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:
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.
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.
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.
Published on November 03, 2014