By Carrie Naughton-
Is it time for you to apply to that writer’s residency? Do it. Apply to half a dozen of them. There’s a huge number of options out there, from a week in Colorado to a month in Spain. A few of the best resources are:
A good portion of residencies are for visual artists. But writers, and musicians, too, are usually included in the definition of artist. As well we should be, so keep an eye open. And know this: as a writer you want to go to a residency with artists and musicians, and vice versa. We are all navigating the vast oceans of creativity, and roping our rafts and dinghies and barges together is the best way to sail, if only for a while. This is where inspiration can come from, a gathering of unique and passionate people making friends, making tea, making art. There is serendipitous collision, complimentary growth, and unexpected collaboration.
Not surprisingly, the top residencies are free. You pay your travel costs, possibly your food, and sometimes nothing more. If you can get accepted to the Vermont Arts Center, good on you! But the smaller residencies that require a fee are still going to give you the chance to be somewhere unique for far less than the cost of a vacation. You can find financial assistance all over the web, in addition to crowdfunding.
Oftentimes, the residency itself will help you find grants or benefactors to pay your fees. What’s more, most residencies are not only thrilled but determined to facilitate public readings, radio interviews, and mixed media openings that will help you promote and sell your work during your residency period.
At the same time, you will be cohabiting with and working alongside the most incredible human beings you will ever meet. They will be interested in what you are creating, and your network will grow in fun, fulfilling, life-altering ways. Quite possibly, you will find yourself engaged in elaborate late night conversations about anything from smoked eggplant to abstract painting to biodynamic farming. You’ll end up on a treasure hunt to the local flea market with a gaggle of artists and photographers searching for found objects and props. Who knows what new character or poem or blog post you might stumble into that day? Your time is yours. Do you want to work on submitting that pile of poems and fiction to various journals? Do you want to finish your novel or pound out some flash fiction, possibly even tackling social media and your business plan in the evenings after a communal meal?
There will be visionary masters of artistic stamina who work from five in the morning to late at night, bursting with art every second and brewing pot after pot of coffee. You’ll immerse yourself in fantastic conversations when you’re invited to share your thoughts on artistic and literary works-in-progress. You’ll meet folks who know how to market themselves, who are working all kinds of freelance jobs on the side until they’re established, and who want to know how you do what you do.
Your fellow residents will want to know where you’re from, and where your writing comes from. What will you tell them?
Think about that now, where you want to go, and what you want to get out of a residency. Then get ready, because once you’re there, the time will go too quickly. Back home, you’ll realize you’ve changed for the better. Where will you reside next?
Carrie Naughton is a freelance bookkeeper who writes speculative fiction and poetry, posts on her blog, and tries to get outside as much as possible. Find her musings and book reviews at carrienaughton.com