Get away: Writing residencies, so you can focus

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our writing practice is to get away. Daily routines and the people in our lives have a way of infringing on our precious writing time.

Following are a few residencies to whet your appetite…


Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

“The Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency was created to provide writer’s with the time and space to create. Each April, September and October writers of various genres convene in a former inn on the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard. It is our hope that this magical setting will inspire wonderful writing.”

Deadline: Rolling


Millay Colony 

Austerlitz, NY

“The Millay Colony for the Arts offers one-month or two-week residencies to visual artists, composers and writers between the months of April and November. Residents artists get private rooms, studios and all meals during their stay at our pastoral campus. For lots of information about our residency program and how to apply, visit our Residencies page. The Colony also has a workshop series, with five-day workshop-retreats in writing, art, music and more.”

Deadline: October 1, 2014


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Blue Mountain Center

Blue Mountain Lake, NY

“Blue Mountain Center, founded in 1982, provides a supportive working community for writers, artists, and activists. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the center also serves as a meeting place and resource for progressive movement building. We expand and deepen conversation among cultural workers and support projects that emerge from these dialogues.”

Applications for 2015 available November 1, 2014.


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Sarasota Springs, NY

“Yaddo offers residencies to professional creative artists from all nations and backgrounds working in one or more of the following media: choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. Artists may apply individually or as members of collaborative teams of two or three persons. They are selected by panels of other professional artists without regard to financial means. Residencies last from two weeks to two months and include room, board, and studio.”

Deadline: November 1, 2014


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Crestone Retreats

Crestone, Colorado

“Crestone Retreat Center is open to individual retreatants throughout the year except during our annual three-month Practice Period (January 11 – April 28), when the Center is closed to the public. Whether for a spiritual retreat, undistracted time for work or writing, or just to be in nature, retreatants can rent private cabins and enjoy the beauty and quiet of our area, and the mindful atmosphere of our Center.”

Deadline: Rolling


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Ucross, Wyoming

“The Ucross Foundation provides living accommodations, individual work space, and uninterrupted time to approximately 85 individuals each year.  Residencies vary in length from two weeks to six weeks.  At any one time, there are up to nine individuals in residence, a mix of visual artists, writers and composers.  In most cases, studios are separate from living quarters.”

Deadline: October 1, 2014


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Banner, Wyoming

The Jentel Artist Residency Program offers dedicated individuals a supportive environment in which to further their creative development.  Here artists and writers experience unfettered time to allow for thoughtful reflection and meditation on the creative process in a setting that preserves the agricultural and historical integrity of the land.”

Deadline: January 15, 2014


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 Middle America

Write A House

Detroit, Michigan

“Write A House is a twist on the Writer’s Residency.’ In this case, the writer is simply given the house, forever.”

Deadline: Currently closed for first Write a House.
 Information about second Write a House.

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Grin City

Grinnell, Iowa

“From April – October, Grin City’s residency program welcomes writers, visual and performance artists for stays of 3-6 weeks. Residents are provided housing and individual workspace on the Grin City farm complex a 1/2 mile north of the town of Grinnell, Iowa. Up to ten people can be a part of Grin City Collective at any point in time.”

Deadline: Various


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 Pacific Northwest


Sumner Lake, Oregon

“PLAYA is a retreat for creative individuals who are committed and passionate about their work, and who will benefit from time spent in a remote location. At PLAYA, we offer seclusion and quiet in a natural environment and the opportunity for interaction, if desired, with a cohort of residents and the local rural community. A  Residency provides the time and space to create substantive work or to research and reflect upon one’s creative or scientific processes. Away from the urgencies of daily life, residents can focus on their projects, immerse in a desert landscape of basin and rangeland, and find inspiration through self-directed inquiry.”

Deadline: March 1, 2015
(Applications available soon.)


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Which one(s) are you going to apply for?

*Descriptions were taken from each residency’s website.

Writing Description: Close up, Medium, or Long Shot?

Writing description comes easily to some and not so much to others. If you struggle with writing description, or even if you just want a fresh new way to approach it, consider viewing your descriptive passages as a filmmaker would.

I think of description in my writing the same way I think of framing shots when I’m writing or shooting a film. When we apply some basic framing principles to fiction writing, we can approach our descriptive sections with a lot more clarity.

For example, do I want a description of a character to be a CU (close up), a MS (medium shot), or a LS (long shot)? Each of these will create a different mood in and connection with the reader.

Think about how each of these feels to you when you’re watching a film. A close up puts us in the character’s personal space. It’s intimate. It forces the viewer to experience the character’s immediate emotional circumstance or the immediate effects (as the receiver) of that circumstance.

A medium shot still gives an up-close-and-personal experience, but it isn’t as immediate as the close up, and sometimes this is preferred if we want the viewer/reader to have a strong affinity with the character and his emotional world but also have a little more objectivity than he might have.

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And a long shot gives us a full view of the character and his or her surroundings, which can also inform the reader and create mood and emotion. It’s more distant and can even be voyeuristic, depending on how it’s presented.

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Try this exercise.

Pick something or someone to describe, then write three separate descriptions of your chosen object, as:

a close up

a medium shot

a long shot


Try it, and let me know how it goes.

In fact, share what you come up with in the comments below!

Sending you mad writing mojo…


Anais Nin: On writing and being…

On Writing

To write is to descend, to excavate, to go underground.

I am in a beautiful prison from which I can only escape by writing.

The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer. The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.

Solitude may rust your words.


On being

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Good things happen to those who hustle.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous.

Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.

When one is pretending the entire body revolts.

Don’t let one cloud obliterate the whole sky.

Only in the fever of creation could she recreate her own lost life.

Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another.