Writer at Large
When I leave for Michigan, I’m not coming back.
My connections to the mountains and the communities here feel immeasurably rich. The time and love I’ve put in will be hard to replicate elsewhere, especially if I’m on the road as much as I plan to be. But I can carry the richness of place with me, know it when I see it happening in other places, and stop and stay for a while if things line up right.
What I do know is that I’ve been calling myself a “writer at large” for almost four years and have always envisioned that as a twofold duty: First, it is the writer’s duty to live in an engaged, aware way in the communities in which she finds herself. The more deeply engaged, the more deeply imagined her writing can become and the more likely she is to write in a manner which best serves/reflects/gives back to the community she invests in. A writer must be willing to plant roots and live through the seasons of an ecosystem, a subculture, an idea, an essay. One act mimics and enhances another.
Second, it is the duty of the writer to seek out places of discomfort with genuine curiosity and humility. Here, place is widely interpreted as physical, mental, social, and spiritual. A writer must give herself over to these “places.” A nonfiction writer will often cull her experiences afterward to make meaning of them through the personal essay, the memoir, etc., placing the experiences into a broader context. A fiction writer may let the experiences work their slow, quiet compost in the mind’s subconscious, trusting that the shiniest kernels will work their way onto the page—quite often in an wholly different form.
At the end of my time at Interlochen, I don’t know where I’ll go. I have a few ideas – Oregon for one month, Alaska for the “warmer” summer months, Vermont Studio Center after that. There’s also the dream I have to take the train across Canada. Come this January, I will pack up my car with whatever I think I’ll need for the next year and sell/donate/store all the rest. And then…