Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sunday was my first full day off and it was a great day. It started off on Saturday night with too much wine and snacks with the growing group of women I’ve been hanging out with. We took over a section of the dining room and got loud and deep. These women are so accomplished—Fulbright Fellows, and professors, artists who have shown in galleries in New York and Paris, published authors. Our conversations have been getting better and better and have covered everything from art to sex to feminist theory to politics to evolution and everything in between. Since I got here I’ve been connecting more with the visual artists rather than the writers. I think simply because there are more of them. Since my wife is also a visual artist it’s been wonderful learning their language and discovering the similarities we share in our work. I’m taking notes and can’t wait to share the things I’ve learned. I think my wife, and anyone pursing any form of visual art, should totally consider a residency. You’ll get work done, but the people you’ll meet and the things you’ll learn will propel you in all the right directions. Community at its finest and most concentrated form.

On Sunday I took a two-hour walk with my friends, Anne and Esmerelda. The night before twelve inches of snow fell and the landscape was pristine and untouched, gorgeous. We walked an old railroad track road that followed the river and the view was amazing. The black bottom of the river against the bright white snow, giant yellow icicles forming off the sides of stone cliffs. We made our way to two small waterfalls, watering holes really, and sat for a bit taking in the scenery. It made me want to return in the summer time when the temperatures can get into the 90s.

There were more student slides that night and once more the diversity of the artists here and the work they are doing blew me away. I had my first real conversation with a novelist, a man working on his MFA in Washington, DC. I wanted to know about his process, which was quite involved, and he shared it openly. He had practical advice for a slow writer like me and was so encouraging and thoughtful. We really connected and I hugged him after our talk, after we commiserated about the long and arduous form of the novel and drank whiskey. Support at its finest and most concentrated form.

The last several days have flown by. At meals the women check in, “how are you feeling about your work today?” “Have you been productive today?” For me, there have been highs and lows, but overall I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far. I probably won’t finish revising the whole chapter like I wanted to, but when I get home I know I will be motivated to finish it.  More than anything I know I am at least headed in the right direction and will continue moving forward.

Last night I read and it was fabulous! Most of the readers were women from our group and it was awe inspiring to hear their poetry and prose, their distinct voices, all strong, all so talented. I read the opening of Cleofas’s chapter. Her revision is the work I’ve been doing here. I got wonderful feedback after my reading. Many in the crowd had previously asked about my work so knew what my project was about. An artist friend said to me, “You write like a painter.” How amazing is that? Another, whom I had complained to about my slow pace, said, “Please take your time with these stories. You’re doing just fine.” Sigh. Still today people are thanking me for my reading. It was a great night.

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