By Deri Ross Pryor, Graduate Assistant
Here we are at the beginning of yet another wonderful semester at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. As each new semester approaches, I’m filled with excitement for what it has in store for me, as well as a bone-deep fear that I won’t live up to anyone’s expectations, most of all my own.
I believe that combo of excitement and fear is a normal, even necessary, component anytime you find yourself going after something as important as your dreams. Even more so for anyone in the arts, since tastes are subjective, and deep down we know we cannot please everyone with what we produce, but yet we press on. The excitement keeps you going and taking chances; the fear keeps you humble enough to keep learning and growing. Somewhere in between is where the magic happens.
It’s much like walking a tight rope, and success comes in finding your own unique center of balance.
One thing BGWS does so well is help you find that balance. Of all the low-residency MFA’s I researched, this one gives so much more than it takes. It’s small enough to feel intimate, almost family-like, yet gives as much as any other program out there. Students are treated as individuals, and are given the tools to pursue their own writing path.
Over the winter break, many of us had the privilege of attending the BGWS Winter Residency in Lexington, Kentucky. We had talks by several amazing and generous writers, two local artists bringing the written word and visual art together, and one firecracker of an agent.
Most of all we had each other, a chance to meet face to face with old friends and new; to talk, laugh, commiserate, and encourage. Every residency is a chance to learn, as much from fellow students as from the faculty and guests.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting blogs by residency participants who will be sharing their thoughts on what we experienced and the guests who came to us. Each of us takes away what spoke most profoundly to us, so it is exciting to see things from the prospective of fellow students.
Here’s to another semester of searching for balance and success!
By Kelley Davidson, Graduate Assistant Emeritus, Bluegrass Writers Studio
Are you already nervous about Winter Residency 2k16? Don’t fret. I made it through my first “rez,” as us seasoned Studio folk call it, and I have a few bits of pertinent advice for you to keep in mind as you prepare for next year’s rez.
On Being Social:
First of all—break the ice, and do it fast. Unless you want to spend your lunch breaks eating sad sandwiches all alone in room 417 at the Hilton, I recommend that you get to know your fellow students ASAP. Go to brunch with your professors or have a drink with some classmates that you don’t know down at the Bigg Blue Martini.
You have to spend a week with people, most of whom are complete strangers, so don’t be shy. The first reception is going to be a little awkward but I promise: you’re going to make it through this. Take advantage of how alone you are, and how new and foreign everyone and everything is. You’re a free bird! Did somebody call Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Go to the receptions! The people who don’t enjoy residencies are the people who aren’t mingling enough. You’re given a valuable opportunity to hang out with some very cool, very successful individuals. Let their energy rub off on you. Pick their brains. Have fun. That being said, don’t have too many drinks at the receptions.
Seriously. Don’t live like me.
On Taking Care of Business:
Balance is really important at rez, and can be easily thrown out of whack if you aren’t prioritizing your experiences, or as I like to call it, Taking Care of Business (TCB). Make sure you set aside time to TCB each day. Rez is fun, but its not all fun and games. You’re still graded on your participation and you have work to do for workshop. Pay close attention to the assignments that your instructors have listed on their syllabi.
Do your best to stay on top of your work for the week, unless you enjoy raking through piles of illegible notes that you “kind of took” during someone’s craft talk in order to piece together a panicked response 15 minutes before its due. You are an ADULT, now do your HOMEWORK like one. Put together a little to-do list and keep track of it, and attend as many craft talks as you can. Leave those bad habits (ie: procrastination, complete denial) back in undergrad where they belong.
While you’re locked inside your hotel room plodding away at your assignments like the grown person you are, this alone time is also perfect for you to get some good, old fashioned “chillin’” done. Watch the History Channel, Skype with your best buds, or take a nap (my personal favorite choice). Relax, reflect, and order room service. TCB.
Wash your hands, invest in some supplements, and drink more water than you think you can physically swallow. I was sick with a cold during the first few days of rez and I only made it out alive because of my strict diet of zinc lozenges, mineral water, and weird hippie teas.
If you do get sick, please please please do not come into the Magnolia Room coughing on everybody and spreading your germs all willy-nilly. Stay in your room. Stay away from me.
Also, remember to eat your vegetables if you want to stay healthy and avoid Residency Pants, a condition caused by consuming all of the rich foodstuffs around the Triangle Park area. Symptoms of Residency Pants include increased double chin and only being able to fit into your leggings.
I am a teenager when it comes to money: irresponsible and constantly avoiding my bank statement. I am a self-proclaimed jet-set pauper. But even I managed to save up about $400 for my 10 days in Lexington and I came home with about $150, having eaten out almost every meal (and tipped 20% or higher). I didn’t do too poorly, so I’m going to get all Suze Orman on you now.
When you get your financial aid package, try to set aside a chunk of money and put it in a fund for winter rez. Don’t you dare touch it, and add to it as you can afford. This way, when you can’t find a roommate when you’re booking your hotel, you don’t have to worry about being short on cash. Remember that there are also going to be books for sale from all of the lecturers, and they run anywhere from $8-$25 per book. You will want to buy a few, so plan for that.
Remember that writing is. And if you attend all the events with passion, residency will be too.
Published on December 22, 2015