Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's so fascinating to be in this residency program with 49 other residents. We're in day 2, and today everyone seems tired, as though the adrenalin rush we all came here on has gone into the ether. Now we get to become present. Having spent my first day getting my Creative Capital grant finished and sent off, I too am tired, but that gets to be OK. I am realizing that I am so used to jamming all the time in order to find space to write in the cracks between my demanding work life, that having this space to primarily be a writer--with my other work life being in the cracks--is going to take some getting used to. I am among those who has spent much of the past 36 hours doggedly working in the studio, but we are all realizing it's not possible to keep up that pace and really get anything done. It is very validating to have a group of people going through the same process together.

The demographics of the group are really interesting. The first night the director gave a speech, and told us that their selection process is based on picking a group that has both affinities and diversity. So in a group of 50 artists and writers, there are 10 individuals in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. I like that model, and it has felt very comfortable for that reason. I have been spending time with all sorts of folks, and there is a real pleasure in that. Last night I took a walk with two other writers, one who regularly contributes to the Washington Post, and is a character. Another writer with us is hispanic, from New York City, and very different in sensibility. They both have kids, and the flow of conversation felt interesting and natural, as we walked up to Johnson State College on the hill above us. The campus is gorgeous--sort of a cross between Reed College and UC Santa Cruz (it's hilly). A very nice security guard asked us if we'd like to see the inside of any buildings, and I instantly said, "the art department." So we were allowed into the building, which has beautiful big studios, well equipped shops, and picture windows that let you see the very green (as of this season) landscape outside. It must be very white in their long winters--he told us winter is a full six months, which I must confess would be a real deterrent for me if I were to consider living here on an extended basis.

I have also enjoyed getting to know some of the younger residents--painters, sculptors, and this morning met the artist living next door to me in Mason House (my residential house). She looks to be in her early 30s, and lives and teaches new genres (video, installation, etc.) in LA at Otis Art Institute. I liked her too, and it felt good to know I like my next door neighbor, since we'll be sharing a space for the month.

The food is really good--all fresh, salads at lunch and dinner with balsamic and olive oil. to splash on it, chicken or fish options and good vegetables and some sort of starch--little roasted potatoes, or some very good macaroni and cheese at yesterday's lunch. I am hungry a lot (all that fresh air?) but there is always fruit available, as well as coffee and tea. It really is like the perfect summer camp for grown ups. The village of Johnson (it feels like a village, though I don't know if it's actually designated that way) is small, with the requisite bookstore, stocked with good books including one area of VSC resident's writings; a funky coffee and snacks shop (the coffee is very good); and the rest I have yet to explore. I will find the laundromat later in the week, and I was told there are two thrift stores that I'll have to check out. There are also several bars, which I've learned through traveling alot is common in small towns, and a grocery store that sells wine and the New York Times. All good stuff.

The tiny town is definitely class divided, between tourists, which the stores tend to cater to; students from Johnson State College; those of us in the residency program, who use all the services, but especially the coffee and grocery stores, the laundromat, post office, and the library; and residents of this place. Walking to the library, it was surprising to see how modest and slightly dilapidated the streets off the main drag are, a reminder that supporting oneself in this economy and in a rural setting can't be easy.

I will continue to regale you with my tales, but now, having given myself the morning to take it a bit easier, am ready to do some work in my studio. First, to organize more of the book files I've brought to work with--and later to begin to set how I'm going to work on my manuscript. Like many of the people I've met so far, I still have a few things to take care of before I'm entirely free of my home/work life--a review to finish, an interview for another publication to finish, a few other odds and ends I can space out through the next week or two--but basically, the coast seems clear.

One interesting note about the Vermont Studio Center is that most of the buildings and all of the writing studios have name placards on them. I happen to have inherited Dr. Marjorie Atwood, who it turns out was a writer with an interest in the religious art of Mexico, Spain, and New Mexico. I've dropped in a link for her below so you can see more about her.


PS The chair by the window, with the stacked pillowcases is all my files--my manuscript--which I am now going to tend to. It is, after all, why I'm here--although being a writer full time is really the reason, so I can fully justify the time I'm spending writing this blog!