Suzanne Stempek Shea with readers at a recent event.
My home in the Western Massachusetts valley is rich with writers living and dead. I regularly park my car at the meter below Emily Dickinson’s bedroom window. Errands and events take me past the Eric Carle museum, and also the house that belonged to one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The only positive aspect of going to an oral surgeon during childhood was that his office was on the same street where Dr. Seuss grew up. Opening the door to a local bookstore, I once nearly smashed into the poet James Tate and a group of his students. Recently waiting to pay for a futon cover at a furniture store, I found Jonathan Harr in line front of me in line.
Around here it’s hard to swing a laptop without whacking into any local ink-stained wretches – or successes including enough whose mantels heft Pulitzers or Caldecotts or National Book Awards. So it would be natural to think we scribes of all sorts socialize, that we attend a writers’ club much like the Elks or the Moose or the AMVETS clubs that dot the landscape. But there isn’t one. Or maybe they’re just not telling me about it.
Stonecoast MFA graduates, Summer ’13. Photo by Helen Peppe (www.helenpeppephotography.com)
By Aaron Hamburger
Graduating with any degree can be a time of nervousness as well as excitement, but when your degree is in fine art, particularly the fine art of writing, sometimes nerves can outweigh the joy of accomplishment.
The summer after I finished graduate school, I sank into a deep self-questioning funk. What did I do now? Where could I turn for advice? Who was going to hold me responsible for meeting my workshop/packet deadlines?
The readers for ‘Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC’: Elizabeth Searle (in pink scarf); counterclockwise from Elizabeth: Bobbie Ford, Cristina Petrachio, Nora Grosvenor, Alexandria Delcourt, Kristabelle Munson, Lindsey Jacqueline, Richard Squires, Alexis Paige.
Backstage in Brooklyn at “Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC”—a lively Nov. 2nd reading—one fellow reader asked us all, “Is anyone else here nervous?”
Among the all-star group of Stonecoast students who each performed their work with verve, no one could say, No. The onstage energy crackled accordingly. While it may take a toll, “performing” written works can be an exciting and enlightening experience for writers willing to give it their all.
Our next Stonecoast Northeast event is called “A Night at the Theater” and will feature a fusion of theater works and writers who “bring it” to the stage in reading performance. The event takes place December 20th, in the Poet’s Theater series at the Armory Center for the Arts in Somerville MA. Stonecoast alumni, author, and Poet’s Theater curator Richard Cambridge will host. Like me, Richard finds energy in combining the literary and the theatrical to try to create something new. Continue reading →
So now it’s your turn to share your thoughts. As readers of the Stonecoast Faculty blog, what are the topics you would like discussed? What insights would you like to read about from faculty? Are there any specific questions you would like to have answered? Do you have thoughts on the posts we’ve shared thus far and/or direction for future posts?
In the comments below, please share your thoughts and opinions about anything and everything related to the Stonecoast Faculty Blog. We look forward to hearing from you!
“For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me.”
Who hasn’t wanted to use Halloween as a chance to show off a different, hidden side of oneself? Perhaps this explains all the “sexy” Halloween costumes for women and girls: sexy nurse, sexy fire fighter, and my personal favorite, Sassy Rick Grimes (though I myself would prefer a “sassy” Darryl Dixon). For children, whose lives are constricted by parents, teachers, and friends, this instinct is especially strong. Alternatively, costumes can give children a chance to not only face their fears, but also to become them, and thus conquer them.
Costumes also offer an opportunity for writers to reveal their characters. For the use of costumes to be interesting, the outfits must do more than simply telegraph aspirations, or provide a chance for literary acrobatics in their description. Rather, like everything else in fiction, costumes must be chosen and used to serve the story. R.J. Palacio’sWonder (Knopf, 2012) and Deborah Wiles’ Countdown (Scholastic 2010) offer two different ways to use costumes to advance the plot and the emotional arc of their stories. Continue reading →
When I went out into the publishing market four years ago, I had a newfound agent and two book manuscripts for sale: a China memoir about the years my young boys and husband and I lived in Beijing, and a novel manuscript about a woman finding love in Paris. I’d had the good luck to sign an agent who believed in both my books. Not every agent who was interested in my memoir was interested in my novel. One agent was keen on the novel and not so much on the memoir. But I believed in both books. Deeply. I couldn’t forego one at the expense of the other. So I needed to trust myself to find an agent who would stand behind both projects. I kept talking to agents—I reached out to a dozen and talked to a half-dozen and then I found the fit—a woman who understood both my book projects and was behind them entirely.
Like most writers I know, I’m constantly beset by the gnawing anxiety that I’m a fake.
These feelings have become only more acute, not less, as I’ve racked up credentials to prove I’m a “real” writer. My CV is dotted with publications and prizes. I faithfully show up to my laptop or notebook six days a week. Most importantly, the translation of my experience into language is the fundamental way I relate to the world. And yet, in my darker moments, I am still convinced that at any minute I’m about to be found out for the writing humbug I really am.