We were greeted at the orientation by representative members of the three writing concentrations offered: fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. The fiction guy was Steve Heller, chair of the department, so he went around and greeted everyone and shook hands and was genial and sort of majestic in that authority-figure sort of way.
He gave a speech whereby he promised us that participation in the program would change our lives. Those are the words he used. “Change your life.” I have to admit, I’m always skeptical when presented with claims of that magnitude. I can think of some ways in which I would like my life to change, and even more in which I don’t want it to change at all, but I also know that I’m terrible at predicting exactly what I’m going to take away from any given experience. I have a terrible habit of thinking negative, cynical things when presented with a situation (like, say, every single workplace “bonding” event to which I’ve ever been forced to go), spending my entire time at the event faking happy while secretly hating everyone around me for being so cheerful and gung-ho and myself for being such a miserable cuss, and then reflecting back on the experience later and admitting that I did get some value out of it. So…while I doubt I’m going to lose 20 pounds, become an extreme extrovert or suddenly become famous and sought-after, I’m sure that there will be a lot to take away.
Steve Heller left after his little speech, and was replaced by the heads of the poetry group and the creative nonfiction group. Ms. Creative Nonfiction got up and gave us a very helpful presentation about how our time will be spent over the next two years: ten days of orientations, lectures and writer meetings, followed by five months of working one-on-one with our mentors, doing a bunch of assigned readings and online book discussions with our groups, and completing papers. The the floor was turned over to Ms. Poetry, who talked for a long time about the “average” number of lectures people attend (we’re required to take 7, but most people take between 17 and 20 – I’m signed up for 22) and how it’s important to listen to your body and eat your normal foods like yogurt and fruit, get enough sleep because this whole process is so magical and that everything we’re doing here is going to change us as people and I thought she was going to break into Kumbaya.
I was happy to discover that I was not the oldest person in the group, nor the fattest, nor the most-tattooed or pierced, although I was the most-married. I was not the only harp player, not the only chicken fancier, not the only coffee hater…in short, I was in no way the odd one out, which is just where I wanted to be.
Lectures start tomorrow, bright and early at 9am. I’ll be interested to see how it goes.