And on the first day, God made snow. Day one of my MFA program at Lesley University got cancelled because of a blizzard. So much for auspicious beginnings.
And on the second day, I took selfies. In my hotel room. In the cab on the way to campus. In front of the Lesley University sign. The seven dollars cab-fare was, I discovered, a waste – I could’ve walked. But I didn’t know where the school was and I wasn’t about to go exploring. Hey, I’m from Trinidad: I don’t do snow. That shit is kryptonite to Caribbean people.
Then, I sat in my first class and felt like a complete poser. I had no portfolio, only the novel I was working on, pieces of which I had submitted when applying to the program. I had never been published. I had never read a “craft” book. I had never heard of “John Gardner” or “John Updike” or any other important, literary “John.” I didn’t even have a first degree in Literature. I was a lawyer who had dedicated fifteen years to pursuing her parents’ dream – a lawyer in the family – and now trying to figure out how to pursue her own lifelong dream of being a serious writer. I was also the only Caribbean person in the class, and the only one with a funny accent.
I had many reasons to feel insecure about occupying a space at Lesley University. The feeling didn’t go away, but it did diffuse over the course of that first residency. It became mixed with another feeling: gratitude. To be given this privilege of ten whole days away from the routines and crises of my everyday life, to do nothing but write and think about writing – my God! It seemed…prodigal! But, with every seminar, I learned something important about my own writing: how it was good, how it could be better, directions it could take. I also learned that this program was a safe place and that I was among friends. It was ok to say out loud: “I’m working on a novel”. Nobody was going to snicker or avert their eyes, the way people did in the “real” world.
But this wasn’t the real world; I had passed through the looking glass. Every night, I trudged back to my hotel, through the mounds of snow, past all of the twinkling and tinkling of Massachusetts Avenue. With the hood of my brand new parka up, new scarf muffling my nose and mouth, new Doc Maartens crunching the sidewalk, new knapsack heavy on my shoulders, I looked nothing like my “real” self. But I was happy and bursting with ideas. No matter how late I got back, I would unfold my laptop and try to write something, anything. Often, in between trips to the coffee maker, I would stand at the window and contemplate the lights strung across the bare-limbed, snow covered trees of a nearby park. In essence, Cambridge seemed to me a fantasyland – a place where anything was possible. Even me.
The SolsticeLitMag MFA Voices blog is a recurring feature. Here you can read thoughts, opinions and musings from creative writing MFA students across the country. Look for the blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on our website and share! We invite and welcome your comments, and if you are currently in an MFA program or an alum of one, we invite you to submit a guest blog related to the MFA experience for consideration.