Monday, February 27, 2006

Retreat Ruminations

My presentation to the folks at the Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat on Saturday was about writing who you are and writing child-centered children's literature with a little bit of creativity theory stuff mixed in. I had never been to a retreat before and decided to talk about things that mattered to me. However, now that I have been to a retreat, if I'm asked to do something like this in the future, I'd like to talk about something related to craft, as writer folks like to say. Meaning I'd like to give an instructive how-to talk.

About what, though? What does a writer talk about in front of working writers who have been to writing retreats, writing workshops, and writing courses? What does she talk about in front of writers who have M.F.A.s in writing for children and young adults? What does she say that they haven't all heard before? Kathy Dawson spoke about something that I didn't know about, but I'm at a loss to come up with something.

I probably shouldn't be worrying about this since I've only been asked to do something like this once in ten years. I've got another ten years to come up with a topic. In the meantime, I should just live in the moment.

Just About Over The Graduate School Thing

Today I was thinking about graduate school again. I actually took a graduate class about four years ago. I enjoyed it, and I did well. Seriously. However, the reading and writing for the course (on essay writing) took up all my writing time. All of it. I didn't write professionally for the entire semester.

I've heard rumors that the Vermont College program requires more than 20 hours a week of work, which would take a healthy bite out of my workweek. I've been told that the work can be my work, but still. Then there's the 12-day on-site requirement. I know I was all excited about being with other writers at the retreat, but that was for a weekend. And I had a really nice room. With a private bath. What are the chances of that happening in a dormitory in northern Vermont?

So then I was thinking about doing something closer to home. And maybe doing something on writing in general, not something specific to children's writing. I happened to hear an advertisement on the radio for the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University, which I knew offered some kind of writing courses because I knew someone who did the program years ago.

Now Wesleyan University sounds very...uh, private and exclusive. Here's the thing about their Graduate Liberal Studies program, though: If I read the website correctly, if you have a pulse and a bachelor's degree, you can get in. I think their requirements have actually gone down because I looked into doing this program ten or twelve years ago. At that time you had to write a three-page letter and have a degree. Now you have to have a degree and prove you've had your shots.

You know the old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to belong to any club that will have him? This kind of program is probably my only shot at going to graduate school because I've never taken the GREs. The GREs require math. I tolerate humiliation well, so I can accept whatever crap score I get on the math portion. But my question is, what am I supposed to do during the two or three hours that I'm actually supposed to be taking the test? Because I can guarantee you, I'm not going to be answering those questions. So I need this kind of graduate program. And yet...

Then, finally, whenever I read descriptions of graduate courses, even the ones on writing, I can barely make it through to the end of the paragraph. These things sound mind-numbing. I look at the descriptions, and I think, They're kidding, right?

So I'm just about over my desire for higher learning. If you see me on any college campus, you can assume that I'm lost.

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