Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day Five - Residency Fever

Sorry we have been all so quiet. Residency fever has us all hot and bothered - about theme, about great children's books, about writing process, about being together in a community that I want to bottle up and take home with me.

But I know if I did I'd never sleep. In Jackie Briggs Martin and Liza Ketchum's workshop we mined childhood memories to write powerful sensory scenes that lay buried inside us. These residencies are like overwhelming sensory scenes that wash over us, full of laughter, tears, exhaustion and awe. I think all of us here - faculty and students - know how unique, how privileged we are to spend this time together twice a year. In a way it is like summer camp as Anne blogged about. One leans new skills, whispers into the night, sometimes even tears into one's pillow about not being good enough.

Last night I tried to write a post, but had no words to sum up the stimulating day. A presentation by writer Wendy Orr and illustrator Lauren Stringer about their individual processes that produced the delightful picture The Panther and the Princess, a discussion about girl heroines in Alice's critical thesis presentation, an evening of awe inspiring grad and grad assistant readings, followed by delightful conversation with first year students, laughter with faculty and a decompression conversation with my roommate Anne.

Five days into the residency and it feels like a fever dream that I don't want to end, but that if it doesn't, I may burn up from the stimulation of lectures, workshops, readings and fellowship with beloved faculty friends and old and new students.

As I try to look back, what stands out for me is the deep sharing on process this week. So appropos because our focus is theme. Betsy Partridge in her talk on "Kickass Nonfiction" talked about kotodomo (spelling ?) the idea that every word has a spirit, a soul. But we can only find those soul words, the themes in our writing by sitting down every day to write them. Betsy shared how she takes her primary research and weaves the details into her story, word by word. She talked about how when dealing with controversial or complex information she lets actual quotes do the heavy lifting.

This morning we return to our workshops after a morning off yesterday to cool down and recharge for the second half of the residency. Each workshop with fellow faculty Kelly Easton has offered deep and respectful discussions with student writers about each piece, focused on craft and also evolving into the process behind it.

Anne just came out to ask about her outfit for the day. She gave me a new word. Ineffable. Much of what goes on here is unspeakable, like our writing. But we try to speak, to share, so we have the hot spirit to return home to our work.

I must stop. My temperature is up. More from the front later. More for me to savor all semester long. CRM


  1. This is the last night of camp for me, and I have that bittersweet "closing campfire" feeling. It has been wonderful to come here and be fed with laughter, inspiration, and friendship once more. [I won't go into detail about Sorin food.]

    It was different coming back as alum: less pressure, but also less connection to the program. I loved the interaction with faculty.

    As much as I wish I could stay for the rest of the residency, I need to leave camp and go home. I take with me the inspiration and momentum to begin my next project. I leave behind my best wishes for all the July grads, as well as all the incoming students.


  2. Thanks for coming Deb!
    There are a lot of new words. My vocab list is almost 200 words long. And I can use at least half of them in a sentence now during critique. Yay, I'm finally learning.

  3. As I mentioned, Residency IV was a watershed residency for me, things just started to really gel. Claire, you asked me when I thought I realized that I was "really a writer" I would say that I have started looking at things differently these past few months, and it indeed came to a head after my reading, but I have a writer's eye now that I didn't really have before, and I think deeply about what I read in a way that is new. Residency is an amazing experience, and you are not alone when you feel at a loss for words on how to describe it.