The Value of Belonging to a Creative Community
Apr 20, 2018
By Colorado Review Associate Editor Emily Harnden
Last week I attended a reading in Laramie, Wyoming, where my very close friend/roommate/maker of beautiful birthday cakes, Katherine Indermaur (Managing Editor of Colorado Review) read, alongside second-year fiction writer Megan Clark. This reading marked the second of the year in the new series, WyoColo, in which MFA students from Colorado State and the University of Wyoming came together to read their work, share lovely poems and prose, and generally become friends. The vibe was very warm and welcoming; there were cookies and coffee to break the ice, and some students organized to grab dinner beforehand at a local taco shop. While I missed the tacos (damn you thesis!), I found the reading to be illuminating for many reasons, and for one in particular I didn’t see coming.
As I settled into my seat I spotted the back of a head I hadn’t seen in months, three rows in front of me. My former roommate and CSU creative nonfiction alum, had traveled to Laramie from Walden, Colorado. I yelled her name, once, twice, before she turned around, yelped my name back. In the midst of catching up, she turned to me and said, “God, I miss these things.”
I was slightly confused. “What things?” I asked, thinking Tacos?
“Going to readings,” she said, and then she explained. The closest thing to any sort of writerly event in Walden is a book club in which, she told me, she is by far the youngest member. While this news shouldn’t have come as a shock, I was instantly sketched out thinking of living in a place so isolated and removed from all the things I love.
Though I do not yet know where I am going to end up once May arrives and I defend my thesis, I am starting to realize that it won’t always be like this. I am not always going to live in a place where people know the line of a poem I’m talking about, or the interview on LitHub I’m referencing, or who remember the time that man spoke up at AWP and Pam Houston shut him DOWN. I might not be in a place where people gather together on Thursday and Friday nights to hear writers read their work, and then go to the bar downtown and have their professors show up.
The more we inch our way toward May and the closer we get to finally feeling the sun on our skin, the more I begin to panic about my time left in this community with the people I have come to love. While in the beginning of the program I was nervous, hesitant, difficult to draw out of my little cocoon, I can’t imagine pursuing this MFA without the communities I have found here and the spaces they have made in my routine, in my heart. The MFA at CSU is particularly unique in its breadth of such community events; there are at least six different reading series hosted throughout the year (some organized by CSU and others that are student-run).
Having gone two and a half years without participating as a reader, I have learned in the last month (in which I read twice; for thesis and in the final Fork Socket reading of the year) how fun it can actually be to share your work with the people you write with. It isn’t as scary when you understand everyone’s rooting for you and if you mess up someone will just buy you a beer afterward.
There is a comfort in this kind of community and our interconnected little web is one I am going to miss greatly. It’s nice and warm and genuine and in it I feel comfortable being myself. I think there is a difference between comfort and stasis and though it’s anyone’s guess where I’ll be in a few months, if it’s not here, I can say I will miss it and that I am better equipped for findings these nooks wherever I go.
And on that note, be sure to catch the final CSU reading of the year with Ross Gay at the Lory Student Center on April 26th at 7:30 p.m.!