it’s prep time for working as an adjunct next semester. I sent in my transcripts today at the school’s request. My syllabus needs a few edits, and then I have to finish developing my course calendar, selecting readings, and creating assignments. I’m sure other adjuncts face this challenge too–but I have so many ideas that it will be impossible to fit them all into one semester.

MFA Update: Yet Another Discovery

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I have a good friend who is also a writer. We happen to have been writing together for the last almost eight years. When we write together, it’s in a particular structure because of the need to work asynchronously. Anyway, I suggested to this friend a writing exercise with her own fiction based on this approach–and then I decided to try it myself.

The result? Something that I’m excited about. Not only did it help me get into a story I had started several times and still felt distanced from, but it meets some criteria that I have for my work right now:

  • I want to try to tell a story in a way that isn’t commonly used in novels.
  • Even though this story follows another character in my book, my linking character still gets a say.
  • I get to tell a 17th-century story in a modern way.

Will I keep this going for the whole book? I don’t know yet. I’m just at the start of it, but I know it’s exciting to write this story in this way. I don’t want to get into details just yet–suffice to say that it’s something that’s been tickling my mind for awhile now and I’ve never actually tried it until yesterday.

I’m excited to write the rest of this submission and send to my mentor for her thoughts. At the very least, even if I’m starting my thesis from scratch at the start of my third semester, I know I’ll be able to look back and say that in my first semester, I really got to know my main character and my themes, and I became familiar with the research enough to write a story set in this time (there’s still more research to do, of course). I’ll be able to look back and say that in my second semester, I really forced myself to stretch and grow as a writer, trying new styles, structures, and voices.

This will be my third out of four submissions, and already it’s taken me to unexpected places as a writer, thinker, and human.

MFA Update: Phone Chat

If you ever enroll in an MFA program–or any graduate or undergraduate program–never be afraid to voice your questions. Today, as I mentioned yesterday, I chatted with my mentor on the phone. Not only did we have some productive discussion about moving forward with my thesis, but I also got some great book recommendations and a new plan for my writing exercise.

It was going to be a 10-page letter from one specific character of mine to her father, questioning and imagining why he did certain things during her life. I liked the idea of her trying to figure out his character in this way, but I was having difficulty hitting my page target without including elements they would both already know before the letter was already written.

This is one of the pitfalls of epistolary writing that my mentor discussed with me last month–and after having experienced it, I agree with her that it can be a difficult one to avoid. However, by changing the scope and parameters of this exercise just a bit, it seems not only doable, but enjoyable and productive.

My next deadline is just under a month away. I’ve got this.

Earning Emotion

So far this week, I’ve drafted 20 pages for my thesis. Granted, I am writing some of the same scenes over and over in different ways, but I threw in something new too. There’s something emotional that happens early in the book, but I’ve been told that two attempts didn’t come close enough to earning that emotion.

What does it mean to earn it?

I used to think that it would take a lot of space–a lot of words on a lot of pages–to really earn emotional scenes. The scene in question–I knew it was emotional, but I thought that I could earn that with backstory. This week, I learned a couple of important things:

  • I can earn emotion in less space than I thought by finding new ways to focus on scenes and handle the passage of time.
  • At least some backstory necessary to earn emotion has to happen before the emotional moment–the climactic moment of a scene or chapter.

I knew this time I did a better job earning that emotion because while writing, I felt it. I got a little choked up. Given that I’ve written this emotional climax so many times by now and I’ve not had that reaction, I feel like this is an important difference. Might there still be tweaks to make? Yes. But I’m a lot closer than I was.

All it took was a few pages explaining how my protagonist got to that emotional climax. I thought doing so would not interest me or my reader, but by changing up my structure, I think I’ve found a way to make it interesting.

We’ll see what my mentor has to say about it later this month/early April.