This week started out swiftly with the start of the fall semester. I never know how to feel about the first week back. It’s partially exciting, partially overwhelming. I love the starting phase of getting a new syllabus and meeting classmates I’ve either never seen before or never got a chance to talk to before now. New professors are also great. It’s my goal to know every professor in the English department by the time I graduate, and by know I mean hold conversations with, not a simple hello in the hallway.
I don’t want to ramble about my professors. Okay, I do, but I won’t. I’ll be simple. Two professors I’ve had before, two are new. They all have their own forms of teaching. They all interest me. I’m never concerned about a professor. I don’t want to talk myself up here or anything, but I do a good job of working well with any professor I’ve had. The key is to not shy away from them, ask questions, and let them know that you’re dedicated. It’s only been a week, but I feel that I’ve done a decent job all around thus far.
As far as classes go, I have four. I’m taking American Literature I, 20th Century British Literature, Shakespeare and Creative Writing Fiction. I’m also doing an internship in the publishing office which consists of working with social media, primarily Twitter and book bloggers. This was a small “project” that I started in the spring semester. If you’re reading this and you’re a book blogger, please let me know and I’d love to give you more information about that.
The point of this post is to share what I’ve been working on this week. People think that the first week is about syllabus and introduction, nothing more, but that’s completely false. I’m already in the process of reading settler journal logs for American Literature, The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce for 20th Centuary British Literature. To top it all off, I’ve also written a short story.
I’ve already taken three writing courses at this school (Technical Report Writing, Intro to Creative Writing and Creative Writing), but being a writer I wanted to continue improving my craft. Enter Creative Writing Fiction. This will sound surprising to those who have taken writing classes, but this is my first writing class that involves workshops. The first two classes I mentioned were done online, so “workshop” was online peer review, which is much different from reading aloud and getting responses face-to-face. The third class was a part of my England trip, so only the professors read my work.
My initial thought when looking at what classes to sign up for was that I couldn’t possibly take a workshop class. I know what you’re thinking. You want to be a writer, but you’re afraid of workshops… You are correct. I am comfortable approaching people and talking to anyone, but something about public speaking in any form terrifies me, and the idea of doing that every week freaks me out even more. This made me almost not sign up for the course, it’s that bad. But I signed up…and then I spent various parts of the summer thinking about if I could actually handle it or not.
We had our first workshop today. We split up into five groups of four students each. I knew one person in my group, but the other two were complete strangers. We went about in our small circle reading our stories aloud and having the others provide feedback. Pretty simple, right?
Second Confession: I have trouble accepting that anything I write is decent, let alone good.
Insert calming of the nerves here. I read my story. They loved my story. It really was that simple. I trust that they were honest considering I was honest with them, and because writers/editors are all about feedback. Most English majors are also blunt and honest anyways, so this would naturally come through in a workshop. I won’t tell you the specifics of what was said because it would ruin the story, but I’m going to post it below and see what you think. As always, please be honest with feedback if you have any.
The Last Drop of Morning
I grew to enjoy the taste of coffee at a young age. I didn’t realize how odd this was until I started asking for it at school instead of juice during break time. I couldn’t find a single classmate who preferred the hot beverage. Many adults enjoy it, of course, but they acquired the taste for it over a period of years.
The obsession started long before I even knew how to write my address or multiply. Instead, I worried about someone else, a person who people saw as some sort of hero. It was only natural that I wanted him to be my hero as well. He was a doctor, a lifesaver in a dangerous and fast-paced field. One wrong move could turn hope into a funeral. But he was always graceful in his work. People said there was something about the way his hands moved about like a symphony being created before their very eyes. I didn’t understand any of this growing up. I wasn’t allowed to watch him work, after all.
Mum made coffee for him every morning. The mere smell of it would wake me, and in a minute I would be downstairs. It wasn’t the smell that got me excited, but rather knowing my father would be in the kitchen to drink the dark substance. I used to think that if I made it there fast enough he would notice and take a minute to inquire after me. These brief moments were rather my way of being able to see him. He went to work early, before my older brothers would wake up, and so I was usually the only one to see him in the earlier hours of the day apart from mum. It made me feel special, like we had that extra bond. You know, the father-daughter bond that people talk about, we had that, or so I told myself.
He was always much too rushed to ever sit down. Sometimes he would be moving around so quickly that he would spill drops and splatters on the floor and counter tops. I would study his movements, recall these spills, and make sure to clean them up after he’d left. I thought it would make him proud to know that I was looking out for him and helping mum like any good little girl would do. It made us a team, really.
It was rare for him to ever finish his morning mug, and taking any with to work was apparently unthinkable. For months I would watch the drink sit on the counter until mum would come back to pour it out. I came to find it to be a waste, and listening to her sigh as she dumped her efforts down the drain was dreadful. It was only natural for my little mind to conclude that I needed to finish the coffee.
He took it straight up. No cream. No sugar. Just black. Black like his hair. Black like his thick-rimmed glasses. Black like his shiny loafers. I accepted black as his color. I don’t know what my color is, but his will always be black.
It was disgusting at first. I wondered if he left so much behind because he couldn’t stand the taste. After trying it again and again, however, I couldn’t help but want to drink every last drop whenever possible. It was addicting, just like waking up early for a glance at my hero was addicting. I saw him every morning unless he was away for work or left without coffee being made, but those days were rare.
Things changed even more when I got older, thirteen to be exact. It was like the world had shifted overnight. My father used to show small signs of recognition when I stood in the kitchen—a pat on the head, kiss on the cheek or squeeze on the shoulder—but after so much time he neglected to do anything at all. It was a clear sign of being unwanted, or at least that was how I felt. I would even do that thing where you stare so long and eventually they would look over, but even that didn’t work. It was as if he stopped existing at home and was solely dedicated to his working life, and of course the coffee; he always paid attention to the coffee.
My mother was never fond of my morning routine. I used to think it was because she was a tea drinker and the idea of her only daughter preferring the disgusting taste of coffee to tea was upsetting to her, but as I learned more about life I understood that had nothing to do with it. It also had nothing to do with my father, funny enough. I don’t remember when exactly she started coming into the kitchen to talk to me; she never used to. I can hear her now, talking to me as if we were in the moment.
“Stop drinking your father’s coffee.”
“Don’t clean up after him, love. I can handle it.”
“Why don’t you go back to bed, sweets? It’s still quite early.”
“You’re too young to be drinking that stuff. It’s for grown-ups.”
While my mother paid notice of me, my father’s neglect carried on for years. I finally decided to do something about it. I didn’t want to be the bad guy, as it were, but I was tired of being invisible. I walked into his office without knocking, and like normal he didn’t bother looking up from his work. The door remained closed as I stood opposite him at his desk.
“Your mother is concerned about you,” he said, not looking up to see who it was. “She still doesn’t think you’re ready to move on.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” he said, putting the cap on his pen and looking up at me, his expression uneasy. “But you still haven’t left.”
“I can’t leave,” I said, frowning. “I’ve tried to go, but I still end up back here.”
We stared at one another, me feeling rather empty, him looking empty. It felt unnatural, being around him. It was getting to the point where I’d rather not see him, but I also knew that I was cursed to remain here a moment longer.
“Why did you forget about me?” I asked.
“I never forgot about you, love,” he said after a pause, his expression changing to sadness. “I could never forget you.”
“But you stand in silence every morning. Mum at least talks to me sometimes.”
“Your mother has yet to accept your death,” he said. “I thought that if I acted like you weren’t there, maybe you’d be able to find some peace, but that hasn’t happened.”
“I just wanted you to notice me. You know, pat me on the head, kiss me on the cheek, squeeze my shoulders.”
“You know I can’t do those things anymore,” he said, running a hand over his face. He looked worn and torn as if we’d been going in circles with this conversation for years. “I think about you every day; that will never change.”
Having heard that, I knew it was time for me to go. I had been haunting the house for too long, and it was time that we all had peace.
“Finish the coffee so mum doesn’t have to dump it out,” I told him.
“I will,” he said with a nod. “Every day, I promise.”
I returned the nod, smiling a little. I hadn’t had coffee in years now, but watching my mother pour it out made me envious. I was glad that I wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore. I left his office, vanishing into the unknown, for once knowing I would finally get the rest I had been missing for years.
Have you ever taken a writing workshop class/session before? If so, how do you feel about it?
Which of my classes would you most be interested in taking?