From fear of scaring most of yous away with a political rant or two dozen, we’re starting the next several posts with congratulatory pieces for the SNHU MFA graduates this past residency. Last week we presented Kelly Stone Gamble. This week it’s Jerri Hickox Clayton, a wonderful woman and writer. TK excuses her loyalty to that team from Foxboro ... because we at TK love Jerri ...
Jerri’s tribute was given by the director of our program, Diane Les Becquets:
Four prepositions: (For, From, Through, and To): In Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Holden Caulfied says, “I don’t even know what I was running for.” For these past two semesters, I have had the delight of working with Jerri Clayton, who served as our residency GA. Jerri is a runner. She has run through woods, up mountains, down dark icy streets, and she has run marathons, including the Boston marathon. In the beginning, perhaps she didn’t always know “what she was running for.” In her memoir, “In the Long Run,” she began a journey not only to complete a manuscript but also to cross a more significant and personal finish line. Writing her memoir became her own marathon for understanding. Understanding what she had been running for, and understanding what she had been running to. She’d spent her life running from all that she feared, from the past, from a suicidal father, a failed marriage, from mental illness, and from herself. She’d run through depression and fear and anger and addictions, inclement weather and inclement emotions. And she learned that “Sometimes all the training in the world cannot make race day a success. In the Long Run, Jerri discovers the gift of running for others, finding strength in the team. “We finished her mile. We reached her goal.” Her writing and her running have been and are a metaphor for her life. Jerri’s writing is precise, metaphoric, honest and raw, immersing the reader in the prose and the story. I could feel every word.
And here are Jerri’s words ...
Faculty, staff, graduates, alumni, students, family and friends – good evening. It is an honor and privilege to represent the winter graduating class of 2012. Sophia, Wendie, Vegas, Georgia, Little Daddy,
I need to first let you know this is not an official communication. For official graduation speech communication please contact Lisa Allen. I will, however, be giving this speech from the perspective of the fish.
I would like to start by sharing a quote from our own Craig Childs.
“I cannot assume we all operate in the same way, but I imagine you have felt fear with writing, a sensation such as looking at an enormous landscape, then facing the small size of your own body. I am feeling it today, my voice crooked and cracking. Why would I dare write? What audacity to put down words and say my story matters. Have you felt that before? If so, here is my advice for all of us. Keep going. Our doubt does not matter. We put letters on pages. We make sentences, chapters. It is not our business what value our own words carry. We must. I have carried this quote because it gives me validation as a writer, as this program validates each and every one of you.”
While many yearn for writing to be a fulltime job and the bread and butter of our lives, that is not the norm. We juggle. We struggle. We write. And while our fulltime jobs may or may not be in the realm of writing, we are, indeed, all writers. Putting words on paper is what we do. What happens after that is out of our control, our common bond is each of us has a story to tell, and the desire to tell it. Being in this program validates that choice. We are privileged to have a group of faculty as vast as our own ideas to teach and guide us to be the best writers we can be. While I began this program feeling that my diploma would be the end of the journey—I drank the kool aid along the way---and realized it is only the beginning. When our cohort started, the motto was “Go write your book” Diane, changed that, to Go Write your Books. That next little idea needs to put down on paper. We leave with not only a diploma, but also the validation to keep on writing.
None of the graduating class had the luxury of this program being their sole focus. Ahhhhh, if only, but life gets in the way. We learn to write in our heads and eventually get those thoughts on paper. We write within our daily routine every single day. Our heads are swimming with thoughts and ideas that must be jotted down. Within each of us are stories.
In this program, we are given deadlines. I love when the graduates told me, “I miss the deadlines.” I thought, Yes, they’re easy to miss when you don’t’ have them. But honestly, students, embrace each deadline, and embrace your peers. Embrace the bubble. Being in this incredible MFA bubble allows you to flourish. This program allows you to come together for residencies twice a year. Cherish those residencies. Take the time to connect with all the faculty and students. Do what we fondly refer to as subgrouping. Subgrouping—where crock of porks and snuggling rats is common. Pirate outings and knitting circles constitute a subgroup. Subgroups allow you to share your writing. Pass revisions and ideas, and if you’re lucky and your cohort is as strong as those before you, this goes on long after you leave this grand hotel. The magic of subgrouping brought a man, we call Pantless Jack and a girl named Skinny Chick to life. There were songs written (and sung...) about Purple Shirt Guy. And while subgrouping a legend was born, a man named Bobby Sox, who will forever validate us as storytellers.
While there are no guarantees what will happen with these degrees, one thing is guaranteed, you will have the opportunity to form bonds with faculty and students alike that will continue to validate you as a writer.
As I stand before my cohort, my friends, and we have reached our goal I will borrow from Ralph Waldo Emerson—life is a journey, not a destination. Congratulations, Happy Trails, Best of luck on your continued journey. Write On and Peace out.
Me (the ugly one) again, amici. Is Jerri cool or what?
Now for the POLITICS of our nation ... madonna mia.
At the outset, let us at TK state that if Ron Paul wasn’t so in love with the free market system, we’d be on his bandwagon pronto. But he is, so we won’t be on his bandwagon. We’re with him on civil liberties and foreign policy across the board ... in the meantime, here’s some of what we (most of yous, not TK) seem to take seriously enough to actually vote for ... our/your presidential choices ... some GOP numbnuts and our President (Fredo Corleone) ... oy-friggin-vey.
The other night, Mitt Romney defended his “blind trusts” by claiming he’s blind to where the money is invested. Hmmm, apparently he attacked drunken Ted Kennedy on the same issue of blind trusts back in the day. Could he be flip-flopping again?
Jon Stewart had some fun with the other top GOP hopeful, Newt Gingrich ...
Ron Paul taking apart Rick Santorum’s anxiousness to go to war with Iran.
And then there’s our fearless leader ... fearless about what he said in the State of the Union the other night, that’s for sure. Here’s a guy who took more money from Wall Street in 2008 than any candidate in history ... a guy who surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs people (and didn’t Goldman do well after they helped bankrupt the country?) ... a guy who appointed Jeff Imelt his friggin' Job Czar a week before GE sent 5,000 jobs to China. I heard him mention outsourcing in his speech the other night and nearly upchucked my Chivas ... and then there was his “Don’t bash teachers” line ... and that reminded me of his disappearing act last year when Wisconsin vilified teachers and public worker unions. Fredo forgot his campaign pledge to walk the picket line and although he may be fortunate the GOP can’t show this video to his shame, we at TK don’t understand why the media has yet to take him to task on this issue. So, here it is, a little reminder for all those in unions on your way to the voting booth come November.
Finally, the remaining clown acts (except for Ron Paul) that are the GOP field of candidates seemed anxious to one-up each other on where Fidel Castro should go when he passes (Gingrich got to hell first, but then Romney double-helled him the next day while campaigning). And here’s what Fidel (or, if you prefer, Mr. Castro) had to say about that:
"The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been," said the retired Cuban leader, who has dueled with 11 U.S. administrations since his 1959 revolution.
Say what you want about the guy ... he nailed it.
Swing baby, swing ...