Artist’s Residency, Week Three

I expected to write a lot at this residency. I’ve already had several breakthroughs on that front, including producing a new first chapter that I shared with the other artists here. They say it works. I think so, too.

What I didn’t expect from this experience — because I knew it would include many hours of alone time — was to meet such fascinating people. In three short weeks, they’ve affected how I think about my writing, how I see my work, and the importance of combining the two in a way that makes me happy.

Porch at the Hambidge Rock House, where we eat dinner.

Porch at the Hambidge Rock House, where we eat dinner.

I’m going to try to tell you about a few of them without invading their privacy, since Hambidge feels like one of those what-happens-here-stays-here kind of places.

One of my favorites is a writer from San Francisco, a 58-year-old, queer, Jewish, skinny guy with a mustache who I probably would not have picked from a line-up as someone I’d bond with. But he is a fabulous storyteller. The two of us explored a few of Hambidge’s trails a few days ago, and I knew that every time this man opened his mouth he would have something interesting to share about his early career as a glass-blower or years living in Jerusalem or time working in the publishing industry. It wasn’t until we had talked like this for a week and a half that another artist, during dinner, happened to ask him how many books he’s published. He answered modestly, “Umm, eight or nine. Yeah, I believe this will be my ninth.”

When I told this guy about my idea for my next book (I’m not ready yet to share the idea here), he literally stopped in his tracks. “You should be working on that now,” he said. That was the kind of support, the kind of fire I needed to get started on the project.

Then there’s a music composer from Tennessee who must study botany in his spare time. When we go hiking on the weekends, he identifies every flower and plant on the path.

“When I look out into this beautiful green scene,” I admitted to him last Sunday, as we walked to a trickle of a waterfall, “all I see are weeds.”

Last night after dinner, a writer from Montana (who seems to spend more time here writing awesome blue-grass music than her literary nonfiction piece) pulled out her guitar and sang for us some of her music. Then she strummed a few tunes we knew so we could all sing along. The composer slash botanist got a drum-beat going on a piece of Tupperware, and the Jewish storyteller made a racket on a fan with a fork. The rest of us played bowls from the kitchen.

And somehow, it made me a better writer this morning.

13 Responses

  1. It sounds amazing. I’m so happy it is going well!

  2. Well, now, I tried not to feel jealous, and was succeeding, until now. How wonderful for you, Lexi. Can’t wait till you can share your next project.

  3. Wonderful, Alex!

    It sounds like you’re meeting writing and life mentors who will affect you for a long, long time….so powerful.

    May it continue to be a rich, rewarding, deep experience.


  4. The people, the place, the whole experience sounds wonderful. I might have to look into something like that when Julia is older. Glad to hear you are getting a lot done, and waiting to hear about your next idea/project….

  5. i just love hearing about your experience 🙂

  6. There’s something amazing that happens when a group of people with similar goals or creative inclinations gets together. Hearing about your experience makes me want to go on a retreat or join a residency even more than ever! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  7. This is wonderful story. I like what you said about the surprises that can come from meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to bond with. It seems to happen when we’re thrown together in relatively small groups of diverse personalities and backgrounds, and rarely happens when we’re in large groups where like souls can drift together and shut others out. Aren’t humans funny?

  8. This sounds like such a wonderful experience – I love hearing about it. Good people, good times, good writing…who could ask for more!

  9. Thanks for all the great comments, guys! This residency has been awesome — If you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend it!

  10. I’m the type of writer who tends to hole up in a corner of my office. Your post reminds me how exploring the world out there broadens our horizons, and enriches our writing. I’m glad you’re having such great experiences!

  11. Come come on the kickdrum come,
    Come come on the kickdrum come,
    Come come, Lexi, come come…

    Sounds like the movie…

    So are you going to write the new book? I like the addition of photos. I was hoping for some.

  12. […] Hambidge Love Story Posted on October 7, 2009 by Alexis Grant I wrote a lot at Hambidge. I made friends. I reflected on where to go from here. But something else happened that I haven’t yet told […]

  13. […] that, the phrase sounded awkward, not well-thought out. But the writer friend (or, more accurately, best-selling author friend) told me the following day that he’d thought a lot about those words, that they would change […]

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