Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Place to Write

On November 3, a quartet of Village Writers' Club members—Mary Lou Moran, Jerry Davis, John Swinburn (who's writing this), and Myra Rustin—got an early start on their trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. About four hours and a hundred conversations later, they arrived at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow (WCDH), a wonderful pair of historic homes, side-by-side, dedicated to writers' residency programs. Though intended for two-week and longer residencies, the facilities are available for shorter-term use when not reserved for writers' fellowships.

Between the two homes that form WCDH, eight suites are available to give writers a place to clear their heads, focus on their writing projects, and spend time in the creative process. Each suite is unique, but shares a few commonalities with the others: a well-lit writing area with a beautiful view of the trees and birds and wildlife out the window; a comfortable bed; a coffee maker; and a bathroom. Most suites (and perhaps all) have a small refrigerator; at least a few are equipped with microwave and/or cook-top. WiFi is available in every room, as well as the public areas; both houses have large living areas with comfortable seating for group gatherings, as well as a kitchen. The main house has a large commercial kitchen, where a wonderful gourmet evening meal (included for all writers in residence) is provided at 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Writers who neede dedicated, undisturbed quiet time find all they need at WCDH. But the venue is well-suited to collaborative endeavors, as well. Some suites have very large writing areas in which two or more writers can gather. Public spaces can accommodate even more collaboration, provided the collaborators keep their interactions low-key and quiet.

Images of Eureka Springs should be included in the dictionary alongside the definition of "funky." The town is a haven for the arts. The town is full of writers, painters, sculptors, potters, and musicians. Small shops fill the small downtown area, offering visitors opportunities to spent hours viewing and experiencing art, food, entertainment, and relaxation.

The Village Writers' Club group, though, spent only a couple of hours downtown during their three-day visit to WCDH. Most of our time was spent in our individual rooms, writing, or in discussion about the projects on which we were working. Myra engaged in discussions about writing and revising some of her poetry. Mary Lou spent time getting feedback about writing and revising a piece about real crime and another project, the latter a non-fiction piece on which she and Jerry are collaborating. Jerry focused his time on outlining and writing that non-fiction piece. I wrote and revised some short stories and one of my poems, and fiddled with chapter one of a novel.

Over dinners, our group got to know a couple of other writers in residence, Laura Van Prooyen, an established poet who is working on a collection of her poems and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, another acclaimed poet who is using his WCDH residency to work on short stories. Both of them were in the midst of a much longer stay than the short period our group sampled.

Our brief visit gave us just a taste of what's possible at a residential writing destination. There's little doubt all four of us will do it again; next time around, I am confident VWC members will fill all eight suites.