Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Midterms, AWP, Thesis Thoughts

By Casey Tolfree

First off, I cannot believe that I am halfway through my second semester. Time is going so quick this semester. Maybe it's because I'm having more fun and I feel happier. I officially count my MFA classmates among my friends, we go out on weekends, they came out for my birthday, we talk outside of class. It's a great feeling. All I wanted for the longest time was a group of friends who understood what it was like to really be a writer. I hadn't had a group like that since to be honest middle school. I tried to fill the void with expansive novels and a college newspaper, but it just wasn't the same. This is the first time I feel (not to be cheesy or cliche) complete. That doesn't mean it's all figured out or anything but it does mean that I am happy and writing, which is all I ever wanted.

Secondly, I have a midterm today. I honestly thought midterms were done. I mean, why have a midterm in a writing class? Okay, so it's a literature class but it's an open book short essay exam. I would rather write a 5-page essay at home but that's just me. So, I've been studying, a skill I really don't usually have to do, and it's just so tedious. I have like six books I have to bring to class just in case I need them for the essay topics. My back hurts just thinking about it. I'm also getting critiqued today. I submitted the first chapter of my new novel. SCARY!

This brings me to the topic of my thesis. Adelphi is a really new program, I'll be part of the fourth graduating class. I like that. I like that I can be part of building something that is clearly going to be great but it also means there are kinks. The thesis project tends to be expected to be a compilation of short stories but I'm a novelist and I want to be working on my novel. I don't want to stop working on my novel so I can prepare separate things for my thesis. I want my thesis to be an organic part of my program experience. I have one short story I just wrote that was the basis for the novel I'm writing but nothing else in the short story genre has really spoken to me. I'd like to include that story and have the rest of the thesis be parts of my novel. They don't have to be consecutive parts just chapters I think show my best work. I don't know if this is possible. I'm afraid of losing my characters voice and not being able to continue the novel because it's going to be great. I think it could be one of those books that really helps a lot of people dealing with absentee or dead beat or just horrible fathers.

I'm officially going to Wilmington, NC this summer. It's the place that inspires me the most. It's peaceful and beautiful, not to mention the nearby college has a great writing program. I'd love to live there, maybe teach and UNCW one day, who knows. I'm going for a week with friends and though we're going to be busy hunting down the filming locations for One Tree Hill and trying to stalk Hilary Burton and more importantly James Lafferty, I know I'm going to be able to sit at the Riverwalk or at Port City Java and just write my heart out. I think the best part of me comes out in Wilmington. The best ideas now, those come from my many drives up Route 17 in New York. I planned my whole novel out this weekend while I was driving. It's a great feeling.

Last semester was hard. This semester I've found my footing and I can see that I am growing into a writer. I didn't want to be a person of letters when I started. I just wanted to improve my skills and go edit someone else's book. Now, I'm embracing a life I've tried hard not to want. It's scary to make your passion your work. I don't want to resent it. I'm trying to let that fear go though and embrace writing as a lifestyle and not just a job choice. I don't mean I need to be a starving artist, I just mean I enjoy readings, I enjoy forums on writing and for once I am just doing all those things. I am making time in my life for being a writer and not just letting it be a side project. And it doesn't feel forced. It feels natural.

I actually have to go get ready for that midterm so, I'll just leave with this last bit.

I can't wait for AWP!! I'd love to meet up with anyone. I know there's like a dance party or something every night. So let's talk and find each other.


  1. Nothing cliche about finally feeling complete. I think that's the best thing about the MFA, finding like-minded people. I didn't feel like I really fit anywhere until I got into this program.

    I loved what you had to say about embracing the writer's life!

  2. i know a lot of people who turned in novels for their thesis in my program. hope they don't hold you back from that!!


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