When Christina Collins was accepted to the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at George Mason University with full funding, she knew that the M.F.A. presents a unique opportunity to work on her craft of writing, learn from widely published faculty members, and gain classroom teaching experience. However, she also know that she needs time to write outside of academia—it is in her novel’s best interest.
The Art Commune AIR Program represents what she needs before beginning her second year of the M.F.A.: full-time quiet dedicated to revising and polishing Tallies. During the residential stay in Armenia she was also working on a short story collection, The Last Midnight, which combines a selection of the published stories—including the Pushcart Prize-nominated title story—with new pieces. Christina Collins set up contacts, research and interviews with local communities in Armenia ahd been going far to the countries’ regions, which made progress on the collection during her residency.
‘Try as I might, I can’t think of ‘voice’ in the narrative sense alone. The physical sense always seizes my mind first. Maybe this stems from my adolescent struggle with selective mutism. Maybe it also explains my priority as a writer: to create voices for the muted. My writing thus far has gravitated towards women and girls struggling to realize their potential for autonomous action, in spite of conditions seemingly imposed on them. By taking risks in narrative point of view, dialogue, and internal monologue, I aim to give voice to these otherwise silent battles. From Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch, I’ve been inspired by the garden of fiction about women’s voices and autonomy. But there are many directions in which this garden can bloom further, and I want to contribute to its growth.
To that end, my current novel project, tentatively titled Tallies, is a contemporary work narrated by a young Armenian-American girl with selective mutism—a rare anxiety condition characterized by not speaking in social situations. The narrative explores the paradoxes of writing about silence and of using prose to embody both silence and speech, while drawing on the folktale “The Twelve Brothers” as a modern lens for understanding selective mutism and raising awareness. During my residency at the Art Commune Artist-in-Residence program in Yerevan, Armenia, I hope to not only complete Tallies and prepare it for publication, but to also hone my skills for crafting voices for illuminating them through experiments in narration, and for building silence into dialogue and dialogue into silence. Since the novel also incorporates my Armenian heritage on my mother’s side, an Art Commune residency would present an opportunity for me to visit Armenia for the first time and to conduct cultural research for my work.
When I was accepted to the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at George Mason University with full funding, I knew I was doing the right thing when I entered the program in August of 2012. The M.F.A. presents a unique opportunity to work on my craft, learn from widely published faculty members, and gain classroom teaching experience. However, I also know that I need time to write outside of academia—it is in my novel’s best interest. The ‘Art Commune’ represents what I need before beginning my second year of the M.F.A.: full-time quiet dedicated to revising and polishing Tallies. I am also working on a short story collection, The Last Midnight, which combines a selection of my published stories—including the Pushcart Prize-nominated title story—with new pieces; I hope to make progress on this collection during my residency as well.’
Christina Elaine Collins is a Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction writer, the assistant editor for So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, and an M.F.A. candidate and teaching fellow at George Mason University in the United States. Her fiction can be found in various literary publications such as Jabberwocky Review, Weave Magazine, Rose Red Review, and Otis Nebula. She was an artist-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts from May to June 2012. She is thrilled to be part of the 2013 Art Commune residency program in Armenia, where her maternal great-grandparents were born and where she started her work on a new book.