Five of us are set to graduate, and amongst us, we span all four genre concentrations offered here at Whidbey: Joe Ponepinto (fiction), Kelly Davio (poetry), Ann Beman and Christine Myers (nonfiction) and myself in Children’s/Young Adult. Kelly, whom I’m rooming with, was just selected as one of the 2009 Best New Poets, an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs. Whidbey submitted Kelly’s poem “The Way I Remember” and it was selected by the 2009 guest editor, Kim Addonizio. It’s quite an honor. Kelly and Ann are also on the editorial staff of LA Review, along with recent Whidbey alums Stefanie Freele, Laurie Junkins, Tanya Chernov, and Nancy Boutin.
The lone morning class this rez for graduates is our pitching class: how to usher our work into the world of publishing. Since the program’s inception, we’ve been lucky to have the class team taught by Kate Gale of Red Hen Press and Andrea Hurst of Andrea Hurst Literary Management.
Kate is the best. In her introductory talk yesterday, she presented what she feels are the two most important rules for post-MFA writers:
Rule # 1 Create a writing schedule, writing as close to every day as you can. She compared it to any exercise program you’ve committed to, reminding me of Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which is essentially an comparative essay on the similiar dynamics revolving around writing and running.
Rule # 2 Follow a model for your writing life, which will help set your priorities and make your path moving forward easier. If you look to the great writers of the past, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman and Edger Allen Poe are possible examples of the three primary disparate models of a what a writing life can be. The decision of which one to emulate, in Kate’s view, is a no brainer and she illustrated it in a hilarious but telling way. If you decide to sleep with your 13-year old cousin and then leave her to starve, pick Poe. If you’re sleeping with your sister in law and are sure that she’ll publish your work posthumously after your death, select the Dickensonian model.
But if you’re willing to grow up, become a literary citizen and get out there in the world and do stuff, follow Whitman.
Six more days to graduation—time to get out there and do stuff.