Itâ€™s been a year since my last blog entry, but that isnâ€™t to say I havenâ€™t been writing. Iâ€™ve forged ahead with my Lebanon novel, the plot becoming more and more convoluted. My slightly chicken-hearted protagonist is now involved in selling hijacked oil from Yemen and there are plans to send him to Iraq to check out war profiteering opportunities (in my novel, the year is 2005 and the Bush Administration is flooding Baghdad with shrink-wrapped bundles of 100 dollar bills, many of which are promptly stolen.) When I tried to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the story, I had to stop myself. That really would have been jumping the shark. Maybe I can turn that abandoned chapter into a short story someday
I no longer enter those damned literary contests. I can buy a lottery ticket downstairs at the liquor store if I feel the need to hand money over to uncaring strangers, and, by most calculations, the odds are better with the lottery.
The writing is going okay in terms of content, but in this past year, Iâ€™ve begun asking myself those old questions â€“ Am I getting any better? Is there hope? Why would anyone want to read this? I was in a rut. I was churning out the pages, but where was the passion?
I needed to do something to shake up my process and sharpen my skills. I figured going back to school might do the trick, so I signed up for a low-residency MFA program at Lesley University in Cambridge. I had never heard of the place, but Poets and Writers ranked the program in the top 10 nationwide, and Lesley is right next door to Harvard, so it must be a serious institution.
I just completed my first 10-day residency (shortened by one day due to the Polar Vortex). It was an interesting and at times sobering experience. I figured I had half a novel and I would use the MFA to finish it. I discovered that I didnâ€™t really have the first half yet. There are a lot of things to fix and maybe a first chapter to totally eliminate. The problems seem obvious now. I think I can fix them but Iâ€™m not so sure I can learn to avoid making them again in the future. Weâ€™ll see. Getting the MFA is a two-year process.