One year ago I was in Montpelier, Vermont, getting ready to graduate with my masters degree in creative writing. In fact, I gave my graduating lecture on the Fourth of July, squeezed into the time slot between lunch and the annual VCFA Poets vs. Writers softball game. (I didn't play, but I hear that the Writers won and the Poets brooded about it.) A few days later I sat on a stage with my classmates while the college president conferred the status of "master" upon us, a term which makes me giggle and sigh with a shake of my head every time I think about it. Master. What a weird, loaded word. (Sometimes I like to feminize it: Mistress. That makes me giggle even more. I have a Mistress of Fine Arts. Better yet: I am a Mistress of Fine Arts.) (Sometimes, when I have too many to-do lists scattered arond the house, I consolidate them into one "Mistress List.") (Get it?)
The term "Master" is almost embarrassing. It implies that I've, well, you know, mastered creative writing. It insinuates that there's an endpoint to the learning and the practicing of this fine art. But, of course, there's not. I still have much to learn, to read, to write.
And yet, I have learned some enormously important things about writing during my two years of study, and I've grown tremendously as a writer over the past decade. I love to share what I've learned because it's fun and fulfilling to see people light-up with creative spark and have their own little literary epiphanies. In addition to teaching and sharing through my Alchemy e-courses and small group workshops, I've also been working with individuals to provide coaching, feedback, and editing services.
This summer, in honor of my one-year anniversary as a Master Mistress, I've launched The Word Cellar Writing Guild, three-month apprenticeships during which you receive personalized mentoring for every aspect of your writing life. Basically, I've bundled together my feedback, editing, and coaching services and created a mentoring program that address the four key areas of your writing life: writing, feedback, reading, and support.
I've modeled The Guild apprenticeships on my experience in a low-residency MFA program. I took the best parts of my experience (accountability, support, inspiration, resources, practical advice, and the opportunity to practice writing) and created a doable, affordable program for other writers and wish-to-be writers. All of the apprenticeships include the same level of individualized support and feedback, but there are three tiers to choose from, based on how much writing you want to do.
At the Introductory level, you write 5-10 pages per month. For the Intermediate apprenticeship, you'll write 10-20 pages per month. And if you choose the Intensive apprenticeship, you'll submit 20-30 pages each month. Since the apprenticeships last for three months, you'll end up writing (and getting feedback on) 15 to 90 pages. That's a wide range, but it means that you can set the goals and dreams that fit what you need right now.
Full details about The Guild and apprenticeships are over here. I've also listed some mini-mentoring sessions near the bottom of that page in case you'd prefer a single session of coaching or editorial feedback.
I know I'm playing up this idea of "master" and "apprentice" by calling these three-month gigs "apprenticeships." In the Medieval system of guilds, there were three levels of craftsmen: apprentice, journeyman, and master. A journeyman was a paid member of the guild who had completed an apprenticeship and was working on his masterpiece, which he hoped would grant him the rank of master. The term "journeyman" comes from Middle English word journey, meaning "a day's labor," which, I presume derives from French, since the French word for "day" is jour. Nowadays, "Journeyman" is used to mean someone who has learned a trade and works for another person, usually by the day.
But the word "journey" by itself has a different connotation, doesn't it? In my mind, it hints at an ongoing path, a quest, a neverending sojourn. Graduate degree notwithstanding, the writing life is a journey.
So what if we feminized and modernized "journeyman" and made it journeywoman? I like the sounds of that. I'm a woman on a writing journey, and I've learned some things along the way that I'd like to share with you. If you could use a traveling companion and guide, I'd love to walk with you.