The Mark Blog

The Only Thing Left

The thing about the end of The Mark Program is that I don’t know what comes next. Before this, there had been a number of logical steps: I completed my undergraduate degree, majoring in English; I participated in the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship; I went to graduate school for creative writing; and, most recently, I got to be a part of The Mark Program, which is now coming to a close. The next step, I suspect, is not so structured or clear-cut. I’ve never done it before and I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I sense that it requires giving myself time, space, and, most of all, creative freedom to let loose and do the one thing that’s left: finish writing my novel.

Last week, in my Final Review for The Mark Program, I had the privilege of discussing my novel-in-progress with the committee, comprised as usual of our instructor Antoine Wilson, advisor Rob Roberge, and Program Manager Libby Flores. During this hour-long conversation, I gleaned a lot of valuable feedback, including the illuminating advice from Antoine that I’ve already created a world, characters, and circumstances; now, in the latter portion of the novel, it’s time to let the will of the protagonist Lillian determine the outcomes of these dynamics. In other words, the events have occurred and Lillian must react and face the consequences. It sounds obvious but, to me, it wasn’t. Also, I’m encouraged by the fact that the committee members supported the developments in the narrator’s voice. The novel is more certain about the fact that it’s told by a 15-year-old and, as such, more fully embodies Lillian’s point-of-view than it was at the beginning of the program. In this way, the constructive criticism and positive support from The Mark committee is helping to make the journey between the current draft and the finished draft ever clearer and, simultaneously, less intimidating.

That’s not to say that I’m not afraid of the unknown. I am—while also knowing that I’m better equipped to face it than I was eight months ago. The Mark Program has forced me to know Lillian better, to ask and answer difficult questions, and to shape the present draft of Look Away so that it’s beginning, perhaps, to feel a tad like a real novel. From here, I’m going to give myself the creative freedom to take risks and write with openness and fluidity, into the unknown.

Lastly, thank you for reading my blogs for these past months. It’s been an honor to share with you and I hope we meet again on the page.