I recently composed a “letter of interest” for a residency application and part of my essay seems worth sharing here:
A writer’s work is never wholly solitary. While the image of a paper-ridden desk with a frazzled writer perched over the keyboard may be at once cliché and accurate, what it doesn’t capture are the intangible factors that feed a writer’s life, building a steady momentum of creativity, openness, and influence. As an emerging writer travelling across the United States for two years, actively writing and engaging in communities along the way, I am learning precisely what these factors are for my individual creative process.
The writer in my mind’s eye spends equal measure at the desk and engaging in the world. While serving as Writer-in-Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy, my engagement took the form of new experiences in a harsh, northern Michigan, winter climate. I trekked to see a migrating snowy owl. I tagged along with an ice fisherman for an afternoon. I walked the sand dunes of Lake Michigan in search of the legendary “sleeping bear.” On a scholarship to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in McCarthy, Alaska, I hiked my first glacier, cooked king salmon with the locals, and discussed the craft of writing with 20 other writers around a fire in a hundred-year-old log cabin. At Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, my engagement was less with the land and more with the people: composers, visual artists, and musicians from the U.S. and abroad met casually most nights to discuss process, collaborate, ask questions, and of course—howl through a few songs at a local karaoke bar.
In all of these places, I also spent joyful and laborious hours at the desk. The writing I did at each place could not have emerged with the depth, precision, and passion that it did without the experiences I engaged in while in residence. Influences from the landscape, the communities, and the fellow artists around me wove their way into my fiction and nonfiction, enriching it for the better. I may have been alone at my desk in all of these places, but my mind rested in the company of these powerful, influential factors.