As part of my MFA program, I have to do a project of my own design. What kind of project, you ask? Does it seem odd, you may further inquire, that someone getting a degree in writing has to do more than just, um, write, and maybe read?
I'm glad you asked! In point of fact, I have to design and execute a project in which I engage in a community, develop/nurture/work with artists, and work toward social justice. It has to last for about 4 months. I am starting later than most people and later than I should. I have heard horror stories in which folks had their projects fall apart or completely fail the parameters of the timeframe, thus they had to start over the next term. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that I am now merely two terms away from completing the whole program. Do I want to be attempting round 2 of my field study when I am working on polishing my final manuscript? I do not.
It was scary getting this thing off the ground. I waited forever to get feedback and approval from the powers that be in the program. Then I got a vague thumbs up and was left to ponder how to make this unformed idea a concrete reality.
Somehow, though, and without realizing it, I've made incremental progress. It was amazingly easy to get the pieces in place: my IT friend offered up her website hosting and tech skills; another friend busily tapped her entire network for participants. And the initial response and enthusiasm for it has been stellar. My mentors have all been enthusiastic and responsive, eager to pay it forward and work with teens. I had hoped that I would draw in aspiring writers who would be excited to be mentored, and I did!
In the back of my head, I always think of myself, growing up in that cornfield and pondering all the things I could do with my life. If I had gotten some prodding earlier from an actual writer, I wonder how much I would have done sooner. I don't regret not having that, mind you. I'm happy with my more roundabout path; I think sometimes people need to be in the right head state/maturity level to do good work. But I sincerely hope that at least one of these kids is inspired and empowered to further pursue writing as a result of this program.