Friday, October 25, 2013

The Exam

Brain food.

Last weekend, I had to take the much anticipated, widely feared, and mostly mysterious MFA exam. It's a requirement for graduation, and is administered during your second-to-last semester. The test consists of two essay questions, and while we had a vague idea of what those questions were, we didn't know for sure until Friday at 3PM when we picked up the test. It was due on Monday by 10AM, which meant the whole weekend was devoted to reading the questions, researching and gathering sources, and then writing something brilliant. 

Without giving too much away, I will say the exam was both better and worse than I anticipated. Better, because really, two 2,000 word essays isn't that bad, especially when you're in the middle of revising a 75,000 word novel. Worse, because it forced me to confront myself as a Writer, and compare my work to the books and stories of authors I've long admired. I dare you to put one of your paragraphs next to one of Alice Munro's and not fall into a pit of despair. 

At any rate, I prepared for the exam by making a run to Trader Joe's after teaching my classes on Friday morning and stocking up on dark chocolate, frozen vegan pizza, and snap pea crisps, which are my favorite. Also, two bottles of wine (one for each essay, of course!). Friday night, I ate snap pea crisps, had a little wine, read through the test, and took notes. I spent about 14 hours on Saturday drafting the essays and baking banana bread, because I was afraid I would run out of time and also I needed sustenance. On Sunday I looked over what I'd written, deleted all the truly terrible parts, and revised as needed. And then I was done, and it was only 11AM. I went for a run and ate a huge piece of banana bread and later that night I had one too many beers at Nathan's volleyball game. Not bad for MFA exam weekend, if I do say so myself.

Now that the MFA exam is behind me, the last hurdle I need to jump before the end of the semester is finishing the draft of my book and officially handing it in. I know I previously reported that I finished the book way back in June, but since then a few big things have changed, plot-wise, so I'm still slogging through what feels like a first draft. The deadline to hand it in is December 15, which means I have exactly 50 days left. 50 days! Time to get to work.