Sometimes-monthly, sometimes-weekly, when-I-have-the-time blog.

Low-Residency vs. Full-Time MFA Programs and Dry April: I'm Not Drinking Alcohol for a Month

Last Thursday I attended a reading event at THELMA Performing Arts Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Graduating undergraduate students from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Ripon College in Ripon, and Lakeland University in Sheboygan read their work. I was really impressed by these fantastic young minds, their creative sensibilities, and their confidence. I read a bit of my own novel, and served as an advice dispenser for two young women graduating from Marian who were interested in learning more about MFA programs. Since I’m in a low-residency program, my perspective was helpful for them, since they both wanted to remain in Wisconsin. There are few MFA program options here, save for UW-Madison, which is extremely selective, taking applications for fiction and non-fiction in alternating years.

The major differences I’ve noticed between low-residency and full-time MFA programs include:

  • Direct contact with and nearly immediate feedback from my mentor, who is a well-known, working writer herself.
  • More time spent creating and editing my own work (vs. lots of time spent reviewing my peers’ writing in a more-competitive workshop atmosphere).
  • The ability to live in my own home and travel to the ten-day residency workshops.

I hope I gave these two talented young women enough insight to make their decisions, if and when they decide to go the MFA route.

April is a good time for clear-headedness and writing. The weather is not warming up yet here in Wisconsin, and I’m taking advantage of the inhospitable wind, continuing cold, and my lack of social life to write—a lot. I’m also not drinking alcohol for the month of April, and as of today, I’ve made it one-third of the way through! At first, I noticed little changes. Better sleeping patterns, clearer and whiter whites of my eyes, an intense craving for sugar that I would normally supplement with a glass of wine—or three. But this exercise has made me assess my relationship with alcohol, and my dependence on it, chemical, social, or otherwise. Wisconsin is notorious for having a hard-drinking culture, with the accompanying drunk-driving problems that partner with a bar-heavy social scene.

I’m more present in my daily life, less hung over, and making generally better food choices. My weight was down six pounds as of April 8, and my waistline shrunk by nearly three inches from April 1st to the 8th, which is an astonishing amount of weight for my body and metabolism to shed in a week’s time.

Instead of unwinding with wine or beer, I’ve been drinking herbal tea, watching a lot of great Fellini and Almodovar films on Netflix (well, I do that anyway), doing more yoga than usual, and getting to bed earlier. This bodes well for the rest of Drapril: Dry April.

Keeping it short this week—the novel calls.