Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ready for Winter Residency?

Countdown to residency! Lady Emfak, the current Inkpot wrangler, went to the MFAC Facebook group and asked current and former MFAC students to share memories of and advice for surviving a winter residency, both in the classroom and at the hotel, Bandana Square Best Western. Most of the posters’ names have been removed for the transition to a public forum. Here’s what people had to say:

  • If you don't mind the cold, you should definitely walk with Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Great way to clear your head and to get to know these excellent professors. 
  • I've always really dug the Bandana Square Best Western. The converted train station has a vibe that syncs up well with late night debates and debauchery. 
  • Jackie Briggs Martin: I'm not trying to tempt fate and call down avalanches of snow, but I will say that I'm up for the walk. Got boots, gloves, hat, down coat, backpack. Let's meet in the lobby in six days. 
  • I'm in!!:) 
  • Also, stay at the hotel - you might find something cheaper 20min away but it's worth the extra money to be with everyone. Conversation, bonding, opportunities to tell inappropriate jokes to your professors (I'm talking to you Andrew Steeves) is the one of the benefits of this program:). 
  • Urgent care right next door! 
  • Bring your insurance card even if it makes your wallet bulky. Otherwise the grouchy people at the med center will charge you an insane amount of money for a step test. And they won't accept a copy of the card faxed from home, nope, it has to be in their hot hands. 
  • Write your ass off. Drink wine while writing your ass off. The faculty lounge has the best wine, so find a way in there.
  • Pack sweaters. 
  • While you do need to prepare for the cold outside, keep in mind that it is usually very, very warm INSIDE, so wear layers. 
  • Go to all the things. Talk with all the people. Drink all the wines. 
  • Excellent advice. 
  • LOL. 
  • Leave a snifter of brandy outside your hotel room for the ghost. 
  • Serious note: start taking vitamin C at least five days before leaving. Stay hydrated. 
  • Bring enough of your favorite beer or wine to share, and socialize! 
  • Or, just steal the snifter of brandy from in front of that one hotel room.
  • Um, also read your workshop materials in advance and DON'T LEAVE THEM AT HOME. 
  • Anita Silvey: Thinking of you all, have a great residency 
  • LOL, Zachary Solo Wilson. I'm on it this time. 
  • Sherryl Clark: If you come from where I do, buy thermal underwear 6 months in advance (can't buy it in summer here). But I have to say one of my favourite things about winter residencies was the snow and walking to and from campus and listening to it crunch under my feet! 
  • Also, snow emergency rules. And if you're going to ask your dad do get your car out of hoc because you have your lecture the next day, be very grateful for a long time. 
  • If you don't like to be too hot--and the thermostat in the room is as low as it goes--ask the desk. They can turn it down more. 
  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone, in the myriad ways that applies. These are your people. You will not find a more supportive group. 
  • I'm not sure how the Bandana Inn will function without Gina D. keeping the manager informed about problems with the hotel. Oh, and be careful, the bartender has a volatile temper. 
  • Pray they have hired a new bartender. 
  • Bring one notebook to take notes and a second notebook for the many new ideas you will get. 
  • Sleep when you can. and try to exercise to give your mind and body a break. The gym at the school is better than the 'gym' in the hotel. But in a pinch... 
  • I am so excited! 
  • In terms of mental preparation, I'd say the best track is to abandon all expectations and let the experience of residency be what it is as you do it. In other words, open yourself up to loving certain lectures on the schedule that you might have skipped if this were an optional conference. And for Pete's sake, don't go into workshop looking for anything other than what you're given at the table. The unpredictability of residency is one of its biggest strengths. 
  • Oh, and since what I wrote there has nothing to do with January residency in particular, I'll add that the cold is predictable. Super predictable. Bundle up, y'all. 
  • Be nice in workshop. Do not suggest big changes that amount to you rewriting the piece--it's not yours, it's the writer's. Talk about its strengths, not just the faults or weaknesses you see in it. 
  • THINSULATE is an awesome thing to have in your gloves and hats. Though I have never enjoyed a winter residency, I used to spend Novembers outside in six inches of snow wiring holiday lights at work, and Thinsulate stuff is a godsend. Also insulated overalls, but even just wearing an extra layer under your jeans is helpful. Don't touch metal with your bare hands if it gets below zero. That goes double for licking a flagpole. 
  • 1. If you're not used to the cold, you won't be prepared enough. That saying, be over prepared. 2. Talk to the faculty. They may look mean and intimidating because of the word "Faculty," but they are the most gentle, friendly, and nurturing faculty you'll ever meet. 3. Don't stay in your room, like everyone says--socialize! 4. They are no me, you and I's--only us and we. 4. That saying, although there are class and groups, there's no room for cliques. We all have the same goals. We are all in this together. We all want to write good literature for the kiddos. 5. Share your secrets--writing secrets that is. And, learn some. 6. The best thing about winter residency is that you're cooped up. We(The Fearless Four) were fortunate to have upper classes to want to get to know us. It felt good. And, we were humble enough to open and and admit that we didn't already know anything. That alone led to life long friendships. 7. So, be open for friendships, wonderful faculty, sharing secrets, wearing long johns, and drinking lots of wine. 
  • Bring a good travel cup for tea or coffee etc. Ginko's will let you use your own -- those paper cups don't keep anything warm for long. 
  • Also, I almost always read the workshop pieces at least twice. Once for general impression, and once for craft stuff. The couple of times I only read once, I didn't learn as much, and wasn't able to give feedback that was as thoughtful as I'd like. 
  • During my first residency, I heard someone playing the violin. I actually stood on the bed to hear it better through the vent. Later on I learned it was the legendary violin-playing ghost. 
  • Also participate in the readings! You will never have a more supportive audience! 
  • There's a ghost? 
  • There are many ghosts, Anne. The ghost of residencies past, the ghost of residencies present, and, worst of all, the ghost of residencies future. Who usually shows up just as the bar is closing. 
  • And the best residency advice I can offer: give your adviser a thank you gift basket of cheese and wine. They more than earned it. (Unless your advisor is Laura Ruby, which calls for vodka.) 
  • The ghost likes brandy to go with violin concerto in D. 
  • Don't listen to JJ, you guys. My advisors always preferred the Caribbean vacations. 
  • Last winter I had them turn OFF the heat in my room. Yes, OFF. It was so blasted hot in there I could barely breathe. I am from the Twin Cities, so I'm used to cold, but still. And whatever wine you put in the fridge isn't enough. Double it. 
  • Head for the library early to find those books your own library doesn't carry. Then read and write for your reading list in a few spare moments. Enjoy the atmosphere and the facilities, and buy a Hamline souvenir in the bookstore--where all of the faculty books can be found (and maybe a sweatshirt or t-shirt). It's a great place to be and you can do laundry, but if so, it's only your own! 
  • Yes, to add on to Connie Heckert, there are laundry facilities, so you don't need to pack much. Leave extra room for books, and I always bring art supplies. 
  • Anne Ursu, I believe it was A Lafaye who told me about the ghost. This was way back in 2009.

1 comment:

  1. I stayed in that hotel in 2008 and it did have a whistling ghostly train sound all the time, no matter what. When we asked the desk if we could switch to a different room, she said they were all like that. So I'm thinking the ghost has been there awhile. I guess they don't die off, naturally.