Day 1 VCCA: Getting Perspective

This summer was hard. I made that no secret. I pieced together a fall schedule in Texas thanks to a generous friend and a new residency–Madrono. While there, I was able to make serious progress in my development as a place-based nonfiction writer and an emerging fiction writer. But I also had a voice in the back of my mind the entire time: You’re here because you didn’t get a fellowship. You didn’t get any of them. Not one. 

That’s a tough voice to listen to and not one I engage with very often. Thankfully, last week I took refuge with my parents in North Carolina and had three very uplifting experiences: First, I was hired as a fiction editor and creative writing instructor for Our Stories. Second, my manuscript was requested in full by a university press (fingers crossed!). Third, UNCTV/PBS spent two days with me making a documentary feature of the footbridges featured in my chapbook, Lost Crossings.

And today, my first full day on a 5-week fully funded fellowship at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I feel as though I’ve exhaled for the first time in months. Four hundred acres of protected land on a knoll in the Shenandoah foothills. Twenty visual artists, writers, and composers. Three meals a day prepared and served to the Fellows. Occasional readings and open studios in the evening. Silence. Stars. Space to write. A really great office chair.

But here’s the secret: I’ve been here before. When I was laid off from my job slinging coffee not long after I finished grad school, I applied to everything under the sun–jobs I didn’t want, jobs I really wanted, residencies I never thought I’d get…and I got accepted to VCCA for two weeks. I was a different writer then. I hadn’t written a war story. I hadn’t taught at the college level. TRACHODON didn’t even exist yet. When I was here before, it was so evident to me that I was in the space of master writers and artists that I worked really hard to listen to what others had to say.

I overheard conversations at mealtime, during long walks, after readings. There were other places out there like VCCA. There were some writers who did residencies every year. Some did it twice a year. My gears started turning. I set to work with applications. I got called for an interview at Interlochen Center for the Arts and interviewed with the Dean over the phone while sitting in the VCCA library. A week later I was hired as their Writer-in-Residence. And that, essentially, is how the tour started. I went home feeling like I could go anywhere, that I could carry my writing on my back. Four months later I hit the road and I haven’t stopped since.

Is returning to VCCA like coming home? Not physically–I’ve learned to make wherever I am my home. But is it the home of dreamscapes? Of thinking that anything’s possible? Of believing my highest aspirations might come true? Without a doubt.

  • Kyle Lang

    Oh, Katey. This makes me exhale. Phone date. Soon.

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