Everyone’s Great… But What Am I?

Everyone’s Great… But What Am I?

Poetry professor Tony Trigilio and MFA students Todd Summar (Fiction) and Kara Yi (Poetry) listen to Rozina Kidari (Non-Fiction) read during their panel at Printers Row Lit Fest on Sunday, June 7.

The summer has barely begun and already the list of achievements of the Columbia College Chicago students and alumni of the Creative Writing, MFA programs is great.

  • Nine students were able to read amongst Columbia faculty and other literary greats at Printer’s Row Lit Fest, held June 6 and 7th;
  • Danielle Wilcox, a very recent graduate of the MFA Fiction program, and her husband were just awarded a $10,000 grant to fund a free weekly newsprint for Red Line commuters;
  • Second year, and my fellow cohort member, Raymond Dereen was recently published;
  • Third year Kate Duva is attending a 4-week residency at Blue Mountain Center; and
  • Second years Michael Cotter and Chelsea Harris are spending their summer semester abroad in Prague.

And then there’s me.

Who am I?  What am I up to?  Such a good question!

Well, in the last month, I’ve wrapped up my second semester of graduate school, joined a summer writing group, became a Graduate Ambassador, and resigned from my full-time job as a manager at Walgreens so that I dedicate my summer to my on-campus job as a Creative Writing Department Computer Lab Assistant/Fiction Event Coordinator.

And when I say dedicate my summer to my part-time job as…. what I really mean is catch up on all the reading and writing I couldn’t manage while juggling so much this past semester. See, very few people really need assistance in the lab over the summer. So, I’ve decided to spend my time waiting for someone to need me while also working on a novel-in-stories idea that’s been bouncing around in my mind since Christmas. As for my work, my fiction hasn’t been published since high school. **gasp!** I’m serious. I haven’t submitted anything since that writing sample I attached to my application to the program.  Quite truthfully, I haven’t really felt any compulsion to do so any time soon either.

Instead of reading at the LitFest, I opted to work behind the scenes (setting up and selling books).

Instead of reading at the LitFest, I opted to work behind the scenes (setting up and selling books).

In comparison to everyone listed above, I probably sound like an artistic underachiever. I sometimes even feel like one, too. I don’t particularly care about being published right now. I’m not currently participating in any readings or events in the city. I have yet to really step into the literary world.

Q: Can you really be a writer, an artist, if your work isn’t showcased somewhere out there in the literary world?

It’s something I think about a lot. On a deeper level, it’s more like To truly exist, does art require an audience? But on the surface level, it’s basically Courtney, can you get your bio together, PLEASE?  

For me some, this particular program does come with the pressure. The pressure to produce and to publish so that others—in particular the PUBLISHING GREATS of the literary world—can see that you are producing so they can pick you up and one day publish you. That’s one pressure. But then there’s also the pressure to keep up with whatever pace you perceive your cohort/friends/peers moving. Sometimes it could feel like everyone around you is buried knee up in the worlds they’re developing on the page while you just want to get to experience the world that is “Summertime Chi.” And then there’s my own private pressure of wanting to make some type of impact….

Yes, graduate school comes with pressure, but… well, so does everything in life.

I’ve come to understand that my colleagues and I are all on this literary expressway but we all have different goals, different destinations, and we’re all coming from different starting points, too. I love peering in at all these fancy cars around me on this road. And sometimes I do want to be seen in the fast lane. (This was especially true when I had only a vague idea of my self-map). But, now, I keep myself sane by remembering to stay in my own lane moving at my own speed. I’ll get to where I’m headed (and explore my first Summertime Chi) in due time.

And I know you’ll do the same.

Courtesy of reactiongifs.com