Day 3: Nothing at Stake

Two big anxieties got crossed off my list today: the interviews with faculty as potential advisors (referred to around here as “speed dating”) and the first day of workshop.

Halfway though this residency, students will be matched with a faculty advisor for the semester. There are 12 poetry faculty members taking students this time around, and first-semester students specify 6 names of people that they would like to work with. The program office does the matching (the faculty have no say), and since it’s such a big pool, I felt that the the best I could really do was make sure that I had six people I was compatible with. The first couple of semesters are for experimentation and exploration, and everybody works a little differently, but we were assured (repeatedly) that we’d all be fine with whoever we got. Forms are due on Saturday, but I turned mine in today; match day is Sunday.

Workshop was great. The leaders—two writers I like very much—spent a lot of time at the beginning talking about process and expectations. The highlight for me was when one of them said, “I know it doesn’t seem like it, but there is really nothing at stake here.” He pointed out that we can try out advice from the workshop and, if we don’t like it, we can go back to the way we had it before. I found this very freeing (at least until I started freaking out about critiquing other people’s work again) and I’m going to try to remember it for a long time.

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