It’s official! Well, this isn’t the official diploma, but I finished my MFA program at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. What an amazing three years. I’ve learned so much and made so many great friends. At our graduation lunch, Gary Ferguson spoke about a project he did on nature-oriented creation myths from around the world, and how after reading about a hundred of them, he noticed three common elements: beauty, community, and mystery. He suggested that these are things we should focus on in our lives and in our writing. Sounds about right to me.
Just a day after posting my first blog on my new site here, I got an e-mail from Newfound accepting my short story “Dunes” for an upcoming issue! Super psyched. One goal I had in my MFA program was to publish three stories before I graduate, and I’ll graduate in exactly two weeks, so that’s cool. Newfound is a great online journal, and I look forward to working with their editor on my story.
This is my first post on my new website! I operated cantwellbooks.com for over ten years, but I was having some software and server issues over there and decided to start fresh with tomcantwell.net and run it all through WordPress, which I’m very happy with so far. (The domain registration and hosting here only costs $26 year!) This move also enables me to finally move into Web 2.0 and have an interactive site instead of a static one. I’m not sure where all this will lead, but I’m excited to find out!
Much of the content from my old site has carried over, though the focus now is more exclusively on writing, which is where most of my focus is these days outside of teaching and family. To sum up what’s been happening with the writing since I last posted on my old site, I’ve spent the last three years working toward my MFA in Creative Writing from the low-residency Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. I graduate on August 10th! It’s been a ton of work but totally worth it. Participants complete the program with a creative thesis, a book-length manuscript. Mine is called Earth Names: Stories from Cascades to Coast, a collection of nine short stories set where I live in Central Oregon and loosely linked with recurring characters and plot elements. I’ve begun submitting the stories individually to literary journals, and one of them, “Country Fair,” has been accepted so far. It will appear in the fall or spring edition of Weber-The Contemporary West. I plan to write one more story for the collection, which I will probably begin submitting as a whole in a year or so. I hope to begin working on a novel this fall.
Besides this digital shift, I’ve been physically rearranging my work space, organizing my papers and notebooks, and I stumbled across a favorite old quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
“There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Then draw near to Nature.”
That’s my plan, though it must be said that Rilke wasn’t much of a father or husband! I expect the next three years to be as busy as the last three, balancing work, family, and this necessity to write. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m posting all my blogs from my old site here, all those entries that nobody could comment on.
Here’s to starting something new!