Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Nabina Das longs for Sangam

We can't get enough of Sangam House, the rural retreat in India that I've written about before. Here's my co-Sangam fellow, Nabina Das, writing about it in Prairie Schooner.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Bowen Island retreat

Rivendell Retreat Centre
Bowen Island Retreat

The Federation of BC Writers is starting their "first annual retreat" at Bowen Island this fall. It's to be held at Rivendell Retreat Centre on Bowen Island.  I've never been there, but it looks like a good place to write. The retreat is a bit short, three days, from November 22-25, but the price isn't too bad, even for non-members, at $335, including meals. This is what the Federation says about it on their website: "A self-directed time away is being offered for ten hardy souls who simply want to work on their own projects, without any instruction, in a remote yet accessible location.
Ben Nuttall-Smith, author, teacher, and Fraser Valley Regional Rep for FBCW (http://www.bennuttall-smith.ca), and Pandora Ballard, author, publicist, and Tri-Cities Area Rep for FBCW (pandoraballard-publicist.intuitwebsites.com), will be writers-in-residence for the weekend."

Friday, 28 September 2012

Harold Rhenisch in Iceland

Prolific poet, fiction and creative non-fiction author Harold Rhenisch recently wrote a blog, here,  about his upcoming writer's residency in Iceland. This looks like an amazing, austere place that would bring on haunting dreams. Something about stark open landscapes pry loose the habits of mind that can bog writing down. I hope to hear more about it when he's there. This is one of his photos, below.
Photo by Harold Rhenisch

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Passage to India

Sangam House Retreat

I've rhapsodized extensively about Sangam House on my own blog, when I was staying there in January this year, but I want to mention it again, because they're open for applications again and the deadline is very soon: July 31st, 2012. Sangam House is a writing retreat held annually at a dance community called Nrityagram, about an hour outside of Bangalore. They take about twenty writers (through a juried application process), ten from India and ten from other parts of the world. You have your own beautifully spartan room with windows opening onto gardens fragrant with bougainvillea and frangipani. In the coolness of early morning, hummingbirds and parakeets visit the trees outside the rooms. You share the open air kitchen and have the privilege to join the dancers each day for a homegrown, vegetarian lunch. Eating, writing, walking the red earth fields around the community, and at night, the stars throw you off kilter. Occasional power outages and the yelping of pariah dogs in the dark deepen the spirit of this peaceful place. An amazing place to get work done. Here's a comment from my new friend, co-retreatant and translator, Birgitta Wallin.

The best thing about Sangam for me, that was the peace of mind which I felt… I really enjoyed the listlessness which gave room for a kind of intensity of calmness and for sudden sights of green parakeets in the sky.
~ Birgitta Wallin

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Fionncara MacEoin's Place

Fionncara MacEoin is a writer living in Saskatoon. She has participated in writing retreats and workshops in Saskatchewan and at The Banff Centre. She has been involved in a number of community arts projects in Saskatchewan and recently had the opportunity to facilitate a series of creative writing workshops at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. A two-time Sage Hill alumna, Fionncara has performed her work in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. Her poetry has appeared in The Society, In Medias Res, Transition and CV2. Recent publications include the chapbook Even the Sky Parts (JackPine Press 2011). You can read more about Fionncara here.  Below, she talks about her writing experience at Sage Hill.
Fionncara with Paul Wilson
In 2009, I participated in the Introduction to Fiction and Poetry Workshop at the Sage Hill Writing Experience, where I had the pleasure of working with John Lent and Susan Stenson. I also attended the Poetry Workshop in 2011 and worked with Priscila Uppal.

I can honestly say, without a doubt, that both of my “Experiences” were huge turning points in my writing life. In fact, I liked them so much I moved in! I am writing this from the Sage Hill office in Saskatoon where I am currently the Programme Assistant. I am extremely happy doing my bit to help the magic happen at Sage and I have the added bonus of never having to be too far away from that magic!

This excerpt from an e-mail that I sent to a friend during my time at the Experience conveys some of what the Experience has been for me as a participant:
Sage Hill is quite possibly the best time I have ever had in my life. I’m writing, reading, learning, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, singing and dancing with some fantastic and interesting people.
I now have draft one of my new manuscript done!
After months of: “this will never make any sense, I am just stringing word doc's and scraps of imagery together, blindly hoping it will turn out"...finally, yesterday I caught a glimpse of its own internal organization. It is coming together!!!
All of a sudden it said to me: "All right we’ll give you a break...here, this is what you're doing...now shut up and keep working".
It was beautiful.
I am moving in the right direction. It will be a while more, but it's progress. I’m having a great time and am so grateful.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Barbara Lambert's place

Barbara Lambert’s novel The Whirling Girl, set in Italy, tells a story of love and lies, of art and archaeology. It will be published by Cormorant Books in July. Her previous work includes A Message for Mr. Lazarus (2000) and The Allegra Series (1999). She has won the Danuta Gleed Award for Best First Collection of Short Fiction and the Malahat Review Novella Prize, and been a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Prize and the Journey Prize. Lambert has lived in Vancouver, Ottawa, Barbados, and Cortona, Italy. She now  lives in an orchard in the Okanagan Valley, where she is working on a novel closer to home. You can read more about Barbara here. Below, she writes about where she gets work done.

A hammock in Italy

How long does a novel take to be born? Sometimes much longer than any reasonable person might think. Ouch? All those dark nights in the garret, the pain, the angst? Ah, but here’s a guilty secret of the sort that writers tend to keep to themselves. In my case, at least, sweet afternoons in a hammock played a major part.

In the 1990’s I was lucky enough to spend nine months in an old mill house in Italy. Though in fact, those months were spread over a period of nine years.  On our first trip, it was May -- the hills riotous with wildflowers. And already, as we’d explored, a story had begun to settle around me: A botanical artist with a troubled past, who, in her paintings, would walk the fine line her discipline demanded between art and science, just as in her life she had always threaded between guilt and desire. 

I was involved in other work at the time, but her presence became insistent, recorded in snatches in the pages of my notebooks.  On each of those Italian visits -- sometimes for a month, once for three glorious months together -- mornings tended to be spent hiking the countryside, or exploring the Tuscan and Umbrian hill towns, or historic cities like Florence, Siena, Assisi, or (notebook in hand) wandering museums and Etruscan ruins -- expeditions almost always culminating in a long trattoria lunch. And then? 

In this civilized society where all commerce ceases during lunch and nothing reopens until after siesta time, what could be more essential than sleepily navigating back to the Molino where the hammock waited with its view of Cortona’s massive Etruscan walls, then settling into the gently swaying netting, taking out my notebook, my pen....And the hammock sways, and pen falls from the writer’s hand, and the dream takes over, vivid and seductive. Though never did that writer dream how many years it would take to bring that story to its final page. Or how many sweet hours of Tuscan dreaming would be available to her, still, in the pages of those travel journals.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Brooke Hauser's place

Brooke Hauser is originally from Miami, Florida and now divides her time between western Massachusetts and New York City. The New Kids: Big Dreams Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens is her first book. About the book, she says, "In 2008, I wrote an article for The New York Times about prom at a high school that teaches English to recent immigrants from around the world. The students captured my heart, and the following year I decided to spend a year with the new kids at the International High School at Prospect Heights." Recently, People magazine selected The New Kids as one of its "Great Reads." You can find out more about Brooke here. Below, she talks about where she gets work done.

I wrote my book, The New Kids, in a cubicle at the Brooklyn Writers Space. At the time, it was the perfect spot for me, not just because the building that housed us was located off a stretch of Park Slope that is paved with places to grab a great sandwich or get a pedicure (I like a rewards system), but also because the location happened to be a short walk to the International High School that is the subject of my book. Whenever I needed to refresh a memory—the sound of the halls between classes, the smell of the cafeteria—I walked a few blocks, and suddenly I was back in that world. I also loved being in the company of other writers and people in general. Tempting as it is to work from home in pajamas, it’s important to put on real pants every day.

Recently, I moved to western Massachusetts. For a while, I wrote at a college library in my neighborhood. That was before I had a baby. At the moment, I am sitting with my son on the couch in my apartment, typing with one hand. It’s not Yaddo, but it will do just fine.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Melanie Murray's place

Melanie Murray is the author of For Your Tomorrow: The Way of an Unlikely Soldier, which follows her family as they try to make sense of their profound loss after her nephew, Jeff, is killed on a road in Afghanistan. Quill and Quire says of her book, "Murray's powerful work contains the emotional resonance currently lacking in much of the writing about our involvement in the Afghan conflict..." Melanie lives in Kelowna and teaches at Okanagan College. You can read more about Melanie here. Below, she describes her productive place to write.

Alma-Cliff Cottage in Malagash, Nova Scotia

My writer’s haven for six weeks every summer is a small cottage on the Northumberland Strait. I write at a table in the screened-in front porch overlooking the water. It’s quiet, but for the ever-changing symphony of wind rustling through saltwater maples, waves rushing on the rocky shore, and seagulls screeching over the blue-grey sea. My days are planned around the time of the low tide when I can walk the wide sandbar that stretches for a kilometre to McInnis’s Point. These solitary strolls in the sun, wind and rain are my meditation and inspiration.  As if borne in on the waves themselves, ideas surface, images appear, sentences take shape. And I can’t wait to get back and write them down. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Brenda Schmidt's place

Brenda Schmidt is a writer, painter and birdwatcher living in northern Saskatchewan. She has two new books out, Grid, a poetry collection, published by Hagios Press and Flight Calls: An Apprentice on the Art of Listening, published by Kalamalka Press. For me, reading Brenda's work is like taking a walk with a patient listener who knows when to speak and when to stay silent.  She has a wit as sharp and dry as the prairie landscape. Of her new book, a critic says, "You can just feel the stones rattling off your undercarriage on this Grid." (Star Phoenix) You can find out more about Brenda Schmidt and see some of her art here. Below, she tells us about one of the places she likes to write:

The Barn at Northhill

For years I attended retreats at St. Peter’s Abbey and met many writers and artists from across Canada. Those were productive times. Since 2008, however, I’ve been drawn to more private places. Last summer Tracy Hamon invited me along on a writing retreat at The Barn at Northhill Cottage, an acreage property above the Frenchman River, on the edge of Eastend, Saskatchewan. It was clean and open, the vaulted ceiling almost challenging me to keep reaching, and reach I did. It was by far my most productive retreat. We had our own rooms, each with a writing desk, large windows, and a spectacular view of the hills. Each morning before I began writing, I’d sit on the deck with my coffee and read. Wrens and towhees sang nearby. Each evening we’d hike and return just as the nighthawks were feeding. I like to think all the calls and song helped me along.