An intense camaraderie

You know, I’ve never sat through many creative writing classes, and, to tell the truth, before being asked to teach one (at Pacific University), couldn’t really see the reason to. I mean, you can pick it all up by reading critically, right?  By writing your own brains out?  By trying, and trying, and trying again? For a decade or two. When it’s that simple, who needs teachers? And what is there that I could teach? I just sit in my basement day after day, year after year, watching the lives of my imaginary friends unfold before me. How much wisdom could I impart from that? 

But, what I found here at Pacific is that this stuff really can work. The workshops offer a safe place to gather the opinions of other people as fired up about writing as you are yourself. The craft talks can cut years off the learning curve, offer short cuts through some of the tangles I’d blundered through on my own. And, perhaps most importantly, it creates a circle of peers, an intense camaraderie that I’ve found nowhere else. No, not even in my basement. Perhaps I’ve spent too long alone down there, but I’ve made actual friends here, among the faculty and the students, that will long outlive our time together in this program. 

Though I hate to say it about any of them, these are people just like me, as serious and as passionate, working their hardest at something so difficult to define, let alone talk about. And that’s what I’ve done here, talk about it, and talk some more. It makes the whole game seem almost winnable, or, at least, a little less lonely. Every six months, as the residency dates draw near, I find myself waiting for it like I used to wait for summer break, for Christmas. I can’t help myself.

Pete Fromm is an instructor in Pacific’s MFA in writing program. His latest novel, As Cool As I Am (2003), earned him an unprecedented fourth Pacific Northwest Booksellers Literary Award. Earlier winners were his novel How All This Started (2000), the story collection Dry Rain (1997), and memoir Indian Creek Chronicles (1993). Hailed as one of “America‘s best-kept literary secrets,” he has published four other story collections, as well as more than 100 stories in magazines. He lives with his family in Great Falls, Mont.