How would you like to travel to a new place and discover that your room is actually a cottage in the woods or even a furnished apartment in a century-old stone building? What if that cozy living space came complete with hot meals and interactions with other writers?
Welcome to the world of writing residencies.
First, know that there are two broad types of residencies. The first are called residencies but are technically writing retreats. These intensive workshops, often about a week long, are led by a famous (or semi-famous) author or editor. They always cost a ton of money, they always schedule every minute of your day, and they don’t always include a place to stay. As for meals? Um…rubber chicken, anyone?
The other type—the kind we’ll be looking at here—embody the original concept of residencies. These programs are hosted by organizations looking to bring authors and artists into their communities. Although you can find residencies that are only a week or two long, most span 4 weeks. A good portion offer 8 or even 12-week residencies, while a few extend as long as a year.
Writing residencies are everything you’ve dreamed of. They offer long stretches of time uninterrupted by the usual demands of work, family and home. Since the hosts understand that art is created in settings that stimulate the creative mind, often your rooms will be decorated with original art and beautifully furnished. Even in rustic dwellings, though, the most inspirational part is the setting.
Residency programs can be found in major cities, small towns, and national parks. Among urban offerings, authors might be housed on a university campus, in the heart of downtown, or within walking distance of the historic district. Rural residencies can land you in a log cabin on a mountain, a tiny house in the midst of working farmland, or perched atop a promontory overlooking a lake. Interweave your writing time with plenty of walks, and you have the perfect setup for success.
Before you consider residency programs, though, be aware of a few expectations. You might be asked to provide something for the local community like a public reading or a short workshop. Although most programs provide you with kitchen facilities, you might be housed in a building with other artists. Many residencies do not allow overnight guests, even spouses or life partners, so be prepared to go without your main squeeze for a time. Although most locations now have wireless, take your laptop and be prepared for abysmal internet speed and potentially frequent outages.
So, considering all you give up, what do you get back?
--Thirty blissful days where your only decision is whether to have breakfast before or after writing your first pages.
--Mornings that streak by because you’re not being pulled in eighteen different directions.
--Afternoons that glide seamlessly into evenings where you can engage with other authors and artists.
--Connections with other dedicated authors.
--And, of course, the validation of adding a residency program to your artistic bio.
The Anderson Center, Red Wing, Minnesota
Ucross Foundation, set on a 20K-acre working cattle ranch in Wyoming
Residencies available inside national parks
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, on 400 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Writing Between the Vines, residencies at vineyards!
Colorado Art Ranch, a residency that moves locations every year to different places in the state.