Write outside your comfort zone
Residencies offer a new way to get creative
By Bailey Berg
Sometimes you just need to get away.
For writers, the office can take a variety of forms — from a cubicle to a coffee shop, to an airport bathroom. No matter the space, distractions can come from anywhere. Luckily, writers’ retreats and residencies are on the upswing. Ranging from a few days to a couple months, residencies allow writers to focus on their work. Here are a few opportunites we’d gladly leave the real world for.
When: two to five days
Where: Any long-distance route Amtrak covers
Amtrak is set to (literally) roll out a new writers’ residency thanks to a tweet to the train company with an interview quote from an novelist Alexander Chee: “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” That was all it took to launch the locomotive residency. Up to 24 authors will be chosen to take the free rides in an Amtrak iron horse. They can ride on any of the undersold routes, soak up the scenery and type along to the beat of the chugging train.
Chicago Art Retreat
When: One week
This urban retreat is geared toward scribes inspired by city life and culture. And how can one not to be inspired by a city filled with art, architecture and plenty of pizza to go around. Beyond being the home of deep dish, the city’s Millennial Park will offer you a space to watch possible subjects for your next story.
The Kerouac Project
When: Three months
Where: Orlando, Fla.
The Kerouac Project provides four residencies for loquacious scribblers. The rootless residency allows writers to stay in the cottage where Kerouac wrote “Dharma Bums” for three-months. Kerouac wrote his famous novel in 11 days — imagine what is possible with 90.
Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency
When: April 1 through May 15, Sept. 15 through Oct. 31
Where: Martha’s Vineyard
Freelance checks might not add up to a swanky house in The Vineyard, but for writers dreaming of living amongst America’s most affluent, a residency could be just the ticket. Nine authors are set up with private rooms in a historic inn to work on their craft. The room costs up to $300 a week, but maybe a “Great Gatsby”-esqe party or two might stir up some creative energy between writing Act I and Act II.
While most residency programs offer a temporary stay in a single room, Write-A-House gifts low-income writers with their own house. For free . Forever. The conditions include participating in local readings, contributing to the project’s blog and being “responsible home owners, engaged neighbors, committed city residents and good literary citizens.” Provided those are met, program participants will be awarded the deed after two years and with any luck, will be on the front-lines of change for a better Detroit.
Tofte Lake Center at Norm’s Fish Camp
When: two weeks from June through September
Where: Ely, Minn.
At Norm’s Fish Camp, writers are willing to give up Wi-Fi and smartphones to pen their great stories — on a secluded lake in the wilderness of the northern Minnesota Boundary Waters in. This retreat drags writers out from behind desks and into some beautiful and unruly outdoor vistas to write in the wild.
The Edward F. Albee Foundation
When: Four to six weeks between mid-May and mid-October
Where: Montauk, N. Y.
Referred to as “The Barn,” the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center is a small, communal space for writers (as well as painters, composers and sculptors). Perhaps being in the company of a myriad of artists from other mediums could lead you down a new creative path.
Des Moines: Hell Yes
Why Des Moines is better than wherever the hell you’re from.
The other day I was riding my bike up a hill when a man stopped mid-task to cheer me on. I was working hard, and he could tell. You know when the resistance is so high that you’re basically riding in slow motion, where each rotation feels like you’re churning a meat grinder? Well, that was how I felt at that moment — right before he turned around to yell a few words of encouragement. That’s right, not to cat-call and harass the struggling 20-something, but to say, “Keep going, I believe in you!”