Friday, January 17, 2014

January, 2014, SHU Residency

And what did you learn?

I had the honor, the distinctive privilege, of going to Greensburg PA, as I do every six months, to teach at Seton Hill University in their Master's of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program.  Translated, that means I got to go hang out with a group of writers who are learning their craft.  Horror, Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy…You name it, we work it.  And why do we focus on such genres?  Because they are the ones that speak to us.  And we can.

As with any residency, we had to say good-bye to our graduating seniors.  This group was special in a lot of ways, magical, if you will.  We had such an amazing group of talent in this group that the ones will have a hard time living up to their promise.

Hear that, ones?  I'm glaring at you.

Of the group of graduating seniors, I had the honor of working with three of them directly.  While I worked with all of them in some form or another, the three I mention had me as their mentor.  Stephanie Wytovich, "Pope" Joe Borelli, and Gina Greenway leave some very large shoes to fill.  Know that you will be the stick by which I measure my future students.

And I must also state that, while I'm adjunct faculty and am there to teach, I also learn quite a bit when I am there.  It's part of the reason I love the program, that sense of collaboration.  So what did I learn this time around?

  • What it feels like to be employed by a major circus.
  • That peanut butter on a hamburger is not nearly as gross as it sounds.
  • That if an ex buys your childhood home, it gives off a serial-killer-rapey vibe.
  • That religion, ritual, and magic are tools to be used, and not ridiculed. 
  • That mentor meetings don't take very long, once you and your mentee have a good working relationship.
  • That there is a Harley Davidson dealer in the Pittsburgh airport.  
  • That you never have to throw a punch to stop a fight.
  • That some of the worst people (I'm looking at you, CAH people) are also some of the funniest.
But there were also things that I already knew that were confirmed for me, and I cherish those lessons revisited. 
  • This program is more than a "school."
  • I have some of the best friends in the world. 
  • I can embarrass people with little more than an eyebrow twitch.
  • Some people just need a hug. 
  • Sometimes, it's okay to not be the bad guy. 
  • Sometimes, it's great to be the bad guy. 
So that's the roundup.  It was my great pleasure to see my friends Nikki and Ward again, as well as their wonderful sons Wes and Jake, and the ever-energetic Corgis.  If you'd like to see what real talent looks like, by the way, you should check out Nikki Hopeman's new release, Habeas Corpse, which just came out from Blood Bound Books. You won't regret it. 

So leave a comment.  Tell us (the entire cyber-universe and inter webs) what you learned at the res, if you went.  And if you didn't, tell us what you'd like to learn.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a book to write.


  1. And when one has graduated and left the program, there is a terrible feeling of jealousy toward those still in it. I miss it...

  2. In the things I already knew but had confirmed:

    It sucks not coming back every six months.

  3. A piece of my heart resides in Greensburg. This program is one of the best decisions I ever made, far beyond making me a better writer--which it also did. Now, excuse me as well. I have a book to rewrite.

  4. As a One, I enjoyed hanging back to listen and learn. I found common ground with the horror writers, which was a tiny surprise as I don't know the genre well (yet). I shared similar publication hopes and fears with pre-published writers and multipublished authors. I met instructors who inspired more than my writing with their personal tales of struggle, heartbreak, and triumph. And I was brought to happy tears by my mentor (Tim W.) because he didn't listen to my thesis idea only to give me a hairy eyeball afterward. He was equally excited by the topic and encouraging.

    So, yeah. Residency knocked out any lingering doubt (aka lame ass excuses) I had about putting 2.5 years of my life into it.


  5. I learned that creating ritual in life adds magic to it. Residency is full of little rituals and traditions that infuse it with the best kind of wonder and enchantment. I'm hoping I can use this in my everyday life to combat the creeping evil of regular life. I also mean to use this in my writing to make my world and my characters more rich and compelling. So glad I got to take a class about this stuff. Being a writer rocks. :)

    One thing I learn again every time is how awesome the people I this program are, how caring and supporting, how passionate and engaging. It means so much that they're willing to help out with my writing, no matter their genre or level in the program, and that they're never hesitant to help out with life too when it gets sucky (alas, much too often).

    I'm lucky to be in this program. It's been such a blessing to me -- more specifically, the people have. ^_^

  6. I (re)learned how much I love residency, how much the people there are not just people, they're family, on so many levels, that I am not alone in that feeling and am loved at least as much as I love you all. I also learned that leaving sucks. Like big time. And it gets worse every six months when people graduate who I know won't be crazy enough to keep coming back (like I am).

    I also learned that I know how to make one hell of an entrance. ;-)

  7. I learned how much I missed the residency. Also that I need to hurry up and become a well-regarded video game writer and published author so that I can be a mentor and get paid to go to residency every January and June.

  8. I learned that life does go on after you lose someone close to you and the writers in the program are some of the most caring, generous, and outrageously awesome people in the world. We are truly blessed to be a part of the crazy circus called SHU Res. :)

  9. I learned that I have some personal issues that have both hindered me and warped my mind in helpful ways, that symbols/themes/motifs can be interesting when presented in a creative writing way instead of a torturous analyze-this-literary-piece way, and that the insanity level of a room full of writers multiplies with each new writer who enters. I also re-learned that entering the program was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life and that I actually can be a part of the group. And, even if I'm a fantasy fan heretic by disliking the series, I learned that there is something epic about a room of 100+ people all shouting, "WESTEROS!" at the same time.

  10. The thesis defenses were impressive and sometimes intimidating. The classwork proved we are dealing with professionals who know their craft. All I can say to that is... Game On.

  11. Excuse me while I grab a box of tissues...
    OK, I miss it, so much! Every day I look for comments and articles on our FB page from my colleagues. Every day they remind me to keep my ass in the chair and write. Every day I understand that after this program I am a writer, a professional writer. And I miss my peeps!