The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be*

Me and My Mentor, Nancy McKinley, at Fake Graduation from Wilkes
Me and My Mentor, Nancy McKinley, at Fake Graduation from Wilkes

A lot of shit happened during 2013.

I moved twice, took care of my dying friend, had more freelance clients than ever, lost myself, found myself, wrote a book, experienced real grief, improved my love relationship, repainted and decorated a room in our house (w/ my partner) got a restaurant job after a long non-restaurant work spell, explained the concept of “biological father” to my child, told her there wasn’t a real Santa, had the furnace replaced in our old drafty house,  went to a writers’ conference, made new friends, lost track of old ones, and reconnected with people from childhood.

It has been intense and difficult and magical.

At the end of all of it, I got a Master’s degree. That photo up there is my me and my mentor, Nancy McKinley after our moment during fake graduation the last night of residency. She’s a fiction and essay writer, and a feminist, and among my favorite people on Earth.

The Wilkes University Low-Residency MA/MFA program is the one I’m working through now (I write my MFA critical paper this semester), and It’s amazing. If you’re not in the know, low-residency means that you go to campus for a small amount of time each semester and do the rest of your coursework online or by correspondence.

One of the recent graduates from the program, Lori A. May, actually wrote the book on the best low-residency MFA programs. So if you’re interested, that’s a great place to start, and it’s no accident that she’s there, at Wilkes, out of any of the other many low-res programs available.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are disingenuous at best. Every year I, instead of making a list of things to accomplish, try to adopt a general posture of self-improvement.

This year, my blogging slump will straighten, I will focus my excess energy on writing and teaching. I will say no to things that don’t help further my goals.

Why are you telling me this?

I must seem like one of those attention-seeking internet lame-os. I am. But if you’re reading this, you had, at least once, a passing fancy for my blog, and I need to confess these things to help keep me accountable. It’s a lot easier to break a promise to myself than it is one I make to internet strangers.

So, dear Internet Stranger (Internet Friend, Real-Life Acquaintance, or Real-Life Friend), thanks for being here.

And know that I will post on Wednesdays for the rest of the year.

Once a week, about 500 words (probably sometimes way more).

For me, for you, for art.

And if you’re in North Central PA, go click Workshop Registration and join me for a study of blogging or of memoir. Next week? I’ll list five of my favorite memoirs.


* Lyric from a poignant song from Love is Dead by Mr. T Experience.

Residency Day 1: Setting

Wilkes-Barre is renowned for being a totally blue-collar city.   It feels a little like Pittsburgh: universities surrounded by middle class & slums.  A lot of queerly frightened white people.

And I am getting sick with nostalgia for proper city living.

I got here a touch early, and the first person I met was Dr. Culver, the program director.  She is nothing like I pictured, but hugged me straight away.  Then I met a guy named J.C.  I will save my questions about a potential Messiah complex for workshop.

Here’s the view from my little apartment (which is like a glorified dorm suite with a proper kitchen and a full bathroom.  It’s slick).

Here’s another view:

And here’s the funny little balcony.

And here’s a bit of nostalgia.

For the first 18 years of my life, my dad was self-employed.  He had some kind of business relationship with a guy who owned a building & business in Wilkes-Barre, PSC or Petroleum Service Company.  People here say “Wilkes Bear Uh.”  Or “Wilkes Bear.”  Dad says, “Wilkes Berry.”  So it was kind of a big deal to get to go with dad to “Wilkes Berry.”

Once, maybe twice, dad brought me here visit this cat called Ron Sims (the one who owned PSC). He had a Merry-Go-Round horse in his office, and who also owned some kind of staging company.  Mountain Productions, I think?  Anyway, this was in the hey-day of New Kids On The Block (oh gawd), and Ron Sims gave me a spent backstage pass.  I was 8, and I had no clue, and so I said to my dad, “Don’t you have to go to a concert to use it?”

What I remember is the pained look on my dad’s face.  My ignorance and disappointment hurt his feelings, you know, on my behalf. He wasn’t sure how to break my little heart while still making me understand that the dude was giving me a cool present.  If he were me, he would’ve blogged about it later. I don’t remember what he said, but he explained the concept of collector’s items and memorabilia.

I put the backstage pass (which was this crazy fluorescent green fabric-covered square of poster paper) in my desk in my room where it stayed until I didn’t care anymore, and the New Kids were fuzz on the cultural horizon.

Here is a picture of the setting of that memory, the PSC building.  I took this picture across the parking lot for the Family Dollar and thrift shop where I went to buy toilet paper and the tooth brush I forgot.