Monday, August 11, 2014

Undergraduate Creative Writing Major on Her Internship with the AU MFA Residency

By Audrey Art, Creative Writing and Digital Media Journalism major

Audrey Art, David St. John, and Erika Gallion at the MFA Residency

When Joe Mackall pulled me aside after my writing workshop and told me about an internship at the AU Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing residency in July, I panicked. Then he unexpectedly rushed me downstairs to Sarah Wells’s office and he left me there to listen to her explain the job description. I was petrified and eager all at the same time. Essentially, it sounded like the perfect deal. I was going to get to meet well-known writers and people who had the same interests as me who were pursuing them in an MFA, all while getting to sit in on readings and craft seminars. I remember thinking at the beginning of the residency that I was getting paid way too much for two weeks of work. But by the end of those two weeks I understood why they decided on the amount they did. I was exhausted and slept for what felt like a week after the last Saturday.

When I walked into Bixler at 8:00 in the morning on the first day and saw fellow students Erika Gallion and Andrew Kistler waiting with Cassy Brown and Sarah to discuss the schedule, I looked down at the four stapled pages of itinerary laid out in front of me, saw 4:30 AM- take Kerri Snell to Cleveland Airport and took a deep breath that I held in until the next morning.

My first task was to pick up a group of MFA students from the airport, and after I introduced myself like a professional and was met with kindness I knew I was going to be happy working a program with such welcoming, down-to-earth writers.

I found out shortly after the residency started that I could take this experience one of two ways: I could allow myself to be overwhelmed and discouraged by the seemingly unreachable success of the dedicated writers surrounding me, or I could let myself to be motivated and inspired by the enlightenment washing over all in attendance. I realized that some drown in the uncertainty of writing and others swim. But as the visiting poet Rosanna Warren told me: You don’t become a writer to be successful, you become a writer because you have to write.

During his craft seminar, David St. John said: “Jagged pieces of experience can make the world seem not so threatening,” and if there is anything I’ve learned it’s that writing heals and so do writers. The students, visiting writers, and faculty for the Creative Writing MFA program are some of the most warm and honest people I have ever met and every star of humble wisdom shared by them left me profoundly in awe. During my two weeks I had to attend craft seminars, readings, and thesis defenses, but the experiences I know I’ll never forget are getting sushi with David St. John, having illuminating conversations with Rosanna Warren, singing karaoke with my fellow intern Erika, and playing Cards Against Humanity with MFA students. Even when my day started at 8 AM and ended at 9:30 PM I never felt like what I was doing was work. I felt like I was just having an awesome day and time flew by.

In the end, I spent a good chunk of my earnings on memoirs and books of poetry, made lifelong friends, and learned a great deal academically and spiritually. I can hardly wait to do it all over again next year.