Kim Wright has been generating a lot of notice for her novel: Love in Mid Air. A gifted writer with an eye and ear for the nuances of our everyday lives, Kim took something close to her heart and said: what if?
People Magazine had this to say about Love in Mid Air : Wright understands female friendships, the interplay of love and envy, the way one woman’s change of fortune can threaten the group’s equilibrium. Astute and engrossing, this review is a treat.”
Kim was a recent guest at the UCross Retreat in Sheridan Wyoming and she's written this wonderful post extolling the virtues of the artistic retreat. Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Kim Wright to the blog!
I’m attaching this picture because I don’t think without a visual aid I can adequately describe what an idiot I’ve been. This is the view from my writing desk at UCross, a creative retreat for writers, visual artists, and composers in Sheridan Wyoming.
UCross is Crayola-colored, as simple and touching as if it was drawn by a child. Blue sky, green grass, red barn. Writing colonies are often situated in places much like this – maybe not the west but someplace simple and silent, far from the madding crowd. They are these wonderful enclaves where artists can go – usually for periods from two to six weeks – and have unlimited time to work. The size of the colonies varies; there are only eight residents at UCross, but there were twenty-four when I was at MacDowell in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Large or small, colony life tends to follow a pattern: Everyone meets for breakfast and then you scatter to your various studios to work all day. Someone brings lunch and leaves it at your door. Around six, everyone converges back at the main house for wine, conversation, and a dinner lovingly prepared by the staff. You can get an insane amount of work done. The conversations are electric – one person I met called it intellectual wi-fi, this strange humming energy you tap into that makes you think of things you’d never think of on your own.
And oh yeah, these places are free.
The reason I’m an idiot is that it took me so long to get on the colony circuit. My friend and fellow novelist Alison Smith had told me years ago I needed to start applying to colonies but I demurred. They’re hard to get into I told her. Which is true. They’re all located twenty-eight miles from nowhere. Also true. And then I told her that I didn’t think that a colony stay would be all that helpful to my work. I’m the sort of writer who gets up and goes at it hard for three or four hours each morning. It seemed like colonies would be most helpful for binge writers, who would go on great tears of work, dashing off whole books in a single wild-eyed, caffeine driven sitting. But for someone like me, who begins to reap diminishing returns after a few hours at the computer, it seemed like a waste.
And in that I was utterly, terribly wrong.
Here’s what I didn’t figure in. A colony allows you to get totally away from your life. The good stuff as well as the bad stuff. I wept when I left my dog and I miss my friends and my exercise routine and my ballroom dance lessons and pretty yellow desk. But the truth is, if you want to break new ground in your work, it helps to break away from it all – the comfortable as well as the annoying aspects of your day to day life at home. In the middle of my first colony stay, it suddenly hit me that a retreat isn’t about writing more. It’s about writing differently. A few days out of my normal rut and I begin thinking things I’d never think back home. I become experimental, open, looser, more fearless and direct. I may still be writing four hours a day but they’re four completely different hours than I could manage at home.
Looking out as I’m writing this, deer and wild turkeys are literally passing right beside my deck. It’s an hour away from suppertime and it’s my turn to bring the wine. The bad angel on one shoulder is whispering “Don’t post this – it’s hard enough to get into these places as it is.” But the good angel on the other side is saying “All writers should go to colonies. It will give you more confidence. It will transform your work.”
So….get thee to the nearest Google and type in “writing colony.” What pops up could change your life.
Kim Wright is the author of the novel, Love in Mid Air and has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than 25 years and is a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Writing.