Late Night Edition: Residency Day Two

I had every intention of going to sleep.

I really did.

Last night too. I came upstairs all set to go off to the land of nod.

Sleep came, but not easily and I am not exactly certain if I was sleeping at all or just dreaming about sleeping.

One of my friends reminded me that this happened last time to me too. The first few days or so I didn’t really sleep very well. So, maybe this is just part of my rhythm while at residency. We will know for certain next time around.

I’m pretty sure it has to do with the downloading of information we are getting practically every minute of the day. Although one can take a break (and we are encouraged to do so) I think that in the first few days, the excitement of seeing everyone again and listening to how everyone else’s semester went as well as processing my own, certainly gives me a lot to ponder.

Also, there are such interesting lectures. Last night Julie Larios opening night lecture asked us to ponder what a riddle can reveal about our universal truths. Sheryl Scarborough gives a good overview on Through the Tollbooth, check it out.

Today, Canadian superstar author, Sarah Ellis gave a very interesting and amusing lecture on the pitfalls of sentimentality; ending it off with a reading of Robert Munsch’s bestselling picture book, Love You Forever. Which is definitely the epitome of sentimentality (and creepiness).  It gave my friends and I must fodder on Twitter later on. I had an opportunity to speak with Sarah later in the afternoon. It was very cool to finally meet her. It is one of the wonderful things about being involved in this program…to not only meet people at the top of their craft, but to have the opportunity to work with them. (Silently crosses fingers).

Mark Karlins provided an introduction to the picture book, providing an over view of the structure of some of the classics such as Where the Wild Things Are.

Mary Quattlebaum headed up an excellent discussion about point of view, focusing specifically on first person and how we can avoid some of the pitfalls and cliches that comes from choosing what is currently the most popular pov for YA/Teens.

I also had my first workshop today, let by Amanda Jenkins and Jane Kurtz. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this session shapes up as everyone’s pieces have such interesting themes.  I love how one piece will springboard something in me about my own. I am not sure how they go about putting these pieces together in a group, but somehow it works…like magic.

My piece is scheduled for the 17th. It seems like a long way away.

After dinner, Alan Cumyn, Amanda Jenkins, Jane Kurtz, Louise Hawes and Coe Booth were the the faculty readings for the evening. Having just finished Tilt, it was pretty cool to hear the Alan read the first chapter and talk about writing it. I’ll have more on that on Friday on Through the Tollbooth. Coe Booth also read from her new novel releasing this fall. Amanda bravely read rough sections from an unfinished novel and Jane and Louise read some beautiful pieces from their works in progress.

The day ends with the semester groups splitting off to give us an opportunity to read our work in front of our peers. Later on in the residency, we can choose to read something in front of the whole class, but at first, we read to one another.

I fret about this all of the time. Mostly because we only have five minutes and it should be something that has a definite closure. I printed off the first ten pages of the novel that I worked on this past semester because I think it is my strongest work right now.  Then again, if the faculty can risk it and read things that aren’t “ready,” than I guess that I can too…

Still, everyone in my class is so brilliant. Each piece had something genius in it. I was consistently impressed by the humour, vocabulary, rhythms and voices that came from my peers. I only hope that I am contributing the same standard.

The final spot of the evening was free and so I took it.  It was a little scary to get up and read this novel out loud.  Not too many people have seen it and I had never read it out loud before. Like when I read at Banff all those years ago, it was an exercise in observing some initial responses to the work. I recognized areas where the jokes didn’t quite work so that will have to be tweaked, but I also saw where things were clicking. It is definitely an important process.

Tomorrow is registration and faculty interviews where we get to talk to the faculty about what their expectations are and to see who would be a good fit for us.  There are a couple of lectures in the afternoon and more readings in the evenings.

There is a very “in the moment” vibe about the residency. If you don’t have your schedule with you, it is difficult to know where the next step is. I find that I can only think in blocks of time. If I wish to do something specific, I have to take a step back and get grounded in another head space. It is an interesting thing to manage.

Now, I believe that moment is sleep.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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