I go to the MFA Potluck wearing my Pendleton wool plaid button up and a fleece vest. It is in the sixties and the air is cool compared to my humid Southern mountains, so while others wear short sleeves and suffer mosquito bites, I reside comfortably in my warm layers.
The group is small, around forty, and by the time I’m a few drinks and hefty conversations into the meal the faculty arrive from their meeting and are greeted warmly with hugs by the students they know. I see PF and he looks just like his author photo, even though it was taken a decade ago. JD looks exactly the same as his photo except for more gray hair. He is still round faced in a friendly way and is shorter than I would have guessed. The energetic poet PAR speed walks into the group smiling widely and shouting hellos to and fro. I have not read her work but she is Vic’s favorite poet so I watch her curiously, trying to sum up the velocity of her energy with my gaze.
But it is JB who has my attention the most, as she strolls regally across the sidewalk and directly to her room. She has traveled from Montana and went through a series of flight delays arriving late as it is. She does not re-emerge from her room for the potluck but even one glimpse of her made me giddy.
“How lucky are you, eh?” the director of the program says to me, leaning in. “We’re totally spoiling Prose #3, your group.”
I smile at her knowing exactly what she means. With leaders like JB and CL and only four students in the workshop group, who could complain? Already I feel as though I’ve gotten my money’s worth.
I made fast friends with a Hawaiian on the airplane shuttle ride out to the campus of Pacific and we bump shoulders and he introduces me to a graduating fiction writer, LW.
“And LW, this is my ex-wife Katey Schultz,” he says winking one eye at me and turning the other to LW with a twinkle. “We just ended up in the same program.”
LW believes him and we play it off for a brief moment, then he confesses his joke, adding that as a poet he wanted to try cross-genre work and thought he’d fib to begin experimenting with fiction. We har-har-har over this and toast our plastic cup wine glasses in hollow clinks.
And so it goes for several more hours in the land of writers. Instantly we talk shop. Instantly they catch the e-y in my name (writers, thankfully, have a knack for spelling). Instantly we allude to the creative process. And to my surprise there is no after party. Certainly drinks are passed around, and even a few spills occur, but before 10pm the better two-thirds of the group has dissipated.
“Get ready,” KE said to me, “to be fatigued. It’s going to be intense. Sleep now while you can.”