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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

By Cindy Behunin, Alumna, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Although my time at EKU ended this summer, the Bluegrass Writers Studio has stayed very close to my heart. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true. I have learned so many things from the faculty and visiting authors at residency that it has been difficult to narrow down the most important, but here are my top three:
  1.  While sitting in a one-on-one at an outdoor café, my professor Derek Nikitas told me something I still think about. I was trying to explain my frustration with my finished thesis and how I felt it was unusable. He looked at me and instead of laughing at my obtuseness he said very matter-of-factly that it was my work and if I wanted to butcher it (cut it up) and use a piece here and a piece there that was my prerogative. Talk about a “duh moment.” There were aspects of my thesis I like very much and want to explore. Of course I can farm it out into various future projects.
  2. During Winter Residency I attended a reading and workshop by Rigoberto Gonzalez, a flash nonfiction writer and poet. I wasn’t particularly excited about going because I didn’t think there was anything he would share that would help me, a novelist, but boy was I wrong. Julie asked him a question, I’m pretty sure for my benefit, and once again a whole world of opportunity opened up to me. She asked about writers who wanted to share a true life event but who were concerned about the ramifications. He explained that what he has done is to write “laterally” about the event. He would change a few things so that it wasn’t obvious that it was about something true.  I went on to write and improve a short piece I’d begun that is currently under consideration by a fantasy journal.
  3. Jan Beatty, also at Winter Residency, shared with us that she is not what she writes about in her poetry. This point was also given to me in a one-on-one conversation with Alissa Nutting during Summer Residency in Lisbon. Just because I write about topics that many would consider controversial or taboo doesn’t mean that I only write, or think, or live those things. I am not a one dimensional writer who only puts to paper the things I agree with. My thesis is an example of this. I am not my thesis any more than Jan Beatty is a man-hater or Alissa Nutting is a pedophile. We are writers.
The numberless lessons learned while plowing through my MFA has made me re-think everything I thought I knew about writing and myself. All I can say is thank you for stretching me and making me a better writer.

Contact Information

Kristen Thompson

Published on November 03, 2014

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