Almost exactly two years ago, I had my first writing workshop in an MFA program. It did not go well.. For the next month and a half, I was very unhappy. Maybe I didn't belong in an MFA program, as I was not good at (or interested in) digging deeper. One of the reasons that I was wait listed as opposed to accepted in the spring was because I did not have a literary background. My brain is not wired to think in metaphors, unless they are horrible extended metaphors that make people want to run away and live in caves or somehow involve toilet paper ghosts haunting the toilet bowl. The program was a lot of money, and I didn't have a job and felt guilty that Husband was paying full tuition for my second master's degree after he paid full tuition for my first one that I was not even using because I was unemployed. I considered dropping out. Fortunately, my friend Kim (who I knew before we went to New School together) stuck by me and encouraged me to get through the semester. (She later confessed it was in large part because she couldn't stand the thought of dealing with the fuckballs in our class alone.) I also had a lit professor who liked me. She had me read several of my assignments aloud in class, and not so that everyone could mock me, either. I gritted my teeth, bit the bullet, dug in my heels, built some trenches to defend my turf, and made it through the semester. Things improved enormously after that, and I was glad that I stayed. I enjoyed many of my classmates, found a mentor or two, and learned a lot. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, I think.
In fact, I learned so much that I somehow managed to win the nonfiction category of the New School's Chapbook Competition. The judge, Maggie Nelson, said that my stories about my grandfather intertwined with my trip to Treblinka this summer, is "fine writing, marked by an uncommon generosity." In the spring, the New School will print 250 copies of my chapbook and host a reading for all the winners (one per genre). (Here is where I admit that I am not sure what having a chapbook means because I'm still not really in the literary world.) I'm just so excited and proud of myself, and of course grateful to everyone who invested their time in me and helped me learn more about writing.
I did my grandfather proud.