I sat down on day one of class full of apprehension. I love to write and ever since I was a young girl, my family and friends have attributed that as my defining factor: Sydni, the Writer. This distinction made me nervous; it made me feel like an imposter. I wasn’t a writer. I had never received formal instruction in writing. I wrote essays better than some classmates and had a knack for editing, but so do a lot of people. So, I was prepared for an intense month that challenged my writing in ways that I had never before experienced. And that is exactly what happened.
Every morning, the six of us met in an elevated restaurant, appropriately named the Sky Lounge. It was almost entirely white, with purple gauzy curtains shivering in the breeze. There were only three walls, leaving one end open for gazing at the Aegean Sea and the boardwalk below. This space was ours. During the day, the owner had closed down the Sky Lounge for anyone who wasn’t traveling with us. It was the perfect secluded and private space to work in and to observe the bustle down below.
On the first day of class, we met in Stis Varkes, a café across from the Sky Lounge, for coffee (which was probably the best iced coffee that I have ever been blessed with drinking) and a general run-through of the syllabus. Then, we received our first assignment: write two pages about the sensory elements of your lunch. Dr. Reusch (from here on out, Vinny) let us loose and told us to report back in two hours, ready to share our observations. Jessica Shamdas (‘17) and Alisa Batchelor (‘16) and I went to a nearby restaurant for Greek salads and pita bread. The entire meal was spent in almost utter silence while we each frantically jotted down every microscopic detail of our surroundings and every new sensation that occurred while chewing our food. I’m sure we looked ridiculous.
Later that day, we read our lunch exercise aloud to the class. This was something that we would continue to do with every assignment and it was the part of class that gave me the most anxiety. Writing can be a very personal experience — especially creative writing. Some of the best writing draws from the author’s own experiences and emotions; so, the act of not only allowing others to read a piece of your work, but to read it aloud to them yourself, is slightly terrifying. But it’s also incredibly exhilarating. Listening to my friends and a professor, whom I admire greatly, critique and compliment my work was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip. I left each day, flushed from the twinge of embarrassment that comes from hearing, “I’m not really sure what you were trying to do here…it doesn’t make sense,” but also giddy from hearing, “You have a very mature voice. It’s one that, as a reader, I want to listen to what it has to say next.”
The four weeks of class were a whirlwind of stress and excitement and lack of sleep, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I recently went back and read my work from the course and it was a shock to see myself make noticeable progress over such a short period of time. I have a long way to go, as writing is a never-ending process, but the skills that I developed and refined during Vinny’s class will remain with me as I continue on this journey of words. Thank you, Vinny, for such invaluable advice and for an incredible month of sharing ideas and stories.
Also, Cobbers, if you ever bump into Vinny around campus, I strongly suggest that you ask him to read you a poem about spotting a hot girl at a club that he wrote when he was younger. Hearing him read it aloud in his calm and measured voice was easily one of the highlights of the trip. He is an amazing writer (and hilarious too) and I am honored to have worked with him.