Tag Archives: Alexander Chee

Get Away and Write

23 Aug
Writing Outside

Writers can get inspiration (and a whole lot of work done) at residencies or artist colonies.

A friend and I have talked recently about applying to writer residencies this year for next summer. Some of them are free of charge and require a minimum two-week stay with maximums of five weeks or more. Some cost money but offer scholarship and work-study opportunities.

 After attending a writers’    conference and realizing that much of it is focused on publishing and getting an agent or editor, I decided that what I really need to do is get away and write, free of distractions and responsibilities.

My friend and I have begun doing some preliminary research, and have made a list of some of the more well-known ones. Many of the ones on our list are the most competitive, with 10% acceptance rates (slightly lower or higher, depending on genre). For fiction, many of them want anywhere from 15 to 25 pages of fiction, the equivalent of one short story or a novel excerpt. I’ve been working on one particular short story that I think has promise and hope to send out both for publication and as my writing sample for these residencies.

If I had any doubt about the benefits of attending a writer residency or artist colony, those doubts were immediately brushed aside after reading this essay by Alexander Chee about the worthwhile experiences he had at three different residences (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; the MacDowell Colony; and Civitella Ranieri).

My goal at a residency or artist colony would be to work on my short story collection. At this point, I have only written two stories that would work as part of the same collection, and need about eight more.

It seems that I got things backward this year; if I were to give advice to writers deciding between attending a conference or a residency, I’d recommend the residency first and then the conference. It makes sense to go to a conference with a finished work, or at least the first draft of one.

I look forward to next summer. Who knows where I’ll end up?

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Tracy Staedter

Science writing, editing and workshops

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