I don’t particularly miss the start of the school year. I wasn’t popular in school. I hated homework. But this year, for the first time in quite a few years, I’m going to school again and I’m actually excited.
On Thursday, I begin a class with the Great Smokies Writing Program. I have been eyeing their classes since I moved here one year ago. My first hurdle was to become a legal resident of this state so as to pay in-state tuition. To me, I wasn’t “official” until I had a North Carolina drivers license and North Carolina license plates. According the the application for the program, I wasn’t “official” until I had lived in the state for one year. As of August 22–after more trips to the DMV than I care to admit–I’m legal on both counts.
The second hurdle, though, was scarier to me than the ladies behind the DMV counter. The words on the course description were clear: Instructor’s permission required for admittance. I was to e-mail the teacher. With what, I wasn’t sure. And so it was that I set out to write my second-ever “pitch.”
The class in question was for “intermediate” writers. Am I an intermediate writer? I wondered. After speaking with a few friends, I realized I certainly wasn’t a beginner. And the next step after beginner? Intermediate.
So on Sunday night–a mere four days before the class was due to begin–I got up the nerve. I combed through blog posts and articles deciding which to send. Reading things I wrote in my first writing class five years ago, I realized how much I had improved in that time. But would this man think I was good enough for his class?
I should note that my potential teacher is the head of the Great Smokies Writing Program. He teaches in not one but two Master of Fine Arts programs. He has written more than a few books and was just voted Best Creative Writing Teacher in western North Carolina. What was going through my head? That line from the old New York Lotto commercials, “Hey, you never know.”
So on Sunday night, I sent off my request: How I’d walked a five hundred mile pilgrimage across Spain. How I had 50,000 words written so far. Links to my posts on Busted Halo. Four pages from my draft.
On Monday morning, his response contained the words, “I love this” and “I have one opening in my class.” I was a little stunned.
Prior to five years ago, the only writing classes I had ever taken were forced upon me. I read Odysseus and wrote papers about the virtues of his long-waiting wife Penelope. I memorized the first paragraph of Moby Dick (and still, if pushed, can recite the first line). Prior to 2008, the last “creative” piece I wrote was probably for Mrs. Farina in sixth grade when our assignment was to describe our bedrooms. I’d written a line about the radio tower lights I could see blinking over the Catskills outside my bedroom window. I can still see her red-inked compliment next to that line. A smile crosses my lips when I think about how much that single compliment meant to me.
Prior to that, my greatest writing joy came from my mother’s laugh at a Christmas poem I had written in which I referred to “Holy Mother Mary and her husband Joe” (It was a rhyming poem. The previous line ended with “snow.”)
At some point, I deemed my writing only good enough for diaries. I hid them from the prying eyes of my siblings: under mattresses, in filing cabinets, and between winter sweaters stacked in my closet.
And then, my voice came out again: on the campus of the John C. Campbell Folk School. My classmates–complete strangers–complimented my style. Upon my return home, I got brave enough to read stories to my family after Easter dinner (much scarier than reading them in any public forum). And when friends asked me to write a book, I said, “No way. But how about a blog?” And five hundred of you liked it so much you subscribed to it.
The story now has a new chapter. On Thursday I will take my seat in an Advanced Creative Prose Workshop. And for the next fifteen weeks, Thursday nights may just be the best night of the week. Homework and all.