VCCA (In Threes)


With a week to go, so far in my time at Virginia Center for Creative Arts I have...


-Put revisions on three essays to bed: one to appear in the Washington Post Magazine come February, one already up on Psychology Today's blog "The Fallible Mind," and one that I submitted to Ploughshares the day of their January 15 deadline. 


-Drafted three poems, and revised a sestina.


-Worked on three rounds of interview questions, including a live sit-down for a profile in Virginia Living and a Q & A up now at YRTEOP.com ("'poetry' turned around"). 


-Finished three books by friends--Amy Stolls (The Ninth Wife), Kevin Wilson (Tunneling to the Center of the Earth), and Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self). I recommend all of them, with my favorite stories being Wilson's "Grand Stand-In" and Evans'  "Robert E. Lee is Dead." The Ninth Wife is a perfect curl-up-in-front-of-the-fireplace read, a reminder that love is a good & sweet thing even when complicated.


-Wrote a prologue for...well, let's talk about that one at a later date.  


-Read aloud through the three collections I have by Sylvia Plath: The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Ariel. No one had an ear like Plath, no one, and your bones don't fully register the rhythm of "Mushrooms" and "Lady Lazarus" until you perform them. Anyone who saw me through my studio's windows--lights blazing at midnight, pacing in high heels as I read, bouncing as well to Erykah Badu--probably thought I was a madwoman. If you can't be a madwoman at an art colony, where can you be?


I report not to brag, but to assure anyone that has ever wondered that Yes, you really do get things done here. The wheels turn faster. No denying the fun: the dance party that spanned from 10 PM Blondie to 2 AM M.I.A.; the hilltop hike to hear wind whisper across a wheat field; the big bottles of red wine (at the moment I'm favoring a $9 Mondavi cabernet) you share with eight residents, then the midnight scotch you share with one. But what makes the fun fun is that it is a reward for doing the work. 


A sadness of being here this long is that I've had to say a round of goodbyes to people I really came to know. Once you've been serenaded by Jamie Cat Callan on her concertina, she has your heart forever. But we'll see each other again. 


Tonight I'll read after dinner with Stephen Tapscott, poet and translator, awesome dancer (ass-slap-worthy, I tell you), expert builder of fires, and late-afternoon lunch buddy. At a colony you are in a constant cycle of introducing yourself and talking about your work without actually sharing your work. Time to pull back the curtain. 


On Thursday I'll venture out to Charlotesville, to speak at WriterHouse on "How to Get Your Memoir Out in the World." I'll give a 10-minute reading from Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, followed by a moderated conversation with Sandy Hausman, the Charlottesville bureau chief and editor for Virginia Public Radio. We'll have a frank discussion about developing a proposal and shepherding a book through the gauntlet of agents, editors, and publicists, drawing on my own experiences with DKTBG. WriterHouse is behind the Preston Avenue Bodo's Bagels; the event starts at 7 PM and is free and open to the public. Join us if you can~