Monday, May 11, 2009

Finding Home

Quote of the Day:
I long, as does every human being, to be at home
wherever I find myself.
~Maya Angelou

Current Local Weather:
Cloudy skies with long faces,
swollen feet and a goal hopefully finding
its home in the 10 day outlook.

Currently on my iPod:
Under the Table and Dreaming
Dave Matthews Band

Dear friends, family and my family of friends,

I waited to give myself some distance and time to blog on the happenings at the retreat last week. This was my second full fledged Writing Away Retreat. Let me give you an expanded version and run down of last weeks stats:

9 writers, 3 staff members, 3 spouses (all of which had their own muse and charm and left me with a lasting feeling of warmth) and me.
  • Location: This House; Arroyo Seco, NM: Average number of words written and NOT deleted throughout week: 10K/writer
  • Average number of calories consumed per meal per writer: enough to expand your thinking cap and waist line.
  • Average number hours staff spent with writers one on one and with MS critiques: 2.4 for consults and 1.2 on the MS critique prior to the retreat
  • Average number of meals consumed including hot totties and snacks on any given day: too many to list.
  • Average number of sighs, smiles and slight but distinct measurements of contentedness: innumerable
  • Average number of times we heard Doug Crandell mention his gorgeous and talented wife Nancy was going to leave him for me due to my cooking...and then proceed to walk downstairs to fetch a beer or three: too numerous to count
  • Number of times non-native English speaking sweetheart and artist extraordinaire Nathalie Vogel and I pounded Random House/Vintage editor Tim O'Connell, Literary Agent Gary Heidt, and Writer Heather Fowler into the wood of the dining table with our vicious Scrabble skills: 1 (they declined another game.)
  • Number of times Karma bit me on the ass for gloating over my success in Scrabble by jacking up my foot, knee and poise as I got out of the hot tub and slipped on the stairs, pretty much face first with a** in the air: 1 (I am the quintessential klutz, if you haven't met me, just ask those that do know me.)
And so on and so forth...needless to say, I feel blessed to have had the will power, know-how and staff to back me up to make this dream a reality. Yet there is something else that went on at this retreat...

A bond was formed.
This is the power of a home.

I have the feeling we could have been in a walk-up in Brooklyn and still made this happen with the people we had here, but being secluded in western paradise surely doesn't hurt.

So the story goes: I was cooking up some sauce or other when I overheard a conversation in the kitchen, less than a few feet away, between one of the couples at the retreat:

Dude: "You're back." (backstory: Chick had just gone out into the town or somewhere to do some sightseeing and shopping or whatnot.)
Chick: "Yeah, was fun. Got lots of pictures."
Dude: "Glad you made it back home safely."

I couldn't have felt better than in that very moment. If nothing else had happened the whole week, just hearing those words made my retreat a success. Dude, he called it home.

That's my goal.

I've said this before, I'm sure, but let me emphasize why I do this: In this society we pride ourselves on pampering the very young and the very old and tend to ignore those that are working day in and day out with no rest or relief in sight except for the occasional vacation. This is where I come in. Why not take time out of your life to invest in yourself. You only have one of you. If you have more, please...please tell the rest of us how to get another one so we can get more done. We tend to emphasize overworked, overstressed, overeating (well, okay, that one is okay for a week a year) overkilling our supposedly most vibrant and active generations. By golly, we deserve a break too. Making an investment in what you want to do, creating something beautiful for the world in yourself, is never something that should be looked down upon, rather something that should be applauded. Come find your home away with me. Find out how good food can taste, how well your words work and most of all, the feeling of rest at its best. No stiff clothes allowed, no stress allowed either. Just comfy, all-round, good natured life. I stress to my writers that we are not to impress eachother with our clothes or our outside world, just our wit and our smiles.

I think is the key to creating this nurturing environment is to bring the writing conference/clinic/retreat life into a more natural environment. A home. I don't know about you, but I work best when relaxed. whether it be my home, my folks, a bed and breakfast etc. To make things better, I work even more efficiently when that home is in order (anyone know how to make that happen at my place?) with cleanliness lining the walls, aromatic charm (not mothballs) and peace. But this isn't about direct comparisson because all ventures in writing that offer writers feedback and time away is valuable. I'm just a different bird, well a dead bird, soaked in orange sauce, wrapped in bacon and stuffed with flavor. :)

So how do you find time to make your house a home so you may write? Slow down and figure out how to do this for yourself. Even if you can't make it to one of my retreats, it's vitally important for you to do this in your writing space and time. As a nation, we're hurting for a surround of beauty. How are you going to ensure we build that for the ones that come after you and then after them? Let's get away from the mass-marketed strip malls and fabricated, made-in-china walls. Paint your world with all of your senses and make it a place where you can say, I'm glad I'm home.

One more thing before I close. Some of us in this world are not safe. My dear friend Daniel Casey runs a blog titled: Gently Read Literature. I read it on a weekly basis. He has reviews, art, all things beautiful, including himself. He's one man who is diligently creating beauty in this world by educating the next generation, ensuring that good books are read, shared and freely available and art is recognized by even us jaded digitized fools. But, what he posted this week alarmed me and took me aback. Made me sick really. I want to make you all aware of this. And please, please, help if you can.

This is a direct copy off of his blog, I don't think he'll mind.


May 2, 2009
by Daniel Casey


Our dear friend and an exceptionally talented poet, Craig Arnold, has gone missing on the small volcanic island of Kuchino-erabu-shima while on a creative exchange fellowship. AS OF 4/30 the authorities are on the fourth day of searching for Craig, and are Japanese police on the ground are searching. We greatly appreciate the efforts of both the Japanese and American governments in searching for Craig–lots of people are on the ground working to ensure Craig’s safe return. The response from the U.S. government and from the Japanese authorities have been overwhelmingly positive and we are enormously pleased and grateful for their expanded and extended efforts. Our prayers and thanks are with them as they search.

With the assistance of the University of Wyoming, a fund has been established to support the search efforts to find Craig. Even the smallest contribution would be of use. If you would like more information about the fund including specific information about what the fund will be used for at various stages, please see the post on the discussion board. The link directly to the fund is here:

Here’s the link to a Facebook group that can also give more information:

If you can help at all with this or have any information, please do not hold back. ALSO: PLEASE REPOST ON YOUR BLOG. NO EXCEPTIONS. Let's all help Craig find his home.

As always, thanks for reading.

Yours in Home, Helping Hands and Heartfelt Love,


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