writer-in-residence

As you read this post, I’m on a plane bound for my next stint as writer-in-residence. I spent a month in Wales last year finalizing Hard to Die. Today, I’m headed for three weeks in Trélex, Switzerland.

My mission? To find the voices the drugs quashed during months-long treatment for toxoplasmosis retinitis, an incurable parasitic disease that’s causing me to go blind. With any luck, I’ll emerge with a complete draft of my next speculative thriller I Am Number 13.

More on that as it develops.

What It’s Like to Be Writer-in-Residence

  1. It isn’t a vacation. To earn a residency, I must submit a proposal for my project-in-residence. The director will expect me to work every day, share my work with other residents, and volunteer to enhance the program. Yes, I’ll be in an inspiring location near Lake Geneva. Yes, I’ll spend some portion of each day savoring it. But being a resident is WORK.
  2. I’ll be living with strangers. I’ll share space dorm-style with at least four other artists. We’ll use the same bathroom and cook in the same kitchen. I’m the only American. I’ll negotiate my way with rudimentary French (and hope everyone speaks English!)
  3. I’m an ambassador for my country. And isn’t THAT fraught with crazy these days? Whatever one may believe about America’s position in the world, leaving the United States usually educates a person about being American. Most people will have stereotypical ideas about who and what Americans represent. As much as I’d like to leave everything controversial at home, I must represent my country. I hope I’ll do a good job.
  4. I’ll produce a torrent of words. Whenever I sequester myself, I produce around 25,000 words a week. Our world is noisy, but it’s a distraction from the music of the voices who speak when I’m silent. Residencies are an opportunity to be still and listen. Cross fingers the voices will return!!
  5. I’ll make new friends. Residencies challenge my boundaries and expose my prejudices. As I break down my own barriers, I’ll connect with people who are different. A couple of those souls will become lifelong friends, barometers to moderate my views on what citizens of other nations are like.

I can’t wait to get started!

While I’m on residency, I’ll be absent from social media. If you comment, Jendi will respond for me.

YOU CAN STILL FOLLOW MY RESIDENCY.

I plan to send Jendi weekly updates on my progress. She will post them here. Make sure you don’t miss a thing. Subscribe to my website updates by email.

Like my Author Page on Facebook. Jendi will post periodic photos and quick snippets from my residency. She may have something new every day. We’ll see what my internet situation is when I get there!

For insider information, join my Elite Reader Group on Facebook. This group always gets details curated just for them. I may ask them questions about plot points as I’m on residency. Recently, I even asked them for suggestions to use in a key part of my current story. Jendi will also do a weekly digest email especially for this group.

I tried, Dear Reader. I wore you out this week and posted every week day. I’m spending too much time with fake people (i.e. my novel manuscript), and I wanted some personal interaction.

Thank you for spending time here.

Please enjoy a roundup of stuff I saw and liked online this week. Maybe it’ll yield good luck this Friday the 13th.

This video from The Atlantic. “Creative Ideas Happen When You Stop Checking Your Phone

The Kitchen’s Garden List of 2015 Books to Read. I’m there, but you’ll find lots of other options vetted by choosy readers.

Sarah Cottrell wins at parenting with this Scary Mommy post: “To Hell With That ‘Brighten Up Your Day’ Crap When My Kid Is Sick

If anyone knows a bibliotherapist, PLEASE send them my books’ way! From The New Yorker: “Can Reading Make You Happier?

This initiative from San Diego Public Library’s University Heights Branch:

liked

The Hudson Valley claims pride of place at Rockefeller Center. Read about the origin of this year’s Christmas tree HERE.

Do you have a favorite recent online story?
Please share it in a comment today.

melancholy milepost 167

Writer Laren Stover made a case for melancholy in Sunday’s New York Times. She exalted every excuse to be blue and extolled every morbid thought. She even imagined a world where she could retreat with her own darkness and despair.

I closed my eyes and conjured the last time my world was truly black. Hopelessly hopeless. Months and months and months of downright morbidity.

I was thirty-one and dumped by a man I wanted to marry. It was three in the morning, and I hyperventilated on my knees next to my sofa. The weight of my own grief and heartbreak pressed on my chest, a concave chasm where my heart used to be.

Minor things triggered tsunamis of tears. A glimpse of a green SUV. Travel articles on Maine. The gym. Football scores. The wispy tail of cigar smoke.

After more than six months of mourning, I still wasn’t ready to move on. Conjuring those instances, those snatches of melancholy, brought him back to me. I avoided anyone who told me I needed therapy or the latest pharmaceutical. I didn’t want sleep or numbing of pain.

Life is pointless when I can’t feel it.

I boarded the roller coaster of melancholy. I embraced the bar and paid to ride again. And again. And again.

Some of my best writing still flows from the well of despair. When we avoid life’s lows, what are we really missing? I’m not talking about clinical depression or mental illness, which can have tragic ends if left untreated. But are a few blue days really terrible? Should I pretend I’m happy when I’m sad? Or can I be both happy AND sad?

I agree with Ms. Stover. Good art requires me to be brave enough to dive into dark depths and swim to another shore. Melancholy may not be for everyone. But sometimes, it’s definitely for me.

How do you deal with melancholy?

(Find Ms. Stover’s NY Times article “The Case for Melancholy” HERE.)