About a year ago, I decided to do two things: 1) find an agent to represent my manuscript and 2) apply to grad school to get my MFA. Today, my residency packet from Antioch University Los Angeles arrived in the mail!
I've been running to my mailbox every day after work to check if it was there. My friend and oft-times writing partner, Elizabeth, thought this was cute, and said it was like I was waiting for my owl from Hogwarts.
A lot can change in a year. Last spring, I wasn't sure if I would find an agent or that I would get into any grad school programs. I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in New York City or head back West, where I'm from. I just knew that I wanted to invest in myself and move forward with the work that's always called me: teaching and writing for young people.
In large part, I felt ready to jump at these goals because of my writing group. We've been holding critique group meetings every other week at a Panera Bread for a few years now. Sharing our work, our triumphs, our stumbles, is both healing and hilarious. We're currently voting on an official name-- and I'm sad to say that Bread Poets Society is already taken on Instagram. One member of our ranks has just had a terrible week, so it's been determined that the next critique meeting will be followed by comfort food.
Writing has always felt powerful to me on a personal level. Making something from nothing. It's something that I've always done-- first just for myself, in my head, then in special notebooks tucked away. Writing was a way to make myself feel solid and real. Then, when I was in middle school, I realized that writing had another power. I had a shy friend who went to another school. Eventually, we'd be at the same high school so she called me in the evenings and described all of her classmates to me. She told me that sometimes she could go a full day without saying a word to anyone. She just listened to everyone talking around her. I started writing a story to amuse her called, pragmatically, "Shannon's Predictions of Events to Come in High School". In my story, she talked. She talked to me, and to the boy she liked, and because I had no idea how to end a story I think there was some ill-conceived Twilight Zone ‘they were living inside the marble the whole time!” kind of ending. But she thought it was funny. I felt so powerful making her laugh with my story, and imagining all the possibilities of the future, even if they seemed beyond our grasp right then, gave us both hope, I think.
I find that I still do both things. I write for myself, to process things. But also to find understanding with other people. To find a way to be vulnerable. To be of service to others.
Now, as I get ready to go back to school, while simultaneously revising my manuscript with my amazing agent (!), Serene, I can't help but feel nervous about what’s next. But when the self-doubt and the nerves arise, (what if I’m not good enough? what if it doesn’t work out?) I come back to the reasons why I do this work, and I want to push myself to get better.