I’m off to Los Angeles today for my master’s degree residency at Antioch University. It’s 10 days of seminars, lectures, workshops and readings, and while it’s exhausting, I am very much looking forward to engaging with other students and embracing the academic life. I’ve learned so much these past six months. I’m writing a memoir, and have had to dig deep within for insight and understanding. There was a time when I almost gave up. But with gentle encouragement and direction from my professor, I’m on the right track and feeling good about my progress.
As I wrote several months ago, I was stuck on how to structure the book when I first started the master’s program. One of the gifts I received in my first residency was the realization that there is no one, right, way to do this, and I didn’t have to have it all figured out. I could just write and the structure would come as it needed to, organically. Also, that experimentation was OK! It freed me to explore my experiences and reflect on them, plumbing them for meaning and depth.
Memoir is not a simple recounting of facts and happenings. It’s not an episodic account of events. It’s reflection on those events that allows the reader to come away with greater insight into the human condition. And perhaps some understanding of a universal truth the reader has experienced in his or her own life.
I have 18 months to go on this journey, and I am very enthusiastic for where it is taking me. It’s a two-year low-residency program, meaning I work from home during the six months between residencies. The professor/mentor is available by phone and online during that time. (If you’d like to know more, visit Antioch’s website.)
I’m switching from creative nonfiction to poetry for the coming six months, but will continue to work on the memoir. I also have a “field study” to complete, which is a project or internship with a non-profit organization of my own design. I’ll write more about that in coming days, and I’ll post here as often as I can over the residency. For now, wish me luck! I’m off to LA!