So, I receive my graduate degree in a couple weeks. I was thinking tonight about the demanding, rigorous, difficult, labor intensive, and utterly amazing experience I’ve had the past two years. I was fortunate to be in an amazing program at SNHU. My “job” was to write a book. It was exhaustive and challenging, but today I have a book. It needs another thorough scrub or two before I start shopping it, but it has been vetted by some of the most brilliant writers and teachers I can even imagine.
This is my homage to some of the amazing faculty of Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program. Some I only was able to have amazing conversations with. Some enlightened me in workshops. A few were my mentors, and they bled with me and imparted knowledge through every word and sentence.
Katie Towler, your ability to bring a setting to life leaves me awestruck. Your serious demeanor hides a playfulness, and you are famous to me. I attended your workshops at every one of my residencies, and walked away from each with umpteen ideas to improve my writing.
Rick Carey carries a kindness of spirit that belies the fierce and accurate critical eye he brings to any writing. Your understanding of the human condition is evident in your work, and you convey it to your students as well.
Merle Drown was my first mentor. Captain Merle may possibly be a better teacher than he is a writer, and that is saying something. I have “get him up a tree” taped to the wall in front of my desk. Merle endured the absolute mess that was my early draft and firmly guided me.
Craig Childs was my man crush. I enrolled in the program because I read the Animal Dialogues. Any page of his writing contains at least five sentences I desperately wish I had written. He was my second reader, and I was terrified of offering my lame and trite descriptions of our natural world to him.
Matt Bondurant kicked my ass. He told me he was going to, and he delivered. We debated and argued, and he demanded that I justify every word. He forced me to evaluate the story I was telling, and it is better because of that. My baldness is still better than his.
My literary deity is Jessica Anthony. Her bottomless bag of Jedi writing tricks kept me going. I have had many great teachers in my life. She is arguably the best. Her knowledge of literature is only outweighed by her passion for the writing process. All of the time and money I invested in my MFA experience is justified solely because I got to talk writing with Jess Anthony.
Jacquie Mitchard and I had a heartfelt conversation about writing and children and tragedy while walking to the dorms. Ann Garvin showed me how to find the honest humor in the worst of circumstances. Mitch Weiland disected my work with clinical precision and discussed how to reassemble it. Wiley Cash wrote a novel I put in my top five of books I wish I had written, and then we talked about it.
There are other faculty equally deserving, and the cast is forever changing. I thought I was a writer when I applied to the program. I’ll soon have a piece of paper that says I’m a writer. My experience with these remarkable writers, teachers, and people makes me conclude that I face a lifelong pursuit. It is a pursuit they prepared me for, and I’ll dilligently work at my craft because of their example and tutelage.