The Mark Blog

Not One for Good-byes

I've never been one for good-byes. I'm the person who lingers on the curb at the airport, or stands in front of my house waving until the car disappears around the corner, or runs back inside a friend's apartment to give her another hug. But, whether I refuse to say good-bye or not, the Mark Program is going to say farewell to me on June 29th, the date of our Final Review.

Last week, we had our last workshop and, tomorrow, our final manuscripts are due. In a month, at the Review, we will be challenged to think through and discuss our projects. The program isn't done, but we're in the final phase. I've never been one for good-byes and I know that saying good-bye to this program is going to be no different.

So, as I mold and polish my manuscript to be its best self and contemplate what I might be asked at the Review, I also feel the need to think about what it will be like after the program. My hope is that, in mentally preparing myself, I can make this transition smooth, happy, and productive. Here are some of the ways -- ranging from the small and idiosyncratic to the broad and goal-oriented -- that I am trying to prepare myself:

• Re-subscribing to The New Yorker. (There's something about its arrival each week that creates a nice rhythm and keeps me feeling looped in to contemporary news and writing.)

• Creating a comprehensive reading list of both fiction and craft books for myself. (I know George Saunder's new Tenth of December will be on this list, as well as more Aimee Bender, Toni Morrison, and Denis Johnson. I've been meaning to read Charles Baxter's craft book, Burning Down the House, for a long while.)

• Cleaning off my desk.

• Developing a strong and clear outline of my novel. (This will include which chapters are working as they are, which chapters call for revision, and which need to be written.)

• Seeking and reading books that are successfully narrated from a first-person adolescent point-of-view. (My novel is told from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl, Lillian. I'd love suggestions.)

• Organizing a calendar of deadlines to apply to conferences and fellowships and to submit to contests and journals.

• Thinking through concrete writing goals and next steps. (For the Final Review, each of us is required to make a list of writing goals. For myself, I'd also like to set some deadlines for each of these: when will I have X chapter written by? when will I revise X by?)

• Reconnecting with writing friends and setting dates for exchanging pages and workshopping together. (I love community and find it so helpful--and fun--to read each other's work and to give and receive feedback.)

I don't look forward to bidding farewell to The Mark Program. Yet, at the same time, I am anxious to launch into the next phase of writing and revising, confident that--as a direct result of this program--I am in a better place to finish my novel. When I have to wave good-bye and pack my bags, I'll do so knowing that a deep, positive mark has been left on my novel and, even more, on me as a writer.