Acknowledgements

Y’all know that I am finishing my graduate school thesis. That’s all I seem to talk about on here.

At this point, I’m about 90% done with the thesis and 90% done the preface for the thesis.

I am 0% done with the abstract, 0% done with the acknowledgements page and 0% done with the bibliography. I do think the abstract and bibliography will be relatively easy though.

The acknowledgements though? It scares me. Why? Because I am too grateful. I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know if there is a limit to the amount of pages I can include for this section. I’m thankful for every moment I wrote about in my thesis. I’m thankful for ever person who influenced the manuscript. I’m thankful for all the schools that denied my fiction application when I applied as an undergraduate even though it broke my heart. I’m grateful for the nonfiction graduate class I signed up for at Umass Dartmouth even though I wasn’t a student, just to get my writing juices flowing. I’m grateful for Christina McCarroll who taught the class and all the amazing students who read and helped me hone my nonfiction craft (I’d never written a lick on nonfiction before this!). The two main stories I wrote in this class became my application for the seven graduate schools I applied to. I’m beyond grateful for being accepted to every one of those graduate schools. That is by far one of my favorite life moments. I was so proud of myself. I’m so thankful for Michael White, my program director. Fairfield was tied for first place on my wish list with two other schools. I’m grateful that Michael recognized my talent and was the first school to accept me (only a few days after receiving my application). I’m fortunate for all the students I met in my graduate school career. I couldn’t begin to thank them for their encouragement, their suggestions on my stories. I’m beyond thankful to the MFA gods for giving me Phil as a big brother and Daisy as a little sister in the program. I’m still thankful for earning the Trueblood Award my first residency (now called the Truben Award) and also for being voted the graduation speaker this last residency. I am eternally grateful to all of my mentors: Lary Bloom, Joan Connor, Porochista Khakpour and Kim Dana Kupperman who worked one on one with me over my four semesters. For the teachers who guided my workshops: Kim, Lary, Da Chen, Leila Philip, Baron Wormser, and Marita Golden- their guidance unearthed some of my best impromptu writing, all of which made it into my final thesis. I’m grateful that Baron will be my second reader for my thesis, and I cannot wait to hear him read my words as I walk across the stage to accept my diploma. I’m thankful that Fairfield led me to Phil (my big bro), Trueblood (yep, the award was named after him) and Linsey, as we formed the Masshole Writers Group. The stories I’ve written have changed sometimes very dramatically with their suggestions. Plus, we go out to eat when we critique each other’s work and I love food. I’m grateful for GChat, which allowed me to brainstorm with my school friends at times I might not have been able to easily communicate. I’m grateful for everything Ender’s Island. That place is the perfect place to study creative writing. That island will always be one of my favorite places and it as a place has truly opened me up. I’m actually thankful that I broke my foot on the island during my third residency. It taught me to rely on others, something I don’t know I ever really knew how to do. I am so glad to have worked on Mason’s Road, Fairfield MFA’s literary journal since my first semester. I was a nonfiction reader for three issues and this semester I am serving as the co-editor with my incredible MFA little sis, Daisy. Mason’s Road has greatly impacted my writing. Reading other people’s work is a great way to expand your knowledge and to see first hand what works and what doesn’t work. It has helped me critique and edit my own work. I am eternally grateful to the people outside of the program who have supported or assisted me in any way. I have to thank Kate for editing assistance. I’m thankful for all my friends who encouraged me, or scheduled plans around my busy schedule. I’m grateful for my family for not only encouraging me, but also being characters in my manuscript. I’m thankful for Mr. O’s family and friends who understood if I wasn’t able to go to dinners or get-togethers because I was too busy writing. I’m grateful for Wolverine’s excitement about graduation and the amount of homework we both have to do. He graduates Kindergarten in June (and he still is quite shocked that he graduates before me!) and my graduation is in July. Not only that, but I have to thank Wolverine for completely changing my life. The combination of school and Wolverine in my life has taught me more than I ever could learn about forgiveness and parenting. He has opened me up to selfless unconditional love. He’s helped me learn and grow, and I love him so much for that. I couldn’t end here without acknowledging the person who has probably been my main support throughout this whole experience: Mr. O. I’m thankful for all the times he cooked dinner or cleaned up the apartment or went places without me all so that I could write. I’m grateful for the times he sternly told me to do my homework– he’s the best dad. I’m thankful for the suggestions and perspective he gave me on my writing. I’m thankful that he’s honest and willing to tell me something doesn’t work, or he doesn’t get the point I’m going for. I’m glad he doesn’t judge what I say as he’s probably the only non-school person to read the stories. But besides the actual work, I’m so grateful that he supported me emotionally as well. He pushed me when I wanted to give up, he held and kissed me when it all felt too overwhelming (and then he made me stop crying and start writing.) The biggest thing he did was always keep put things into perspective for me.

Can I acknowledge myself? I’ve written what is now a 114 page manuscript (that could change a bit before May 1st). Wow. That my friends doesn’t account for all the other numerous pages I’ve written and revised in the past two years. It doesn’t account for my preface, for my craft essays, for my graduation speech. It doesn’t account for my class I’ll teach. It doesn’t account for the notes I’ve taken, the stories I’ve started but never finished. I’ve completed (almost) a manuscript, and I need to pat myself on the back as well. Good job, Erin.  I’m proud of you.

Well, I guess acknowledging wasn’t as scary as I thought it could be. Now all I need to do is edit, remove the zillion adverbs and it looks like I might be at least 90% done on my acknowledgment section as well.

just thinking…

  • So last week I wrote about a horrible man, whom I thought was a pretty evil character. Mr. O was kind enough to send me this article about an even more horrible human being, so I figured I would share it with you.
  • My MFA Big Brother Phil has put me to shame. When he first started blogging, he asked me if I had any suggestions. My advice was: Write often. Who cares if you think that you have nothing to say, just say anything…eventually you’ll have a lot to say. Well, folks. At this point, Phil’s blog has evolved into what I’d like to call a Rock Star Blog. He’s posting pretty much every day, and people get upset with him when he doesn’t say anything. I think I have to take some of my own advice.
  • Two nights ago I had three wonderful humans come to my house for a writing group. We’re called the Masshole Writers, and I’m so grateful to be part of such a rad team. When we get together we chow down; this time we had a Chinese and Lebanese food buffet. Then we settle into workshop mode and go over each other’s submissions. There are two fiction writers, a poet, and me- the nonfiction writer. It is refreshing to workshop with writers out of your own genre.
  • Woah, I don’t think I made a super amazing announcement on my blog yet! (What the hell is wrong with me?) Porochista Khakpour will be my new faculty mentor for this semester. (Cue the parade and confetti and balloons!) I am F-ing PUMPED, folks. I’ve always admired Porochista, but assumed that because she was hired as a faculty member for the fiction genre, I wouldn’t get the chance to have her as a mentor. Well, this is just another lesson that nothing is impossible. I’m fortunate to be in my 3rd semester now for graduate school, and we spend the majority of the next few months working on a “project.” I needed a spunky, funny, enthusiastic teacher to advise me this semester and Porochista is my gal. I’ll give you details about the project in a future post, because I might even need your help!
  • Mr. O and I want to go on a mini vacation in September, but our choices are very limited. Both of our birthdays are next month, which also happens to be Hurricane Season. So cancel almost all southern states and Caribbean locations. Any suggestions?
  • On Friday, I’ll be attending my last wedding of 2011. I am pretty excited because I have a dark purple dress I have been DYING to wear somewhere. One of my close friends from high school is getting married to a fabulous guy. I’ve heard this is going to be a good time. Can’t wait to find out.

welcome new friends!

49 go on a cruise (9)Ola, amigos. Have you recently found your way over here from Kyla’s blog? If so, welcome! Make yourself at home. I bet you’re wondering, “Who is this Erin character?” That’s a good question. The easiest way to get a brief overview of who I am is to check out the “About the Girl” tab at the top of this page. However, I’ve provided a short list below cause I like to make things nice and simple for you.

  • I’m afraid of bees. However, alligators are my favorite animals.
  • I am a graduate student studying creative nonfiction and I do a lot of whining about how I procrastinate too much. (I also don’t have good grammar on this blog, beware!)
  • Besides my day job, I have a part time gig as a relief worker for adults with mental illnesses, and I also coordinate and plan events such as weddings and concerts.
  • If I told you that I was a great cook then I’d be lying to you, and I really am an honest person. I can however tell you that I want to be a good cook one day. My boyfriend makes fantastic meals; he’s teaching me what he knows, and the rest we plan on learning together.
  • I think everyone really should have a lucky number and a favorite color.
  • I also really want to know people’s middle names.
  • If it wasn’t for 20 Something Bloggers, I don’t know if I would have continued to blog since I first started in 2008. I also owe a lot of my blogging gratitide to my 101 in 1001 goals list and NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo and Grace in Small Things as well.
  • I love everything about home improvement. However, I do not own my own home. Still, I fantasize about home design projects and knocking down walls and painting and everything that could have to do with houses.
  • I love to travel. Anywhere.

And here are some of the key players on this blog:

  • Mr. O: The most wonderful man in the world (at least in my eyes). As corny as it may sound, Mr. O is my boyfriend and my best friend. I tend to profess my love for him on here. Sorry, folks.
  • Fairfield University MFA Program: I write a LOT about my grad school experiences, and on top of that, you have the chance to get to know some of my classmates, like Phil and AJ and Reuben and Brooke.
  • Fenway: My Chihuahua/Terrier mix. She’s a rescue dog I adopted while living in Virginia. She definitely keeps me on my toes.

Oh…and these things happen often around these parts.

  • The Defining Moments Guest Series: So far Amanda, AJ, Phil, Brooke, Reuben, Heidi and Kat have all posted about moments of reinvention or inspiration. This series has been a big hit for my readers, and I am always looking for more people to write a guest blog on this topic. You don’t have to be a regular blogger to do this. Kat wasn’t a blogger when she first wrote her post for me… now she has a Tumblr. There are two more guest bloggers that will be coming up this week. One of them has never blogged before, and probably won’t again (unless I can convince her to write another guest post!).
  • My Lessons- The Thoughts on Love Series:  Now, I’m not an expert, but I’ve been thinking a lot about love this year…what it takes to be in a relationship, choices people make, how other people can affect your relationships, etc. I started this series to share my observations, thoughts and feelings.

comfort

Good morning, folks. It’s 3:00am and I cannot quite get back to sleep.

I read my first two books of the semester. I’m hoping to write the craft essays for them today. I want to get some creative writing done too. I know I still have a little while until my first packet is due to my mentor, but I joined a new writing group, and I also need material for that. I toyed with taking an extra semester in grad school- an option we have so that we can build our manuscript- but after thinking about it long and hard, I’d ideally like to graduate with my own class. I’m still open to staying for an extra semester, but as of right this second, my goal is to graduate in July of 2012. So soon! Didn’t I just start graduate school? Anyway, my original point was that I need some creative material for my mentor as well as my new writers group. Both are going to be due within a week of each other, so technically I could use the same stuff, but I think thats cheating myself a bit. I’d ideally like to submit some first drafts to my writing group and then have a month to revise and rework them before I send them out to my mentor. Which makes this time- the first submission for both entities- double the work. I think that is why I am a bit nervous. I just feel as if this is the semester where I should really constantly be pushing out new material. I don’t even care so much about whether its good or bad. I just want to have options. I’m concerned that my ideas for a third semester project are going to leave me little time to submit creative work to my mentor, and the fourth semester is going to really be about putting together a manuscript, not starting from scratch.

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I plan to write a collection of essays or a full memoir for my thesis. I don’t see a direction for a complete manuscript. I think I feel a little more comfortable writing a series of connected essays, but that is what makes me nervous. If there is anything I have aimed to do in graduate school it has been to shy away from my comfort level. And that has only brought me wonderful gifts: the Trueblood Award, becoming the Nonfiction Student Representative, amazing friends…. I think about that all the time sometimes, about these people I’ve met through school. It has only been about 6 months that I’ve known my classmates and teachers, yet I have some really strong connections with some of them and deeply care about many of them. Just six months. Isn’t that amazing?

When I broke my foot during this past residency so many people just swooped in to take care of me. Of course that left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I mean, I have no problem being the center of attention, but I’m familiar with being the caretaker roll, not the person who needs to be taken care of. Again- the same issue- my comfort level. Yes, having everyone concerned about me made me a bit nervous. And yes, I did try to keep a “tough guy” act going. “I’m fine; no big deal” I’d tell them. But many of them saw right through that. My friends let me feel as independent as possible, and then always seemed to be waiting in the shadows and ready when I needed them. I’m in love with my friends. Its true. I’ve been blessed with some of the most kind, caring, funny, pain in the ass, sarcastic, open, talented, opinionated, free spirited, wonderful, fantastic friends in graduate school. When I was trying to figure out where to go to school, just one short year ago, I read a quote by Elizabeth Hilts on the Fairfield website. She said, “It’s like finding my tribe.” She is exactly right. It is just like finding my tribe. When I started the program, a friend commented that maybe I would “meet” my special someone at school. I don’t think this is exactly what she meant by that, but I did. I met many very special someones.

Like I was saying previously, I’m not sure whether I will choose to do my thesis in essays or attempt a full memoir, but I’m going to just “trust in the process.” I’ve always gotten exactly what I needed. More importantly, I’ve always made the best decisions for myself with school in mind.

wrap up

It is not as easy to write a “wrap up” of my winter 2010/11 residency experience as it might seem. My brain is so fuzzy, I still don’t know what day it is. AJ and Phil do a pretty good job of summing things up on their blogs.

Good news: I’m working with one of the teachers I really wanted for my mentor: Joan Connor! Woot Woot! I am very excited about this. Phil worked with her last semester and in every conversation we had about the semester, he had something great to say about his experience with her as his mentor.

Bad news: I broke my foot. Seriously, I did. I broke it. The second to last day I needed to be taken to the ER and left with crutches and a strong warning to stay off my high heels for a good 12 weeks. (It hurt just to type that sentence. No… my foot didn’t hurt- my heart did) I’m also under strict restrictions for the first two weeks. Pretty much everything is outlawed. No driving, dancing, walking, ice skating, skateboarding. No nothing. If I behave the first two weeks, then I might be able to get a walking cast, but still no driving, dancing, etc for 6-8 weeks. No heels for the whole 12 weeks. No heels?  I still don’t quite understand. I am so lucky though to have an outstanding friend at work who is literally going to drive me to and from work for the next two weeks. Have I mentioned that she and I live a good hour away from where we work? I appreciate her so much.

Conundrum: Whether or not to attend the regular 10 day residency at Ender’s Island in July or a 7 day smaller residency in Galway, Ireland. At first glance, I’d tell anyone they would be silly to not jump at the chance to go to Ireland, but I’m confused. One thing seriously holding me back is the strong community we have on that little island. I know I could visit for a day or two if I chose the Ireland trip, but its not the same. I really don’t know what to do. All I do know is that I need to make this decision quickly.

Exciting news: I’m the Nonfiction Student Representative for my entire program! I will be working with Taryn and Colin over the semester to make sure the student’s needs are being met and questions are being heard. I’m pretty excited about this. I think I have a pretty good relationship with the administration, and I really care about the future of this MFA program. Also, I will be working with Aaron Perkus to develop my own page on Digication (Fairfield’s professional networking/storage/experimental/educational website platform). I’m excited because I think both him and Michael have some interesting ideas as to how we as students can utilize this for professional, educational and personal reasons. I’m excited that I can be one of the first students to mess around with it.

Searches: Someone found my blog after searching for “Trueblood Award” on Google. Umm, I thought I was the ONLY person who googled the TB Award? Well, out yourself. Who wants more info on the Trueblood Award? And what did you find about it on my blog?

I’m going to Atlanta to see the Emersons next weekend…. with a broken foot. I’m not quite sure how I will manage the airport. Wheelchair? Oh, no.

intention

So, I’ve got this thing… It’s called: A GREAT LIFE.

I feel the most myself here on little Ender’s Island during my graduate school residency. I’m surrounded by brilliance in so many shapes and colors and sizes.

There are the teachers who have published remarkable books and memoirs and poetry. The teachers who are passionate about sharing what they know of the craft. The teachers who not only want to help you grow as a student writer, but as an individual- someone who will influence the world in small and large ways. The teachers who are cheerleaders, motivating us whether or not we’ve ever stepped foot in their classroom or their seminars. The teachers, who might write in a different genre than us, but are devoted to our survival and success and honestly invested in our writing and goals for this program and beyond. The teachers you get to know on a personal level. They ask how my dog Fenway is, congratulate me on the birth of my nieces, inquire about my new job.

And the beauty. The beauty of the river as the sun sets in the morning, the snow, the sand, the rocks, the waves, the buildings, the chapels. Pictures will follow for sure.

My peers are remarkable individuals from all walks of life- accountants, teachers, psychiatrists, waiters, census employees, nurses, recent college graduates, people who got their first degree 50 years before, CEOs of large corporations, travel writers, stay at home dads, drummers…. I was blessed with the best FU MFA family. My “big bro” and “little sis” feel real to me, like we share the same cells. I love them. I admire them. I want to emulate their goodness and intelligence.

The biggest lesson this school has taught me and I have absorbed in every cell of my body is to trust in the process. Kind of like a whatever is meant to be will be kind of thing. I don’t questions things here on the island. I don’t worry about who I will get as a mentor or what I will do over the semester for example, because I know that I will get exactly what I need…and I am sure of that. I feel it and know it deep down.

I need to start bringing this feeling and acceptance and intention into other areas of my life.

Today has been a beautiful day. Starting last night: I ate a scrumptious dinner with great friends, listened to three amazing faculty readings (one of which my my mentor from last semester whom I admire more and more and more every single time I listen to him), and then partied the night away with faculty and students on a gorgeous island. We counted down the seconds until 2011 (one of my favorite moments every year) and then I followed my MFA little sister’s Cuban heritage by having 12 red grapes and taking a moment to reflect and think of a goal, well less a goal and more of an intention. I stood up until 5am, woke up early  and then ran into the water with a bunch of other crazy writers for the Polar Bear Plunge. I felt alive. I had lively discussions at lunch, came back to my room and relaxed and landed in a conversation with the wonderful girl across the hall who’s determination and dedication to her writing I admire. I didn’t leave the island to go get a coffee or photograph the Mystic bridge or get some more floss like I had planned. I didn’t nap like I really should have.

I also didn’t complain or worry about everything I didn’t do like I normally would have. Why? Because I was present in every moment of this day. I am alive and experiencing everything- an unexpected conversation, tea instead of coffee, pretzel M&Ms, the rush and burn of the ice cold water- the ache in my shoulders and back mostly because I need some more rest. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do, but I did do everything I should be doing. Trust….in the process….

I have very mixed feelings about resolutions. I’ve mentioned here before that I really like new beginnings in all forms. The first of the month makes me happy. My birthday and new years start my life fresh for me. Weddings, babies, graduations, etc= all fresh starts. But resolutions always feel empty to me.

So…my intent? I intend to be a more dedicated student and writer. I intend to “trust in the process” in all areas of my life. I intend to love my friends and family deeply. I intend to remember to also love myself deeply and treat myself kindly. But most of all… I intend to be brave.

If I had to sum up 2010 in one word, I’d probably choose Change or Opportunity or something in that regards.

For 2011? In 2011, I want my word to be Brave.

whats my name, again?

I have stitches.

I very well might be taking out my own stitches while I’m away at school.

It will probably happen on New Year’s Eve, the day before I do the Polar Bear Plunge.

I thought about all these facts tonight, and I just realized….

I am pretty damn hardcore. Like I’m pretty much rockstar material. Damn Straight.

I’m still the Trueblood Award Winner until January 5th. I’m gonna keep acting like one until then 😉