The beginning of the fall semester in the MFA program here at WVU brings with it a series of traditions. There are ice-breakers, first-day nerves, long lines and paper jams in the copy room. There’s the awe that that room, with a dark wooden table and books stacked into the wall and a huge window overlooking campus, is where we workshop. And there is the MFA meet-and-greet at program director Mary Ann Samyn’s home. Held after the first week of classes every August, the meet-and-greet brings together first-year students, current MFAs, and creative writing faculty. It is one of the first chances for the program to come together—poets, novelists, and essayists; students and their future mentors.
This year’s meet-and-greet was held August 20th, on a hot, sunny Sunday typical of a Morgantown summer. Inside, some folks gathered in the living room to recap the hits and misses of their first day teaching English 101, and some descended to the deck out back to cool off from the heat. But most everybody at some point ended up in the dining room, filling their plates with spinach salad, sweet strawberries, and triangular brownie wedges.
Another tradition of the meet-and-greet: excellent, beautiful food.
The meet-and-greet is the starting point at which WVU’s community of writers begins to grow and evolve for the coming year. Though it is a gathering of writers, the conversations often strayed from the mechanics of writing. Instead, first-years and faculty discussed the merits of Morgantown’s grocery stores. Aldi or Kroger? Giant Eagle or Shop ‘n Save? Third-years told new MFAs about the best restaurant spots in Morgantown and where to go for the most authentic Thai food. Fiction writers recommended poets their recent favorite novels, and memoirists typed the names of poetry collections into their phones to search for later.
And, of course, there’s Theo. The last meet-and-greet tradition is hearing at least one new MFA say, “God, it’s good to see a dog.”