Tag Archives: Southern New Hampshire University

Graduation Vacation

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My family: Miranda, Dean and Morgan.

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So I finally did it. This June I graduated with my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. It’s been a dream of mine for over twenty years. Why did it take me so long? Well, while I was raising my children and teaching full-time I never had the money or the time. Tuition isn’t cheap and teaching small children is mentally and physically exhausting.

Going back to school, especially at SNHU, was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I worked with the most talented writers, my wonderful mentors Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katherine Towler, and Ann Wertz Garvin. There were many more I would have loved to work with if only the program lasted another two years: Wiley Cash, Mitch Wieland, and Craig Childs, just to name a few. I recommend this low residency program to all who are serious about their writing. I had so much fun while honing my skills.

New Hampshire is such a lovely state with some of the nicest people. After graduation, my family and I took a vacation while there. We went to beautiful Portsmouth. Everywhere we looked history was preserved in this pristine seaside town. One of my friends, Sophia Easterly, also a SNHU grad, played our tour guide. I’ll attach some photographs to give you a little taste. We went to Strawberry Banke and back to Star Island for a farewell visit. My husband and daughters wouldn’t mind living in the “Live Free or Die” state if it wasn’t for the harsh winters. We’re from West Texas where it rarely gets below freezing. After we returned from our trip we visited Norman, Oklahoma, where my daughters live. It was lush and green there, too, though hotter than New Hampshire. Once back home we arrived to dry heat of over one hundred degrees. Now we’re looking forward to retirement and moving away from here. I could handle Oklahoma and living closer to my girls.

Now that I’ve graduated and completed my novel, what next? It’s time to find an agent. I have two editors who’ve said they’re interested in my YA novel Daughter of the Bride. With one a smaller publisher, I wouldn’t necessarily need an agent, but my published writer friends have warned it is essential to have an agent to protect my interests. So while I’m waiting for news on possible (nothing is guaranteed) publication, it’s time to seek out that special agent.

In the meantime, I’ll work on a sequel and dream of greener pastures.

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Portsmouth sunset.

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Downtown Portsmouth.

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Sophia and Steve showing us the gardens at Strawberry Banke.

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In a Funk

I haven’t written a blog since December. Once the holidays are over I get in a funk. I stay inside my house hibernating from the rest of the world. Nothing I’ve written seems worth posting. I’ve even begun to wonder why I started a blog in the first place. Everyone said a writer needs to have a blog. But why? I don’t like the idea of promoting myself.

Well, anyway, I’m going to try to get back into the practice.

 I finished my novel Daughter of the Bride and sent it off to my thesis mentor Ann Wertz Garvin and second reader Jacquelyn Mitchard. I’m anxious to hear back from them. I graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with an MFA in Creative Writing in June. Already made hotel and flight reservations to New Hampshire. My family is coming with me and we’re going to vacation in Portsmouth while we’re there. I’m excited but also apprehensive. I’ll miss the peer workshops and deadlines.

I’ve started on a sequel to Daughter of the Bride but have only ten pages. I guess it’s normal to feel drained of creativity after finishing one major project. I just hope it doesn’t last too long. I rework old short stories but have no new ideas. Just curious as to how many other writers go through this funk and what they do about it.

If anybody’s out there who has any advice, please leave a comment.

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Star Island Summer Camp

“Life may not be the party we hoped for but while we are here we might as well dance.”

–Anonymous

As I was growing up in the dry heat of West Texas I never went to summer camp; my parents couldn’t afford it.  While I remained at home, swimming in an above ground plastic swimming pool and blasting neighbors with water balloons, I heard of other kids packing large trunks in preparation of spending the entire summer off on one big adventure after another: archery, canoeing, macramé.  What an ideal way to get rid of your kids for a while!  So when many Southern New Hampshire University MFA students said Star Island was like camp, I had an opportunity to discover what I had missed as a child.

People stand on the pier greeting the new arrivals with the chant, “Oceanic, Oceanic, rah, rah, rah.  You will come back, you will come back.”  A bit corny, right?  But as I gazed on the wrinkled faces of the senior citizens I glimpsed a glow of time remembered.  They were reliving their childhood and, for a moment, it made them happy.  They were able to forget the morning face in the mirror awakening them with a start.  On the island their achy joints and sadness of a lost era were put on the back shelf of their vast memory.

Clichés come to mind: “youth is wasted on the young” and “you never know what you got until it’s gone.”  They’re clichés because they are so true.  The Pelicans, the young hired help on the island, were a constant reminder of what was lost and could never be found again.  They were the ghosts of Christmases past haunting the halls of the clapboard white buildings of the Oceanic Hotel.  They were as threatening as the sea gulls protecting their nests.  I began to comprehend why some of the elder islanders were so crotchety.  They rode emotional foamy waves on the glittering Atlantic, knowing their surface beauty had set sail off the face of the earth.  They felt cheated, robbed, and bitter.  They deserved more respect, more reverence, or they were invisible, ignored, forgotten.  They might as well be dead, merely echoing footsteps on the narrow wooden planked floors.

Sandwiched between these two generations, as I am with my parents and my children, I found myself scrutinizing my middle-aged body, forgetting its strength and the miracles it has performed by giving birth to two beautiful girls who are now beautiful, wise women.  Gazing on the smooth sculpted skin of youngsters, I wished I had spent more time relishing my own sleek body while I still had it all.  I felt sadly determined.  Though I wasted my youth, I won’t waste the time I have left on this planet.  I made plans to shed twenty pounds and considered plastic surgery.

Okay, I know it shouldn’t be all about physical attractiveness, but more intellectual growth and wisdom.  I want to grow old gracefully, filled with love and compassion, not nagging and complaining about the rambunctious noise-makers all full of life.  But I feel left behind after sixteen years of teaching kindergarteners and second graders, followed by ESL young adults.  I gave up writing and read only children’s books.  I raised a family during that time; that’s something to be proud of.  I can’t help the hormones, or lack of, that twist my soul inside out.  I miss those long-forgotten years and fear what’s ahead.  What’s a girl supposed to do?  Ride the waves of life and thank my lucky stars I’ve made it this far.  I am blessed and need to remember that.  So among the many lessons I learned at summer camp on Star Island is I can catch up by devoting the last half of my life to reading and writing.  Forget about plastic surgery.

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Pictures of Star Island and SNHU

Some of the sights you’ll see on Star Island.

This boat is trapping our lobster dinner.

The Art Barn is an excellent place for a Peer Workshop.

Yes, there’s an old cemetery on the island. Star Island is supposedly haunted.

An old church

More views along the way to Star Island

The MFA in Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University meets in the Robert Frost Hall for a few days before the residency travels on to Star Island.

The view while walking from my dorm to Robert Frost Hall.

Another view while walking on the SNHU campus

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Back to School

I haven’t posted a blog in some time—I missed the whole month of May—mainly because I’ve been busy working on my novel and other assignments for school.  But now that I’ve completed my second semester at SNHU I have a little time before the third semester begins.

I came as close to a nervous breakdown as one can without having to be committed to an asylum with my last assignment.  I spent almost three weeks on writing and perfecting three chapters—I’m what some call a diamond polisher—when suddenly my files were corrupted.  I don’t know how or why, but they were erased.  Stupid me, I had not printed the thirty plus pages nor had I saved them on anything other than my flash drive.   These pages were due in a week in a half.  I’ve never missed an assignment.  In fact, I’m usually ahead of schedule, not because I’m a perfectionist, but because I like to get things out of the way.  I don’t like anything hanging over my head.  Well, for two days I cried over my lost chapters.  I felt like everything I touched I screwed up.  When I opened the refrigerator door and a jar of tartar sauce shattered across my kitchen floor, I lost it completely.  After I made it past my crying jag and the swelling in my eyes went down, I started over.  I didn’t think I could rewrite those chapters, especially in a weeks’ time.  I surprised myself, but it was painful.  I did it in three days.  They probably aren’t as good as the original ones, but I’ll never know.  Since then I’ve gotten a back-up system in place and I print everything I write.  I’m not going to worry about saving paper and ink anymore; it’s not worth it.  I have about 75 pages left to go to complete my novel and I’m feeling stuck.  It started out as historical fiction, but since my protagonist is a teenager my mentors, Best-Selling Author Jacquelyn Mitchard and Katie Towler, think it will sell as a Young Adult.  Does that mean I have to cut the sex scenes?  I hope not.

In one week I will be headed to New Hampshire to begin my third semester in the MFA in Creative Writing program.  We spend a few days on campus at SNHU and then the rest on Star Island.  I’m excited and look forward to seeing old friends and classmates.  I’ll try to post some pictures from last summer’s residency.  Wish me luck, because I tried earlier and nothing happened.   I’m still trying to figure out how to work things on Word Press.  A fellow student has promised to give me some pointers when I arrive in Manchester.  I hope the weather is cooler there than it is here—100 +.  In the meantime, I need to brainstorm an ending for my novel.  Hum, should I leave it as a cliff hanger?

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Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa

The SNHU Winter Residency

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Second Semester Beginning

I recently returned from a wonderful week long winter (adore alliteration) SNHU residency at Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa in Whitefield, NH.    I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.  Other more industrious and talented SNHU writers—such as Kelly Gamble, Darren Leo, Charlie Stella, and Tyler Fish, to name a few—have already posted on their blogs their exceptional experiences and probably did so either during the week there or promptly on their return back to reality.  I’m a bit slow and now there is not much else I can say about the residency that hasn’t already been said.  So, I’ll try to make it short and sweet (Note the word “try”).

The hotel and its surrounding landscape were beautiful beyond belief.  Kelly called it her snow globe.  A few people reported seeing ghosts.  I wish I had.  I’ve experienced ghosts in the past, but it would be exciting to see another one.  The food was fabulous.   I gained a few pounds which makes it harder on me with one of my new year’s resolution being to lose weight.

The peer workshop with Katie Towler (my mentor for this semester) left me eager to get home to incorporate into my manuscript the critiques I received.  With such positive feedback, I feel my work is right on track.   All the workshops were spectacular, too.  Diane Les Becquects’ workshop on writing effective scenes and Katie’s on structure provided the vocabulary and tools needed to analyze my scenes as well as those of other writers.  Matt Bondurant’s enlightening lecture provided five methods on building effective action scenes.  Ann Garvin’s entertaining “The Synopsis” gave helpful strategies to tackle the daunting task of writing a clear and concise summary.  I also enjoyed internationally best-selling author Chris Bohjalian’s Master Class and readings.  Sy Montgomery’s reading and lecture were not only entertaining, but also thought-provoking.  Hearing these writers discuss their writing and thinking processes gave me encouragement about my own writing.

The new faculty members, authors Wiley Cash and Matt Bondurant, are incredibly talented and friendly; they’re a perfect fit to the other incredibly talented and friendly faculty.    And I can say the same for the new first semester students.  The camaraderie is phenomenal!  It was fun to catch up with fellow students I met last semester.  Top that off with making new friends, it’s like having an extended family of muses.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  Everyone fires each other up so that when we return home, we feel rejuvenated and inspired.  I was so fired up that just within a few days of being home I managed to edit ten chapters, write two, and write two blogs, read a tiresome craft book (Why I Write, edited by Will Blythe) and write the responding  essay (It wasn’t complimentary either.  I’ll post it as a blog someday soon).

Of course, working with fellow writers and developing possible life-long friendships is the proverbial icing on the cake.  I left the residency with renewed excitement and vigor to drive me on to another successful and satisfying semester.

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