Tuesday, May 8, 2012

thesis defense

One of my friends who graduated a bit ago described it best:  the MFA hangover.

There is a something-like-slamming-into-a-door about the aftershock of the defense.  I'm generally not nervous at readings, probably because there are always other readers, other reasons for the audience to walk away content if I muck it up, and I only have to read what is just there, written on the paper.  A little storytelling, yes, but ultimately, it's about the quiet of the words on the page.

In this case, there are questions peppered at you:  little pings that dredge up decisions you'd forgotten you'd made, a focus on something you'd long moved beyond or never even considered.  On the way from town to the cities, I shook at the wheel, then forced my husband to drive from his work to campus, the car full:  my parents, who drove ten hours that day just to see the sliver that was open to the public, my daughter, who spent the majority of her time on campus shrieking up and down the abandoned hallways, and that husband, steady at the wheel, and me, jamming gummy worms into my maw like a nervous bird.

I came away with some really solid suggestions on revision:  as an MFA thesis, it shines, but as a manuscript for publication, it could stand to grow a bit.  My second reader, fiction-writer Julie Schumacher, discussed some of the very things that had been niggling at me, elements of character and the pitch of the whole thing.  Mood, tone.  And that end-note poem; I had been so set on it being this two page poem called "Out of Sequence" that has the final lines:  "Iasdflkjasdfl / asldfjfsdaj."  But that's not it, and after discussing it with Peter Campion, my thesis director, and Julie, I know now where I want to drive the ms.  I just need to find a span of quiet time to do so, and I suppose I need to recover from this little degree-toting hangover I've gotten.

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