By Katie McCleary, Writing and Consciousness MFA Alum
It is often said that the apprenticeship of any emerging writer takes patience, or rather years of writing and revising, until his or her manuscript is ready for publication. Sometimes it feels as if the writing never moves forward, but keeps tumbling in circles.
A book rarely comes to fruition alone. While writers may write alone, they certainly do not arrive at a final draft alone. It has been two years since I graduated from CIIS—my esteemed diploma in one hand and a draft of my biomythography in the other—and in the aftermath of completing my program, I found it difficult to sustain the creative energy necessary to complete my book. I desperately missed my every other weekend “date” with my cohort.
However, one of the things I’m most proud of about the first CIIS Writing and Consciousness cohort (2008) is that many of us still keep in touch and remain cheerleaders for one another, despite geographical distance and work obligations. Many of us are still in the throws of revising the same manuscripts we worked on while in school.
I felt something needed to be done. Bogged down in the duties of everyday life (childcare, work, housekeeping) there was little time to work on the thing that nourished me—my book. I had to jump into revision one last time, or it was “Quits-ville” for my writing career. I needed one last push towards completion, so I called my mentor Randall Babtkis and asked for a deadline. Voila: August 15. My manuscript had a due date.
There was no way I was going to keep a deadline unless I had to be responsible to not only Randall, but also to my peers, friends, and family.
In a display of public punishment, I used Facebook to issue The Camaraderie’s Summer Writing Challenge on May 15. The challenge was to set a writing goal and complete it within three months. Writers had to declare their challenge on our Facebook page, and then offer updates throughout the summer months on their progress. Twenty-two of my writing friends signed on for the challenge, including three from CIIS.
Together, we did the work of the collective push, coaching each other to birth the creative work we had been circulating amongst the group. Almost two years to the day after earning our MFAs at CIIS, we typed up and printed drafts that felt much closer to the dream we had all harvested in our heads about becoming/being writers.
Leilani Clark finished a draft of a book of short stories, "Hot Water"; Janet Ector worked on her novel, "Hopeful Monsters"; Nina Schnall also become a bit closer to a final draft of her novel, "Impossible Love"; Avery Louis finished the opening chapters of his second novel, "The Bhuka Spook Trilogy"; and I finished my biomythography, "Blindfolded."
Congratulations to all!