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Fine Motor Skills, Magic, and the WestConn M.F.A

I have never been good with my hands. It’s the cerebral palsy. There is no middle ground, for me, between the over-hard, stress-red clench of a pen and a tentative, trembling touch. So that I do not shake, I type too loud, and draw too dark. It’s why I never use pencil – because there’s no point even trying to erase my lines.

I need the force of purpose connecting me to pen and pen to paper – like a completed circuit through which lightning passes. Have you ever been electrocuted? I have. You get locked in by the current. I need to be steadied like that, at the writing desk.

What I’m saying is that I am not a magician in the traditional sense. I am small-wristed, fine-fingered, yes, but these are features better photographed than filmed. I will never impress you with a physical flourish. Where my body goes, I do not want your gaze to follow, for this body does ungainly things, ungracious things. I’m grateful when you let it go unnoticed.

But then again. I do have a little magic in me.

My mother gave it to me, not knowing she was a witch, reading out passages she did not know were spells, pointing to every sacred symbol. And as the years went by I grew up with it, loving it, living on it, so that it got inside me. It got to the point where I was so full of magic that it couldn’t help, sometimes, but come out. I did not cast it, but sort of coughed it up, hiccoughed it, clumsily.

But then I got involved at WestConn. Every six months I arrive at my personal Hogwarts for residency, and every time I leave again I have changed. From more accomplished alchemists than me, I have learned to transmute a little piece of the world into something new, something bigger, something that is clearly mine now – my self sparkling out of it like mica. I shake, still. I push hard on the pen to be precise; that part will never get easier.

But then again. I see my sleight of hand get steadier.

Every time I get down to work with these wonderful writers, my certainty grows alongside my skill, and for once I want to be watched – and watched closely. I am learning:

If you give me even just a quarter of an hour, I can make it disappear.

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