You’ve Found a Residency You Want – Now What?

VCCA - photo courtesy of Joelle Wallach
VCCA – photo courtesy of Joelle Wallach, composer and VCCA resident

It’s that time of year – I’m itching to go somewhere and hide out and write.  So I’m looking at deadlines for residencies, and getting my submissions polished.  It’s not too stressful for me – I’ve done this before.  But I remember when I first started looking into colonies and felt so clueless. I had so many questions.  What is a statement of purpose?  How is that different from an artist’s statement?  Is it better to send a short story or novel excerpt?  Who should write my letters of recommendation?  While I don’t have all the answers, and each residency committee varies somewhat, here are things most of them will ask you to submit.

  1. A brief bio and/or CV.  Try to keep your bio to one page, if possible, and include only pertinent information.  Same goes for the CV – keep it brief (no more than 2 pages) and pertinent.  If you don’t have lots of publications, it’s OK.  They want to see that you are committed to your craft.  When I first started applying, since I didn’t have many credits, I sent in a CV that stressed my role at WriterHouse, my education, etc.
  2. Artist statement.  Usually no more than one page, this is a way for the jurors to get to know you as an artist.  They want to know about you and your work, what makes you a good candidate, and why a residency would benefit you.  Tailor this to the residency you are applying for.  Are they looking for diversity?  Emerging writers?  Craft your artist statement to show how you fit their ideal candidate.
  3. Statement of Purpose.  This one usually throws people, because you’re applying for a residency that might be a year away.  How do you know what you’ll be working on?  Don’t stress.  Your statement of purpose is not a contract.  The point of this is more to show you have a purpose in mind than to tie you down.  They want to know that you are thinking in terms of work getting done.
  4. Letters of Recommendation.  Most writers I know hate this one.  Who to ask?  Will I be bothering them by asking?  Will my old advisor even remember me?  You need to get over this.  You are not asking for money, you are not asking for a job.  You are asking for a letter.  Most people don’t mind writing a letter of recommendation. It’s mainly to let the committee know that you’re a good fit for a residency.  That you take your writing seriously.  Not to testify to the quality of your work.  So really, anyone who knows your work ethic and your ability to function in a quiet environment can write you a letter of recommendation.
  5. Work Sample.  This is the most important part of the application, so choose your best and most polished work.  This is where you should spend the most time. As to whether to send short fiction or a novel excerpt, consider what your statement of purpose says.  If you say you’re going to be working on revising a novel while there, you probably don’t want to send in 10 poems.  And do pay attention to the maximum word or page count.  Really, if they say they only want 20 pages, they mean it.  Don’t eliminate yourself before they even read the work.

Good luck.  Hope to see you at some fabulous residency soon.


Polish up your best writing and apply for a residency today

It’s that time of year again – the time when I start dreaming of fall in a cabin somewhere, with nothing to do but write. Yes, I know it’s only spring, and soon it’ll be beach time, but deadlines for fall and winter residencies are looming, and I’m itching to apply.

For the first time in several years I won’t be applying for residencies, though.  Too much else is going on.  Life has interfered.  I’m still trying to get settled in Charleston, and I’ll probably be going up to Charlottesville sometime in June or early July to get my things out of storage (after 2 years, lord knows what I’ll find).  Then I’m headed to Boston for a few weeks in early September.  I’ve decided that the rest of the year I need to stay put and try writing in my own space.  There’s always winter 2013.

But damn, those deadlines make me antsy.  To make myself feel a little better, I’m going to use my energy encouraging other writers to apply.  So, I’m going to list some deadlines coming up and a brief overview of the programs, along with links to the sites.  (Check out my earlier post for some suggestions on how to decide which residencies to apply to.)

MacDowell Colony – April 15 for residencies October – January.  Peterborough, New Hampshire.  The Holy Grail of residencies, it’s very competitive, but I’ve known writers without books to their credit who’ve been accepted.  There are no residency fees and all meals are provided.  Visual artists, writers, and composers all stay at MacDowell.  There are 32 studios on 450 acres.  I haven’t gotten up the nerve to apply here yet, but plan to next year.

Hambidge – April 15 for September – December residency period.  Northern Georgia.  Two to eight weeks, 9 writers and visual artists at a time.  It is a bit remote, but amazing.  Some of my experiences are chronicled in previous posts.  Artists contribute $200 a week, but there are some limited scholarships.  Dinners are provided Tuesday – Saturday.

Virginia Center for the Creative Arts – May 15 for residencies October – January.  Two weeks to two months, 25 writers and visual artists at a time.  Artists are asked to contribute what they can afford to the daily cost.  Housing is in dorms, and bathrooms are shared.  Great for getting to know other writers and artists.  All meals are provided.

The Studios of Key West – May 15 for October 2012 – August 2013.  Key West, baby.  When I went there was only one resident at a time, but now they have several other studios.  The residency is free, but no food is provided.  Apply for this – it’s fabulous.

Ragdale – May 15 for residencies Sept – December.  Located outside Chicago.  $35 a day fee, but there is limited financial aid available.  8 – 12 artists and writers at a time, 2 – 6 week residencies.  Dinners are provided 6 nights a week.  This one is at the top of my list to apply for – I’ve heard it’s wonderful.

There are so many more, but these are the deadlines coming up.  Now get to work on that app – don’t you want to be sitting in a cabin in the woods (or a cottage in the mango trees) in November reading and writing?

From Hambidge: Week 3

Tomorrow I leave here.  I’ve packed up most of my stuff and put it in the car, so all I have to do is throw my suitcase, my shower caddy, and my laptop in the back seat and I’m ready to roll.  I won’t hurry – I can be here as late in the day as I want, and I plan to squeeze every second of quiet I can out of the place.  Once I get home I know I’ll be back to checking email three or four times a day, and the phone calls and texts will start back up.

I’ve learned something about myself at every residency I’ve been fortunate enough to have.  At Hambidge, I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet.  To fill that quiet not with technology, but with my own thoughts.  I’ve discovered that without all that noise, I hear my own voice and my characters’ voices louder and stronger.  I’ve discovered that, contrary to what I might have believed, there is rarely an email emergency.  I can go whole days without the urgent notices about penile enhancements and 1-day-only sales at Talbots.  I can and should occasionally disconnect.

Oh, yeah, and I learned something else, too.  I’m not as brave as I thought I was.  I was warned the first day that I might run into a bear at some point (they have an overpopulation of black bears right now) and I thought it would be pretty cool.  I had this vision of meeting up with a bear on the trail and taking its picture, then shooing it off while I continued on my merry way.  But it turns out I’m a chicken shit.  One night I heard something that might or might not have been a bear in the woods outside my cabin, growling and thrashing in the creek, and I squealed.  Really, I squealed.  I’ve realized that while in theory I like the idea of communing with nature and big hairy animals, I’m a wuss.  If I’m in the woods, I don’t want to run into anything bigger or scarier than a squirrel.

So, an 8 hour drive and then I’m back in C’Ville, with lots of new writing and a new appreciation (and healthy respect) for nature.  But don’t expect an email too quickly.  I might stay disconnected for a while.  Or as long as I can stand it, anyway.