Look at me becoming an author and shit
For Christmas – or was it my birthday? my memory is horrible these days – my parents gave me a coffee mug with the phrase I stole for the title of this post. It perfectly captures the experience of my recent stay at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow here in Eureka Springs.
The Writers’ Colony is one of the city’s cultural treasures. A chapter in my upcoming book, “Welcome to Eureka Springs: The I-Sh*t-You-Not History of America’s Quirkiest Town,” will focus on its founder Crescent Dragonwagon. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Yes, that’s her legal name, and yes, how she got it will be in the book!)
As fate would have it, I recently joined the Colony’s board of directors. My four-day residency there gave me the perspective of how writers experience it.
On a wooded campus in a quiet corner of town, surrounded by walking trails, The Writers’ Colony is the perfect place to write, recharge, and connect.
Arriving at the front desk, guests are greeted cheerfully by the Colony’s managing director, Jeanne Glass, and directed to their chosen suite. Mine was the Marianne Moore suite, named after a prominent poet born in nearby Missouri. Its large windows overlooking a balcony and pine-studded hills provide a calming influence for the often chaotic process of writing.
With original art by local artists and no televisions or other distractions (cell ringers off!), the suites are designed to support quiet focus. Guests have the freedom to follow their muse wherever it leads: they can hole themselves away for hours at a time, take a brisk hike to get the creative juices flowing, or explore the town for stimulation.
After a day of typing furiously on a keyboard, struggling with writers’ block, and/or mumbling incoherently, writers can enjoy a real treat: five nights a week, the Colony’s Czech-born chef, Jana Jones, cooks gourmet European meals. It makes it difficult to leave, let me tell you.
The dinners are a welcome break from the solitude of writing, as guests get to meet each other and share camaraderie with others who understand the trials of the creative birthing process.
Guests come from all corners of the country, all genres of writing, and all levels of experience. During my stay, I met some wonderful people.
Erika Thormahlen, whose popular children’s show “Waffles + Mochi” will return for a second season on Netflix this year, was working on a novel for grown-ups in the Maya Angelou suite.
Kat Robinson, familiar to PBS viewers across the nation, was wrapping up her latest stay in the culinary suite – the only residential suite in North America targeted specifically to cookbook writers, with a dream kitchen designed by KitchenAid and Renovation Style magazine. Kat wrapped up baking and photography for her latest effort, an Arkansas pie cookbook. That meant that in addition to Jana’s gourmet dinners, we all had an abundance of pies to choose from for breakfast, lunch, and dessert. The Hershey’s bar pie may have been my favorite, although the pineapple cream cheese and chocolate marshmallow pies gave it a run for its money, and the beef pie was perfect for lunch.
Charles Moore of New York City had the Langston Hughes suite, working on both his dissertation and a memoir based on his experiences running marathons. He was soon off to Tokyo to join 30,000 other marathoners there.
Los Angeles playwright Lauren Smerkanich was working on her latest script – I won’t give away any spoilers other than one of the main characters is a parrot – in the Diana Rivers suite.
New Orleans-based poet and Loyola University professor Mark Yakich stayed in the Dupps Den suite. I’m looking forward to hearing his voice in my head as I read the copy of his witty Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide that he graciously gave me.
And then there was me, the guy working on his first book, with “sh*t” in its title. Someone had to be the least impressive of the bunch.
As I write these words in the Marianne Moore suite on the last full day of my residency, I am grateful for the opportunity, and very happy with how my chapter on Crescent Dragonwagon came out. She may not be thrilled with her “goofy-ass name” as she calls it, but it makes a great story.