© 2011 Chelle Ang. All rights reserved.
My grueling 8-day residency at Wilkes University took place last week. This residency is the culmination of a 6-month long semester wherein I read 14 novels, wrote analysis reports for each one, then wrote a 60-page craft research paper titled – Found in Translation: Conveying Asian History and Culture in Contemporary Fiction, and edited my first fantasy novel draft written the previous semester. Proof that writing is no small feat.
In the last few days before leaving for residency, I made a half-hearted effort to take another look at the research paper and novel and fix all the glaring errors. But it wasn’t until I attended the readings of other students that I realized I needed to make a 15 minute cutting of the research paper (approx. 10 pages) for my oral presentation due 9:30am the next morning. Drat! I didn’t plan for this. What was I going to do? I sighed knowing it was time to drag myself from the depths of misery. The semester was tortuous to say the least sinking my confidence even lower. Inside the school’s computer lab was where the proverbial light bulb powered up. All the pieces were there I just had to make it seamless and cohesive.
The next morning, nervous energy coursed through me as I gave my oral presentation. Surprisingly, the crowd was very responsive. Both my mentors and the program director were the first to compliment not only my reading style, but the content of the paper. I was astonished, speechless. And if you know me, I’m never speechless.
Later, I received a 4.0 grade for editing the first half of my fantasy novel and following all my mentor’s suggested changes and additions. I was terrified about this grade because I thought for sure it would be much lower, 3.0 lower. Editing left me more frustrated than ever. My teacher didn’t make the experience any better as he only edited the first two chapters and told me to use that as my template to edit the rest of the chapters before sending it to him. It’s only fair that I shoulder most of the blame though, as I never protested. Somehow, I believed it would be to my benefit if I elevated my work up to his expectations. This all stemmed from the fact that his wife was my mentor when I wrote the first draft of this novel. From his comments, I felt as if he expected more from me and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint. Then there was his comment on my midterms that left me with the awful thought of garnering a disappointing 3.0 grade for my efforts. No! That was not going to happen especially since I’d been awarded 4.0′s throughout my entire Master of Arts degree. Terrified doesn’t begin to describe how I felt reading those comments. Yes, I ranted and raved, cried, pouted, and stomped around like a mad woman possibly frightening my dogs at times. But deep down I knew that giving up was not an option; I was so very close to finishing my Master of Fine Arts degree.
Still, more than once, I secretly wished for an ingenious way to kill all the characters in one fell swoop, just so I would be finished writing and editing the novel I no longer recognized. I cringed and even gave up reading the mentor’s endless questions and edit suggestions for a while. At times I wanted to scream, ‘for the love of Pete, watch a movie in my genre and stop asking dumb questions!’ Yet, I refused to be beaten, I had to press on. By the time I mailed my last edits, I was spent. I no longer cared how the novel read or if the research paper was formatted correctly. I was thankful the torture ended for the time being.