Last Class

I always love the last week of the semester because we spend the entire class reading student work. Throughout the semester, all of our classes are conducted in the same format: the students sit in a semicircle around the professor. But during the last class, we students take turns sitting in the professor’s chair when it’s our turn to read our work. I don’t know why, but this always seems to formalize the process: it reminds you that you are writing for a real live audience; that the words you compose are not for you alone. I think that in order to write effective fiction, you can’t ever forget that.

In both my classes this year, the caliber of fiction I heard was outstanding, and I felt really proud to be included in such a great group of writers. The diversity of voices and narratives reminded me once again just how many rooms there are in the house of art. I heard stories about broken families, death, love, pet stores, an ice house full of witches, an old man making his last run on a jet ski, the Marines, autism, classic cars, a taxidermist, baseball, and so much more.

After class, we went out to the bar(s) down the street from Columbia. I spent too much money, drank too much beer, and stayed out way past my bedtime. But that’s one of the best parts of an MFA program: the friends you meet. The obvious benefit of the program is that it’s helped to improve my writing, but another thing I’m grateful for is that it’s also helped to me step outside my normal social circle and get to know people from all over the country and from all walks of life. The friends I’ve made in my program are as diverse as their writing. It’s funny, because as a high school teacher I noticed how quickly friendships form for my kids over the course of a school year. Young people are constantly meeting each other and building relationships, some of which will fade, but others which will become lasting friendships. But when you grow up and become an adult, you have your established friends (and I’m lucky to have an amazing group of those already), but you don’t really meet new people or make new friends the way you once did.

But going to grad school, and especially arts school where it’s basically a requirement to lay your heart on the page each week, changes all that. I know that many of the relationships I’ve formed over the past two and half years, both with teachers and fellow students, will carry on in my life long after I’ve received my degree.

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6 thoughts on “Last Class

  1. Derek Johnson

    That is so true about new friendships. When you’re young the bonds take on a certain strength because you experience so many "firsts" together. As I have gotten older I notice that new friendships seem to be largely based on having matching schedules, habits, or career pursuits. But, in the classes where I heard my colleagues fiction and read quite a bit of my own there was something added to the tensile strength of the bonds; some sort of a tack weld that made everyone have to acknowledge that they shared something close to their own heart with folks who were complete strangers on September 6th.

    As far as the end of the semester goes I usually have one foot out of the door a week early. I can’t help it, I’m a closer.

  2. Laura Marcella

    During finals week in my college creative writing classes, we’d hand in our portfolios and everyone chose something from their portfolios to read aloud. We’d stand at a little podium. That was scary! I hate public speaking, especially when it’s my own work, so I’d always volunteer to go first. Then I got it over and done with and could enjoy everyone else’s stories. My senior year, one of my professors had us all come to her house for our final readings. We set up blankets in her back yard and read our stories and ate pizza. That was really fun!

  3. Eliza Evans

    The end of the semester is always the WORST for me. I feel like our workshops create these communities and it’s surprisingly difficult to leave that behind. This semester was obviously super tough for me. I really look forward to reading what you write in the future.

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