December 3, 2008
My “a year ago” note at the end of this piece makes a reference to the fact that this time last year I was spending a month at an artist’s retreat in the hills above Sheridan, Wyoming. I’d been awarded the opportunity, which was all expenses paid except my travel there (and the cowboy boots) on the strength of 6000 words of the first draft of my novel and a proposal to keep on keepin’ on with it. Following advice I’d gleaned from a mentor at Bread Loaf, I’d applied to four residencies and been offered one, an outcome most creative writers would consider excellent. That it was my first round of applying and that an opportunity to sojourn in Wyoming as someone’s guest was my greatest hope just added to the joy of the experience.
But I didn’t just visit Wyoming and take pictures of spectacular scenery. I worked, and produced more and better text than I ever had before. I came back determined to make 2009 the Year of the Gallivant. When I came back from Bread Loaf I set to applying to six different residencies: the Millay Colony in Austerllitz, New York; Hambidge in Rabun Gap, Georgia; Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island near Langley, Washington; the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts on 12 acres in Amherst County; Ucross in Clearmont, Wyoming, twenty miles from where I was last year; and the Vermont Studio Center in the northern Green Mountains along the Gihon River.
Each application required a writing sample, a statement of purpose, and two (some of them three) recommendations. Although I’m still sending a portion of the same manuscript and I still have the same purpose (Git Er Done!), each organization wants a different amount for the sample (some up to twenty-five pages, Hedgebrook only ten) and a different slant on the statement of purpose. The requests for the recommendations are the hardest for me, and I am fortunate to have a coterie of seven wonderful people, all outstanding in their field, among whom I can spread the requests.
I spent most of September putting these packages together and had them all in by October 1. I knew that notifications would be many weeks in coming. I kept working on my fiction, until October 22, the last save date on my work diary file. Then there was the election and its subsequent joy, and the mammogram and its subsequent worry, and I got away from the literary life. As I said when I reported on my biopsy, I was at first puzzled to receive a thick envelope from the Vermont Studio Center the weekend I waited for my test results. I had forgotten, I said, that I am a fiction writer.
Since that day almost two weeks ago, more notifications have come in. Hedgebrook and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts have both said no, although Virginia has put me on a waiting list. But Hambidge has offered me a month beginning on March 10 (the day after my birthday). Millay doesn’t notify until the beginning of February, but Ucross should come across any day now.
So 2009 is shaping up. For sure I’ll be in Cape May, New Jersey in the middle of January, Rabun Gap, Georgia from my birthday until just before Easter, Bread Loaf in August, and Johnson, Vermont in late October. If Ucross comes through with an offer, I’ll be ecstatic, but even if they don’t, I feel very proud that two competitive, sought-after artists’ colonies have seen fit to take a chance on furthering my career in 2009.
Some of you reading this are in that collection of mentors and recommenders whose efforts have helped make these opportunities possible for me. Others of you encourage me and strengthen my confidence in myself simply by being my readers. Thank you for so much, so often!
A year ago I drove across the Cloud Peak Skyway past the road to Crazy Woman Creek and thence to the bottom of Ten Sleep Canyon in Wyoming.
Two years ago I took a meal of homemade bread, Ron’s special sauce, and a box of pasta to my new neighbors, whose first child had just been born.
Three years ago, Holidailies hadn’t officially begun so I didn’t post.
Four years ago, I reminisced about coming to love Christmas again as an adult.
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