Writing at home can be lonely, especially for a reporter like me who’s used to the bustle of a newsroom.
That’s why as soon as I returned home from Africa, before I even started writing my book, I applied to a handful of writers’ colonies.
What’s a writers’ colony? It’s a place where writers retreat to produce and inspire one another. Across the country and the world, colonies give writers their own quiet space to work and a community that shares their creativity energy.
Sometimes called residencies, the getaways vary enormously. Some are small, for just a few writers at a time. Others have a broader mission to help artists, so writers are mixed with painters, composers and potters. Many are tucked away in quiet corners of the country, close to nature. Some take writers for two weeks at a time, others for two months. And while some charge a residency fee, the most popular colonies are free, providing lodging and sometimes even food.
Sounds fabulous, right? Just what I need?
That’s what I thought, too — Until I got rejected from three of the four residencies I applied to. I’m still waiting to hear from the fourth.
Since this blog is intended to serve as a resource for writers, I’ll share with you the programs that rejected me: Ragdale, in Illinois; I-Park, in Connecticut; and MacDowell, in New Hampshire. (I set my sights a little high here, since MacDowell is known as the most prestigious colony. But it can never hurt to try.)
I’m assuming these rejections stemmed from my status as an unpublished author. Sure, I’ve been published in newspapers and magazines while working as a journalist for the last few years, but writing a book is a whole new ball game. Or maybe it wasn’t my qualifications but my project — a travel memoir — that didn’t suit the admissions teams.
Regardless, I’m not giving up. I’ve got one more application out there for the summer/fall session: the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, NY, just an hour up the road from my home in Albany. And I just applied for a winter residency at The Hambidge Center in Georgia.
How do I find out about these opportunities? Mainly through the Alliance of Artists Communities, which offers a database of residencies when you join their organization for a reasonable annual fee. The group also sends out a helpful monthly e-mail reminder about upcoming residency deadlines.
Not only does the AAC offer details about the residencies in their database, the group also lists an acceptance rate for each program. From now on, when deciding where to apply, I’ll take into consideration which programs are most likely to accept me.
I posted my three rejection letters on the wall in my home office, to remind myself of my goal. Unfortunately, they probably represent just the tip of the rejection iceberg; I’m prepared to add to that pile throughout this process. But when I’m finally published, when I peel those letters off the wall and stuff them in a box under my bed, they’ll make for a good laugh.