This afternoon our Low-Residency MFA program starts its summer Full Residency class — 10 intense days of workshops, seminars, and readings. It’s been a ton of work to get it ready, and I hope everything will go well! All our food is ordered, and the restaurant reservations have been made. Workshop groups have been set up, and students have been exchanging texts. The syllabus is ready, speakers are lined up… now the time for prep is nearly over (okay, there are a few minor details to attend to and a little food to get), and then everyone will start to arrive (at least one is already in town).
That’s when the real excitement begins. It’s why we set the program up as a low-residency, not a fully online program, which may have been much easier. But seeing our students face-to-face, having a chance to host readings, workshopping together in the same room, trading ideas about how to live the life of a writer in our seminars, and generally just getting to hang out together, that’s what makes the program work as well as it does.
Online classes are great — and much better than they used to be — with video conferencing and discussion boards. It almost feels like you’re in a real class (except for the constant technical difficulties with the server or someone’s connection or software configuration — there will probably always be something!), but almost is never quite a good as the real thing. Yes, it takes an amazing effort to put it all together, and it takes our students an amazing effort to get here, but once we’re all in the same room, it really is worth it.
And this year, we’ll have our first two students defend their Master’s theses. We’ll get to sit down and talk to them about the exciting book manuscripts they’ve been working on — what may still need to be done and what successes and challenges they’ve had. It will be a bitter-sweet moment because it will mean they’ve completed a major project and completed the program, but it will also mean they’ll soon no longer be our students, but will remain our colleagues and friends. And a good number of the students in our program will be here to witness — not the defense itself, but the accomplishment and their public readings.
So let’s hope I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, and let’s hope there are no crises like last year (when a restaurant had to close the night of our reservation!). And no matter what happens, we’ll all have a great time!