It’s been nearly a year since I let my blog slump into oblivion – whatever oblivion is possible on the web, which is actually not oblivion at all but more like that heap of greeting cards that ends up stuffed in a drawer. Until you cut them up into cute little gift tags or decide to do a craft like that geometrically-shaped Christmas tree ball thing featuring winter scenes and cute angels… But I digress.

After an eventful ten months, I am back on the blog.

First novel finished. MFA nearly earned. A few articles, short stories and poems published here and there. A lot learned.

Travel? Not so much. There was a last-minute press trip to Israel in February which was pretty incredible. And some local travel funded by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council for the collection I’m hastily trying to complete in time for the CBC Literary Awards deadline.

But mostly I’ve been hunkered down in my head for the last long while, writing poetry for last fall’s amazing workshop with Dionne Brand, fiction for the winter workshop with funny and insightful Michael Winter (my favourite quote from that class, paraphrased: “We want to write about death and longing and we’re stuck describing the jam jars”) and, most challenging and educational of all, writing, examining, editing, analyzing and rewriting my first novel, Swarm, with Susan Swan.

Awhile back Nomadic Matt commented on my blog that he didn’t understand why people took classes for creative writing. What do they teach? he asked. How to be more creative? Unfortunately, some deadline or other prevented me from taking him up on his challenge but I can respond now.

His questions aren’t new. They’re cousins of another comment I heard just the other day: How can poetry be good or bad when it’s somebody’s opinion?

The answer to both is CRAFT. We take creative writing classes, yes, to carve out a space to be creative. But also to hone the craft. Poetry, fiction, most writing, is good or bad according to its craft.

And with the MFA nearly behind me (in early October I defend my thesis: wish me luck!) I can say that my capacity to express the creative inside me is much improved after two years listening and talking to more widely-published writers, reading, discussing what it is to be a writer and wrestling with what the hell I’ve been trying to say.

It’s been a great two years. And now for the rest of my life.