Best Pics from Life on the Road, 2011-12
I began 2011 as Writer-in-Residence for my favorite literary organization out west, Fishtrap. Serving young students in the public schools and adult community members, I taught about 8 hours per week and was given housing, a stipend, and the freedom and time to write. Much of my forthcoming book Flashes of War was revised and added to during this 6-month stay, which also included a retreat down in Imnaha with fellow writers Molly Gloss, Bette Lynch Husted, Mary Emerick, and more. Other than the teaching and the literary community, highlights included mountain biking in Hells Canyon or along Wallowa Lake, long day hikes up Hurricane Creek, and mass chocolate and beer consumption at the very fine Arrowhead Chocolates and Terminal Gravity, respectively.
I spent June through August 2011 back at Interlochen Center for the Arts, my official home away from home, and by the end of summer I headed south for another long drive into…more summer. Spending 8 weeks in Texas during its most historic drought and heat wave in recorded history, I learned a lot about city life, air conditioning, desperation, and Western cowboy attire. One month was spent in Houston on a self-made residency in a warehouse with a painter; the other month was spent further into the parched landscape on a working bison ranch (Madrono Ranch artist residency) where part of my residency welcome included a freezer full of local Texas meats (yes, please).
By late October I was ready for something other than HOT and headed away from the Gulf up to Amherst, Virginia for a return fellowship to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. My six-week stay there proved productive, as I was able to write 2 more full-length stories for Flashes of War and send them off to the press as they were in the final rounds of consideration of my manuscript. Friends from the U.S., Germany, Morocco, and England brought depth to the residency and led to many helpful discussions, a bit of dancing around place-based sculptures, and late-night fireside chats (oh, and a few mean games of ping-pong).
In December, I headed home to NC for the holidays and before the new year rang in, I had landed almost 5,000 miles away to begin my time as Writer-in-Residence for The Island Institute in Sitka, AK. The land of totem poles and darkness and snow enchanted me and I very much enjoyed experiencing my favorite state in during this season (in the past, I’ve only gone in the summer/fall). In Sitka, I found community similar in talent, sincerity, and bond to the arts community here in Western North Carolina. As we say here, it made me homesick “something fierce,” though I wouldn’t trade the experiences on Baranof Island for the world. By February I was in Anchorage, dog-sitting in a stellar log cabin downtown while the owner was away in Bhutan. Teaching once a week at 49 Alaska Writing Center, I was able to turn this self-made residency into a very productive writing time. With help from fellow writers Jeremy Patacky and Rosemary Austin, I made it through a lonely, tough stretch of winter and by early March, flew back home to NC to pick up THE CLAW and carry forth.
My final tried and true residency of the tour took place at Prairie Center of the Arts in the the Midwest–Peori, IL. My only real time in that region of the country these three years, it was interesting trying to understand Midwestern culture, looking for ways to connect to the landscape, and exploring the history of an industrial urban setting. I concluded the journey at Interlochen Center for the Arts for a fun summer of teaching and a very productive time, in which I wrote the first 60 pages of a novel.
Slow and steady, one repair and upgrade at a time, I’m settling into live in NC in the Airstream on this little patch of land known as Coon Ridge that borders the Pisgah National Forest. Those three years were life-changing, career-busting, and heart-warming and it would not have been possible without generosity from all the folks mentioned here and many, many more along the way.