EDITOR’S NOTE: Lyndie Blevins is a student in the Alma College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. She wrote this blog post following the program’s Winter 2024 residency in Venice, Italy.

Winter 2024 brought our residency in Venice, Italy! A sense of place is a key element of writing in the Alma program. For 10 days, we lived exposed to the place of Italy, the language and the people. The family-owned villa where we stayed, the Hotel Villa Franceschi, gave us more of a sense of being invited guests than hotel patrons. While we experienced three full days of excursions together, we also held all the lectures, readings and workshops of a traditional MFA residency. There was consideration for those who could not make the trip to Italy to gather as a cohort in Detroit, Michigan, and be a part of the Venice classroom time through Zoom.

An artistic community

The intense two weeks of being together develops friendships of like-minded creative folks. Being in Italy and observing the habits of the culture allowed these friendships to deepen. For example, there were the long intentional meal times. No one could grab food and go back to their room. These two-hour, multi-course meals increased the bonding and the camaraderie of our group. It was important because the more comfortable you feel with the people who provided critique of your work, the more you trust what they have to say about your work.

Experiencing art of any genre — visual, musical or literature — with other artists provides freedom to point out to each other the elements which struck you. These included the mixture of textures, the colors in the light, the delicacy of stitching in the lace handmade on the island of Burano, the turn of certain phrases or the magic of a cat on a path.

During the excursions, everyone looked out for each other. Some of us needed extra help to get in and out of the boats and everyone helped. The residency emboldened me to explore Paris on my own on my way home.

Your voice matters

I’m Lyndie Blevins and I’m a third-semester fiction student in the Alma MFA Creative Writing Program. For years, I studied ads for low-residency MFA programs in the back of writers magazines as I pursued a career in information technology. When I retired to fulfill my dream of writing, I explored many avenues to improve my work. I read books, took part in local writers’ groups, and attended many writing conferences/retreats. None of these ventures enabled me to create cohesive manuscripts. In fall 2022, I met program director Sophfronia Scott at a writers’ retreat, learned about the Alma MFA program, and began my studies in January 2023.

I came to the program with a handful of half-finished manuscripts which lacked purpose. In my first year of study, my writing improved as I worked with faculty and students in the residencies, and my mentors during the rest of the terms. As readers, they understood what I sought to achieve in my writing. I gained confidence in writing experimental literary fiction.

Low-residency format

The low-residency format is ideal for writers. Ten days of residency each semester are intense with lectures and writers reading their work. The genre-specific workshops provided profitable critique for my work. The suggestions and questions the students and faculty gave pointed me to thoughtful considerations for the revision of my work.

Then you go home and do what writers do: read books and write as outlined in the term study plan created with the guidance of your mentor. Over five packets, the mentor’s comments push you to do excellent work.

My experience in the Alma MFA program is a journey in living out my purpose in life through my writing.

For more information on the Alma College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit alma.edu.