Monday, April 16, 2018

What I've Learned this Year in My Novel Freshman Experience

I finished glazing all my pieces over the weekend.  That left me reflecting on my first year back to school.

I'll confess, I was a bit nervous on my first day of school last fall.  It's been mumble, mumble years since I was in school.  And I knew I'd be one of the older students.  That first day I realized I was not just older...I was the oldest student in my class.

I rarely get nervous in public.  Here at home, I'm amongst family and I know where I fit.  When I'm giving a workshop or going to a conference, I know who I am—I'm Holly Jacobs...the writer.  In a book I'm whoever I'm writing.  I'm a mom or an artist or a party crasher...  I'm a Hungarian grandmother or an adopted daughter or a...  I'm always someone new, but I always know who they are or at least figure it out as I write.

But at school?  Who was I going to be other than the oldest student amongst teens?

Turns out, I was indeed the oldest in class, but it also turned out that the kids didn't seem to mind.  They accepted me as one of them.  A few of them thought my age meant I knew more than they did, but they quickly realized it didn't. LOL  Still, they talked to me and hung out with me...on purpose.  They treated me with respect and kindness.

I tried to keep my morning Glee to a minimum, especially since class was so early.  I didn't want to annoy my younger classmates who might not find 8 am as gleeful as I did.  But after worrying that my Hobbit Hole project would blow up in the kiln and finding it hadn' glee spilled over.  Yes, I spewed glee all over.   I said that most days I tried to contain it and one of the girls said, "You don't do a very good job," with a smile. That smile said she was teasing me.  After that, I still tried to rein in my glee, but not quite as hard.

So the first thing I learned is...I can't completely contain my glee.  It just oozes through the cracks.

That led to the second thing I learned...this generation of young adults are sweet.  Not just the kids I was in class with, but across the campus.  First term there was a mens team that walked out of the building as I walked in.  And every single day someone held the door for me.  I don't think it was that they felt I was infirm (LOL) but just that they were polite.  

I would remiss if I didn't mention my professor as well as my classmates..  I suspect I asked a few more questions (by few I mean a lot) than most students.  And when he said we needed to make a ten minute presentation on an artist, he allowed me a few extra minutes for computer issues.   (And he didn't even groan when I told him I had twelve single-spaced pages of research.  That was very sweet!)  Professor H. really was amazing!

Next, I thought I wasn't going to care about grades.  I mean, I'm taking the classes for fun. I don't need the degree...I don't even know what degree I'd be trying for.  So, I told myself that I was just going to have fun and not care.  But when my first test came back with an A, my glee showed me that indeed I cared. So, I think that showed me that tigers don't change their stripes. I may learn new things and move myself in new directions, but I'm still a girl who cares about grades and likes to know what role I play in situations. There's something to be said for understanding your own particular stripes.  And while I do like A's, I think I've learned to appreciate the actual learning more than the grade.  So the stripe is still there...but it's faded a bit. 

Those are not inconsequential things, but on a deeper level, I think I'm learning to look at the world in a new way.  That new point of view actually started the year before.  I'd had a bad day (yes, I have them sometimes) and gave myself my first official Day of Beauty.  I discovered I could literally become a part of the art that day.  My ceramics classes have built on that.  I am absolutely not an artist, like Lexi in Just One Thing, I think of myself as crafter. But craft has enriched me.  I look at the world in a new way.  I see everything as a possibility.  

That new world-view is balanced by learning how my past can influence my present.  I've been putting together a family tree for years and I've found some very deep mountain roots. My family came from the Appalachian Mountains.  As I dug into that history, I came across Face Jugs.  I know, people think they're ugly, but to be honest, I find them so ugly they're cute.  I've made two so far, a shoutout to that part of my family history.  I suspect I'll be making more in the future.  For a long time, I had entire swatches of my family tree shrouded in mystery.  As I uncover layers of my past, I think they've truly enriched my present and who knows where they'll take me in the future.

But here's the biggest lesson I've be honest, it's something I've known for a long time, but my classes really drove the idea home.  Learning something new, at any age, enriches me.  (I've vlogged about it.)  

As a writer, I collect information like a stamp collector collects...stamps.  You'll find these weird little gems sprinkled throughout my fiction.  So learning something new isn't new for me.  But those little-bits don't compare to how much I've taken in about ceramics this year.  And while I know a lot more than I knew in September, I am very aware of how much more there is to learn!  And I'm anxious to get at it!  

I can sign up for the fall term at the end of the week...keep your fingers crossed I get into my wheel throwing class!  And as soon as those glazed pieces come out of the kiln, I'll post pictures.  Oh, that's something else I've learned.  Glazing is like magic.  You may think you know what it's going to do but every time you fire is unique.  Even the professor says he's still surprised by what a glaze will do in the kiln.  So I'm waiting to see what magic occurs when he starts that gas kiln this week!  

Maybe that's a lesson, too.  You can do everything in your power to impact an outcome, but sometimes stuff just happens.

Wow, I've learned a lot this year!

After I post those glazed and fired pieces, we're probably done with My Novel Freshman Experience posts until fall.  But I'll still be posting Book Stories posts, On Writing posts, Days of Beauty posts and cottage updates.  Plus all the other random posts.  If you have any other suggestions of things you'd like to talk about...holler!

I just want to say thank you to all my new readers (both book readers and blog readers)!  


PS Looking for a book to try?  These are all on sale this month:
Hold Her Heart
Just One Thing
Everything But...series

Fairly Human
Pickup Lines

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