This is Induction Week at my new school, also known as Meet the Freshers. At our opening meeting, all seven creative writing staff members stood in a room of 40+ third-years, welcoming them. ‘Coach’ Tyler Keevil, the BA Course Leader, brought the students into the UoG fold, reassuring them if they had worries, providing answers if they had questions, and encouraging them introduce themselves so they could begin to feel part of a community. This echoes the online welcome I received last week from UoG Creative Writing, complete with my very own sketch.
Later in the week, I got to meet with a small group of students I’ll watch over until graduation in three years. I sat on my office mate’s desk while the students settled onto chairs, and when those were full, sprawled onto the floor. ‘I’ve just moved here from the States,’ I told them by way of introduction. ‘I’m finding my way around Cheltenham, buying furniture for my new flat, making friends. I’m starting out, in a way, just like you are.’ And it’s true–I’ve left nearly everything and everyone behind and started a new life. Like my students, though, I’ve been gathered into a community, and I couldn’t be happier. Folks from home have been writing, asking if it’s really as good as my posts online. Yes, it is. I do believe I’m on the verge of an epic win.
Several years ago, Jane McGonigal, an online game designer, gave a TED TAlk called ‘Gaming Can Make a Better World,’ in which she explains how, if we turn gamers’ online hours into time spent solving real-world problems, the world would be a better place. My favorite part of the talk, though, is when she analyzes a gamer’s face, a gamer on the verge of an epic win.
Are you wondering what an epic win is? McGonigal says it’s an ‘outcome that is so extraordinarily positive, you had no idea it was possible until you had achieved it–it was almost beyond the threshold of imagination. When you get there, you’re shocked to discover what you’re capable of’. She looks at World of Warcraft, because, as she explains it, WOW is an ‘ideal collaborative problem-solving environment’. I don’t much like WOW or any online games, really, but I love collaboration and problem-solving. Which is also why I love my new job, my new colleagues, and why my new students are going to love this place as much as I do.
Here’s what happens in WOW, and every so often, in life, when you’re granted the conditions that lead to an epic win: 1) You’re given a mission perfectly matched to you, on the verge of what your capable of; 2) tons of collaborators are ready to go, ready to support you; 3) there’s an inspiring story about why you’re here; and 4) you get positive feedback along the way.
My mission: teach creative writing in the UK. My collaborators: a tight team of passionate, talented writers/teachers who are absolutely dedicated to their craft and to their students, and who are supported by a university that thinks what they’re doing is valuable. My story: I came to the UK a year ago, fell in love with the place, and have been trying to get back ever since. I gave up everything – my job, my home, my friends and family – to be here. The feedback: you’re the one we want, Lania. You’re hired. What courses do you want to teach? Do you need help finding a place to live? Finding furniture for your new flat? Now that you’re settled, Lania, let’s go for a hike in the nearby hills, let’s go to the pub and have a drink. Let’s meet our new students, have a laugh at the pub and a drink. Repeat. Repeat.
To which I say yes. And yes. And yes.
I’m leaving you with this silly video by Adam Buxton, an alum of UoG. I don’t need a holiday, but someday I might. And then I’ll have to come home again.