Suffice it to say, a lot’s happened since October.
My first writing residency (October 12-19) in The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow wildly exceeded all of my expectations. On my drive from the airport, I rode in a red pickup truck with one of the colony’s former handymen. His white handlebar mustache hid a sly, shy smile. He asked where I was from and I said Baltimore.
“The woman I picked up yesterday is also from back east,” he said. “I believe she’s an Oprah’s Book Club author.” And that’s how I learned that I’d be at the same colony as Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the very first Oprah’s Book Club title, The Deep End of the Ocean.
As it turned out, she was teaching at the colony while finishing up her book Two if By Sea. It’s equal parts ghost story and excavation of a man’s soul. I felt privileged to hear Jackie read a portion of the book to our captivated audience in Eureka Springs. And I thought she was so kind to extend an open invitation for company into town to get a mocha latte.
I certainly didn’t expect that coffee date to turn into a two-hour chat. Or toasting glasses of cranberry wine. Or dinner at an Italian restaurant with an attic full of board games on Saturday. Or yard sale shopping. Or breakfast in a crowded diner. Or sipping tea on the back porch of a moonlit night in Arkansas.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” she said.
The immediacy and warmth of this connection — when I felt so far from home — cannot be overstated. She’s a generous reader and a thoughtful friend. While I was at the residency, I’d started working on an anthology submission for Sherry Amatenstein. Her anthology for Seal Press was about the dynamic between therapist and patients. Jackie read through the notes from Sherry and helped me to make sense of my next draft. The final essay, “How About a Hug?” will appear this September in the book How Does That Make You Feel?: True Confessions From Both Sides of the Couch.
Dear Jackie: I owe you more than I can say. Thank you for everything, everything, everything.
And from there, India. The Panchgani Writers’ Retreat. In Maharashtra, India, Panchgani is nestled in the middle of five hills (known as a “Hill Station”) in the Sahyadri mountain range. The week proved transformative: mornings of yoga and meditation. Three daily home-cooked feasts of the most decadent Indian food. The company of other writers each night, drinking tea and listening to music from Manu’s laptop as we wrote in our journals. Rose petal baths and aromatherapy oil massages. Strawberry fields in every direction. Strawberry wine.
I returned home with a glow and new energy to write.
I wrote about tattoos for Vox First Person. I wrote about inactive bystanders during rape and DJ Tanner and swimming with sharks on my 30th birthday for Ravishly. I interviewed author Zoe Zolbrod for Hip Mama.
In March, I was invited to attend a workshop taught by Ariel Gore at Firestorm Books and Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina. I listened to her read from The End of Eve and “Blood-Red Bougainvillea” and “The Stranger’s Plot.” We went to a salt cave and ate pizza at Mellow Mushroom and drank way too much iced coffee. Thanks to Ariel, I got 1,500 words into a new essay that is still not finished, but also needed a real start.
I signed up for a four-week writing class that starts in June (“How to Write a Personal Essay that Reaches Beyond the Personal Experience“) with Chelsey Clammer.
I applied to another residency program, Azule in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Today, I received my acceptance letter to attend November 1-8, 2016.
There are other projects in the works, but I am so grateful for everything I can report on thus far.