In Praise of the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing Program and Its People
When you don’t care who you sit next to during your meals or during your classes because you know you can have a fantastic conversation with anyone in the room, any time of the day, any time of the night. So you sit down next to someone you’ve never spoken to and you have a conversation about your writing and your books and your spouses and your kids and it all just flows so easily, too easily. You wonder if this is really happening. It feels like a glimpse of heaven because you feel seen and known by more people in one place than ever before.
When you’re in a chair with a tattoo artist to your right and your graduating cohort to your left and you make lots of strange faces because getting your first tattoo hurts more than you anticipated. You say it feels like nails are scraping your skin and the artist agrees, “Yes. That’s pretty much what it feels like.” And your friends are cheering you on and telling you she’s almost done and taking photos so you can see your face’s range of expressions during the few minutes it took to get your first tattoo. And then the next person in line takes her place in the chair so she can get her tattoo. And you cheer her on and take photos and talk about what her tattoo means, how she came up with the idea, how her husband helped her design it. And your heart wants to explode.
When you all gather together at nine o’clock at night in the social room in the basement of a college dormitory dressed as your favorite authors and there are multiple Virginia Woolfs, a Joan Didion, and an Alice Walker. You eat Trader Joe’s mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups and drink red wine and you have to speak up to hear each other over the laughter because there is just so much laughter.
When you are workshopping an essay with a table full of talented writers who love you and love your work and they get where you’re going with that one essay that you’ve wondered about. You’ve wondered if anyone would understand, if anyone would give a damn. And they do. They do.
When you gather in the living room of a huge old house on a former military base on Whidbey Island and you read your work to each other before your graduate readings because you haven’t read your work to others very many times and you want to hear how it sounds to yourself and to your people. They clap for you when you finish and tell you how fantastic your essay is but they also tell you a few ways to improve your work before the final reading.
When you arrive late to your final residency and you’re an emotional mess because no-one is where they’re supposed to be and you’re unaware of the location changes made for this residency so you text a woman in another cohort who you don’t know super well but you know her enough so you go ahead and decide to text her because you have her number for some reason which you can’t remember. You ask where everyone is. You ask what happened. She calls you back and she can tell you’re crying and upset and she immediately leaves her meal to find you and bring you to where you’re supposed to be, with everyone else around the tables eating dinner, talking about life and love and faith and art.