Falling off a cliff
By Jim Green, MA Creative Writing & Publishing, 2nd Year
"Back in February, before we knew what Covid-19 would do to our lives, I wrote about “Crossing the Line,” being an Ambassador, taking prospective students around our college, showing them what a wonderful place it is, hoping they would join our creative community. That seems strange now, hard to reconcile with recent months. How many will arrive at West Dean in October?
At the end of May I submitted my final Creative Writing and Publishing MA papers, including the first twenty-five thousand words of my precious novel Loves Me, Loves Me Not. It felt like I was offering up my baby for adoption, hoping it would find a welcoming family of readers, one who would cherish, nourish, furnish it with everything a growing child might need in the wide world beyond West Dean's embrace.
My protagonist, Dr Ted Evans, has been emerging across the two-year journey of our MA and is set to reveal himself, alongside my colleague's fascinating cast of characters, when we publish our West Dean 2020 Anthology of new writing later this year.
Look forward to meeting Princess Catherine in Jenny Browning's Mrs Romanov, Joe and Liv in Lucy Crewdson's The Nest, Indigo and Ivy in Jasper Goodheart's Psych, and Michael and Ellie in Nadia Ioannou's Restraints.
I won't be an MA student any longer in October, with West Dean's protective arms clasped firmly around me. I've fallen off the proverbial cliff, gone weak at the knees, panting with nervous exhaustion, stumbling, reaching out into the void for support.
But there is something beckoning me, offering a helping hand. The West Dean Alumni network is a community with international reach. I can keep in contact, make new friends, go to college events, access the library and other benefits, including discounted short courses, receive updates, news on exhibitions and opportunities.
There's the Alumni e-Newsletter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups. There's our Student Association, our societies, Ancient Craft, Athletics, Blacksmithing, Dungeons and Dragons, Music Appreciation, Yoga, and my fellow Wordsmiths, who are planning a book reading group open to all, not just the writers.
We're going to need all the help we can get. As we've seen in the community during this crisis, much will have to be self-propelled, not waiting to see what others will come up with. We need to take the initiative. As John F. Kennedy might have said: “Ask not what your college can do for you – ask what you can do for your college.”
As the lockdown begins to lift, let's hope everyone keeps their sensible hats on, as well as their masks and gloves when necessary. Living with Covid-19 has been a steeper learning curve than any MA, we've learnt to reach out, explore, share and improve. Learn from our mistakes, be aware of the bad, remember the good, make this world a better place.
I'm planning a trip to Brighton with Ted, a voyage of recovery and redemption. I have spent two years at West Dean getting to know him, following, as Raymond Bradbury put it, ‘his footsteps in the snow and now I am going to follow him out of those gates and down the road, see what new adventures await him. I’ll do that with more confidence now and a curiosity about what the next story is, but I will stay connected to West Dean, it finds its way under the skin somehow and will beckon me back I know."