I feel human again, a state I much prefer to the walking zombie version of myself that I've embodied the past two days. Sadly, though, to refind myself I had to miss last night's readings. These nightly events are a highlight of the residency, a time to listen to my colleagues' and some faculty work and match names with faces, but my Monday meltdown had run into Tuesday and classmates were beginning to ask if I was feeling sick. I wasn't, but I desperately needed rest. Ten hours in my darkened bedroom of sleeping/waking/sleeping seems to have been just the medication I needed. Today: bright eyed, bushy tailed, so to speak.
Despite my exhaustion, though, my mind has been clear. Like last term, my experience this time is that I am becoming a better writer by just being here at the residency. (Whether that is reflected in these rushed early morning posts is another story.) Even in seminars more geared to other genres -- Monday I sat in on Janet Fitch's seminar about dialog in fiction -- I am absolutely deepening my understanding of things I already do well and/or issues that come up in my writing that have not felt authentic. Authenticity, it seems, is perhaps the number one key to good writing.
Yesterday, however, was less about craft and more about other aspects in a writers life. The day was filled with seminars on agents, developmental and copy editing, and literary citizenship. The latter was and is, to me, deeply interesting. I've previously written here about one of my MFA colleagues -- Allie Marini Batts -- and I want to properly celebrate her both as a writer and as a champion for vibrant literary communities. She is so prolific in her writing, and so passionate about wholeheartedly participating in the community, that it is difficult to know what link to provide. Here is a start.
Allie is receiving her degree this term, and as a graduating student presented a twenty minute lecture at this residency. She could have discussed any aspect of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing, but, not surprisingly, instead delivered a passionate and well-prepared lecture on the imperative need, if we are to be writers in the world, for us all to read, buy, and promote other writers. We need to write, yes, but we need, desperately, to read. To encourage others. To connect. The act of writing is a solitary activity, but writing is not a one-way relationship. A writer needs readers. Readers need writers.
Like in issues of craft, I believe authenticity is also the number one key to good literary citizenship. We must read what we like to read. Connect with other authors with whom we feel a connection. Frequent bookstores that we love. This is not high school, and there is no room for ego in a discussion of authentic relationships.
We must applaud writing that moves us, send out links to our friends when we are touched, write letters of support to authors whose essays strike us in one way or another. In this day of online communication and social networking, we must go beyond our isolated laptop. While reading writers that we admire, we ourselves improve. And by reaching out to them, we begin to weave a web of interconnection of support, encouragement, growth.