Author & Teacher

The End is Nigh

The end of my time at UBC is coming much faster than I expected.

It seems strange to title a post this way, since my last one was welcoming a new year – a beginning. (I know, so much for updating often.) My writerly friend Sonal just blogged a great post on doing too much, and when I saw that she only had six weeks between posts, not two months, I knew I had to get on it.

The subject of Sonal’s blog – taking on too much – is so familiar. I feel as though that’s the life I lived since starting my MFA at UBC. In the last two years of the program, I also worked closely with Coteau Books on Clearwater. What’s the saying? Jack of all trades, master of none?

Now that my time at UBC is coming to an end, and the novel promotion has slowed down (for a bit – it’s about to get crazy again), I have swaths of time where I can write. And yet, I’m not. I find myself frantically seeking connection – with friends, students and family.  I’ve come to the realization that through these people, I’m actually looking for reconnection – with myself. And the self I was in 2011 is no longer there, so things are a bit off-kilter. Re-integration has not been easy.

Back in 2010, I wrote this post about recharging and refilling. I think that’s where things lie. I know what I need to do: wrap up my thesis when Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee are finished commenting on it; work on the YA novel I’ve started; get some work out to lit mags. I have authors waiting to be interviewed, books waiting to be read and reviewed, submissions to read for PRISM. 

I have a new project brewing, but I can’t seem to grasp the genre, or even the intent, yet, and so it languishes, a motley collection of phrases and notes and improvisations. Too personal in some ways, not personal enough in others. Or, I’m just not a brave enough writer to get past the fundamentals, the technique, and allow the story to play out in its own voice. So that’s on my mind as I move on.

UBC’s Creative Writing program is renowned for its strength in workshopping, yet I chose and scheduled my classes in such a way that I have shared very little of my deepest writing with my peers. It’s so easy to do that when you genre-jump. Translation? New to it, so I have deniability – never did this before. Playwriting? Pure fun, taken with a strong, talented group in which I was so clearly the rookie, I had nothing to lose. An independent study with Joseph Boyden? Workshopping with a single person, and a professor at that, is much different than in a class setting.

But with all that pretty much behind me, what is left standing are the relationships I’ve built with my peers through those classes. Such fantastic writers and friends from all over the world: South Korea, Japan, Toronto, Vancouver, Wisconsin, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Whitehorse, Vancouver Island, Gibsons and Calgary. I’m grateful for all of them – worth their weight in gold. 

In terms of moving on craft-wise, over the past month or so, I’ve been taking a short story class from Zsuzsi Gartner through Sarah Selecky’s website. It’s a fantastic bridge between the UBC classes and heading out on my own.  Zsuzsi has turned everything I ever thought about short stories upside down. (*Note to those in Joseph’s 2011 summer short story class – I know how to do a dual POV short story now! I get it! I’ve changed my mind – they can work!) Working from the sentence up, the class makes me want to tear apart my old stories and rewrite them. Add that to my list of things to do.

So, it’s clear that there will always be too much. I don’t think that will change.
For three years I’ve been anxious to apply the lessons I’ve learned to my own work.

The time has come. The end is, as always, a beginning.


Book of the Week: Road Ends by Mary Lawson (finally!)

Song of the Week: Mae by The Gaslight Anthem

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