Last week, I was in Madison, Wisconsin, a scenic place with a great university and a writing...program.
I'm not sure how to describe UWisc's Writing Institute, except to say that it offers affordable critiques and classes for local and distance learners, and that it is wonderful.
The premise of my workshop was simple: spend time reading the first fifty pages of seven other writers' novels, and critique them in class amidst a host of exercises, revisions, and one-on-one time with the instructor.
I'm pleased to say that I met a talented group of authors working in multiple genres. All of them had connections to Wisconsin, except me, of course. I'm un-pleased to announce that my health did not cooperate and that I spent a lot of last week turtled up under the covers of my Airbnb rental, considering whether eating Chef Boyardee--again!--would be harmful to my health.
I learned a lot and I'm ready to revise the beginning of the novel. I think that setting the foundations and using the insights revealed last week will also help the middle and ending of the book. I hope that my fellow attendees also found our workshop helpful.
I don't care if it's a writer's conference, a philosophy conference, or a comicon-type event. Conference-going is overwhelming and scary. Here are some tips, organized by time:
I'm not fantastic at the whole 'leave your life behind' residency concept. I've gotten better at managing my time since my first residency here in Chicago, or, even more laughably, my first residency at Goddard College, where 'manage your time' meant playing Hearthstone in bed and looking for edible food. (First semester of MFA residency sucks, guys. You're looking for a way around while trying to figure out why they accepted you while juggling a mountain of workshops and tasks...)
But I'll admit that I do other work while I'm at residency, try to find time to do art when I'm supposed to be writing, and even keep up some scheduled commitments like student council meetings, Aisthesis scheduled events, and paid work. That's not because I'm a malicious person. It's because I see my time at home annoyingly expended the most by mundane chores and errands, and when I'm out of town, those vanishing is a huge win.
Someday, when I'm even better at residencies, I'll do it. I'll shut off my cell phone--okay, except to call home so my mother doesn't send a search and rescue party--and tell everyone I'm unavailable and stop answering emails. But right now, the work I do is important to me, and I can't shut off things like my classes workload without incurring a huge time penalty later on. The goal of a residency--for me, right now--is to carve out a different niche in time and space for my work. I don't cheapen that by overcommitting to 'other' activities. Nor do I diminish it and risk burnout later by turning off the rest of the world.
So, without further lead up, here's a list of what I plan to do this week. I wrote it before I left, so even though I'm in medias res as I type this, I haven't modified it at all. I'll post when I get home and let you know whether I was successful: