Yesterday was the beginning of the spring semester fiction class at the Virginia Museum Studio School—and I was there! Why? I might say “Because I am a perennial student.” Depending on the dictionary, the definition of perennial is some form of lasting for an indefinitely long time: extending over several years, persistent, recurrent, etc. But that is a label, not a reason.
It’s practically a cliché that writing is a lone activity. I find classes add the social dimension to writing. I never met a boring writer! I meet interesting people with similar interests and (usually) similar world views. Thus there is the potential to develop friendships.
Classes stimulate me to write in new directions. Yes, I write when I’m not in class, but it tends to get habitual, not to mention sporadic. In the last few weeks I have had three stories accepted for publication in 2019.
“Culture of Complaint and Commiseration” will appear in Big Muddy, the literary journal of the Mississippi River Valley. It is a story of women bonding over the struggles they face.
“Rambling On About Uncle Leonard” will appear in Pretty Owl Poetry. This is a single sentence of 688 words that describes an old man and his context.
“The Doll” will appear in SLAB. It borders on horror, beginning when a woman finds an empty baby stroller in the middle of the sidewalk, in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night.
Besides celebrating these acceptances, I mention them for two reasons: they are three very different pieces of writing, and each began with a prompt or assignment in a writing class.
Classes are structured to make me write regularly.The VMFA studio classes meet three hours per week for twelve weeks in the fall and twelve weeks in the spring, with shorter offerings in the summer. Tuition is a real bargain, when one looks at dollars per hour of instruction! Just saying.
My teacher of choice for the last two years has been Amy Ritchie Johnson. Her in-class timed writing and assignments are tied to the basics of the craft. All three of the forthcoming publications mentioned above started in her classes.
When I write regularly, I also submit regularly, at least six times per year. This leads to lots of rejections, but without submissions there are no acceptances.
Most of my life has been spent in classrooms, as a student and/or teacher.Classes are my natural environment, the one in which I thrive. Classmates and/or teachers praising my writing is extremely gratifying. Every time I get something published, it’s like an A on my report card or a star on my forehead. With more than 50 publications in literary journals and anthologies, my writing life is sufficiently star-studded to make me smile.
Of course I’m a perennial student! Join me!