The Graduate(s)

The summer of a two-year program is a wonderful thing. As someone who’d been out of school for nearly a decade when I started up at Wyoming, the idea of having a summer vacation was beautiful. And I could plan for mine, unlike the Mooch. (Too soon?) But in addition to taking time to relax and visit family, the summer is pretty crucial for getting your thesis into fighting shape. Today, I’m talking to three recent grads about the work they did over their summers and how it impacted their writing.

Going into his summer, Alex wasn’t entirely sure what his thesis project would be. He’d worked on a number of short stories during his first year, but had a “sort of jumbled” first chapter of a novel as well. He decided to focus on the novel over the summer as he preferred to use workshop time for shorter pieces. Diving deep on the novel solidified his thesis plans, and all but one of the chapters he wrote over the summer made it to the thesis. As much as he wrote during the summer, though, he missed teaching and having the structure of steady non-writing work.

Emily was similarly prolific in her summer work. Last summer, she wrote an entire draft of her thesis project, 300 pages of creative nonfiction focused on the presence, absence, and transformation of bodies. With that head start going into her second year, she was able to finish a full second draft by January, and eventually condensed her thesis into a tighter 140 page project. In the end, she wasn’t sure it the number of drafts she finished mattered so much as the fact that doing so much drafting over the summer left her “energized and excited” for the work to come.

Lilly took a different approach. She used her summer to relax, adventure, and get some mental space from her work. “One of the reasons Laramie has been such a productive writing space for me is the fact that the weather is so cold and forbidding, which makes it easier to stay inside and write all day,” Lilly said. “Laramie summers are beautiful and perfect, which is excellent for living if not for writing.” It’s difficult for self-imposed writing deadlines to compete with the limited window for many of Wyoming’s most stunning hikes. Lilly acknowledged that this lead to a much busier fall semester, but also noted that the distance she’d gotten from writing made her much more excited to edit older stories and draft new ones that had “mysteriously gestated” over the summer. After graduating this May, she decided to get even more distance: she’s up in Alaska, working in a kitchen in Denali National Park and getting inspiration for so many more stories.

As for me, I’m trying to take inspiration from all three as we move into the last month of summer. I’ve kept reasonably steady work going with WPR, I drove around the U.S. and Canada for six weeks to get some distance and get out of my head, and hopefully I’ll be able to use the next four weeks to dig into my thesis and start the fall semester energized and ready to go!  

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