JoAnn Gometz

Writing | Editing | Content Strategy

Mama Knows the Highway

Re-immersion is hard. In fact, a year ago, one of our faculty members sent us off with the reminder that, "Tuesday is going to suck." After the chuckles died down, he explained that the weekend is full of last-minute farewells to Nova Scotia and travel home. Monday, friends and family want to hear about your trip and your project. And Tuesday, no one cares anymore and you're on your own. He wasn't entirely wrong.

Perhaps that's why the first thought that comes to mind on the way out of any residency, particularly the summer sessions on the rocky Nova Scotia coast, is the ending of Where the Wild Things Are:

"... Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye
and sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot."

It's difficult to disconnect from daily life and commit to two weeks of focused writing craft studies and work on the book. It's even more difficult to step back out of the bubble and into the real world. I haven't decided yet whether my friends' flights in and out of reality are better, or whether my two-day drive in each direction really eases the way.

In fact, my travel plan has been governed by finances, not convenience. Thankfully, the road between here and Halifax is pretty picturesque, for the most part. There are some stunning views along the Bay of Fundy that peek out between the hills and then are gone.

This year, the drive home was largely occupied by consideration of the changes in my book that took shape through fantastic chats with my mentors (current and past/future). I often do my most productive processing when I'm away from the keyboard, so I sorted out the new structure of the book in my head, mentally cataloging the ramifications for research and writing.

I might ordinarily have used my hotel night in the middle of the trip to write, but this time, it came at the end of a very long day, so I used it to organize myself, instead. My assignments are planned out and noted in multiple places so I can plan around them.

This next chunk of the year is very full and very important. My to-do list includes a wide range of tasks related to life, not school or work. It also includes my regular school assignments and work on the book, plus added research efforts, plus an increased focus on my pitch, proposal, and platform-building leading up to our winter residency and publisher introductions in New York. Then, of course, there is the work that actually pays the bills, none of which lives on the same term schedule as the MFA. 

It's no wonder, then, that I started Saturday with a mochachino and bagel at the Coburg Cafe with my mentor group, attended a debrief with all of my classmates, shared hugs and humor with friends I won't see until January (horrors! my people!), and then got in the car and drove for nine hours. By the time I crossed back into the U.S. in the late afternoon, I was suntanned on my left side, my mirrored sunglasses had given me mild raccoon eyes, and I had decided to onboard another caffeine infusion in the interest of staying alert.

For the 90-mile freeway intermission (it's a regular two-lane road between Calais and Bangor), I boosted the volume and seat-danced while singing along at top of my lungs. Portions of the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. Nearly the full Great Big Sea discography. Bonnie Tyler. Great White. Darius Rucker. "Call Me Maybe." "500 Miles." You name it, I sang it, as long as it was upbeat.

That brought to mind a conversation with a couple of friends over dinner our first week on campus. One of them told me she knew exactly what kind of guy I should find. I cringed. I was sure I knew what she was going to say. After all, I've been misread so many times, I practically have a script: "Yes, he has to be smart or he probably won't 'get' me. But he has to be a normal human. Smart for the sake of smart is exhausting." Instead, she surprised me, saying that she thinks the key is finding a man who understands and appreciates my relationship with music. Maybe shares that passion. Maybe has a passion for some other pursuit. 

My other friend and I stared at her. This is someone who knows me as a writer, not a fully faceted human being (except via The Facebook). And she's right. I've often said that an equal and opposite preoccupation is a desirable thing. But I kind of take for granted that music appreciation (and the ability to clap on the beat, please) is part of the whole package. It's nifty to see how people pick up on things that we don't always state outright. 

On that note, I'll leave off this post with the song that launched day two of my travels. Although the video portrays "Mama" as quite the floozy, I've always thought the lyrics better reflected a female truck driver. So you might want to close your eyes while you listen. Unless you're driving. In which case, you probably shouldn't be reading this, either.