This summer, I was lucky to spend a month in the small, verdant town of Johnson, Vermont—a town with exactly one bookstore, one coffee shop, one art supply store, a few restaurants, and a Laundromat. I had come to Johnson to write at the Vermont Studio Center, a not-for-profit arts organization that hosts hundreds of visual artists and writers every year. After a busy spring in Tucson I felt a little shell-shocked by the quiet, and by the long, empty days For the first week I tried to settle in by walking for miles along an old railroad bed that had been converted into a multi-use path through woods and past cornfields and old churches. This time, I knew, was a gift, and I wanted to be able to use it wisely.
The Vermont Studio Center is one of the largest residency programs in the country, hosting international artists in, as its website states, an inclusive community. While creating art can be a solitary act, it need not be isolating, and I sought feedback from my fellow writers and artists often in the form of readings, studio visits, slideshows, and spontaneous conversation. It was invigorating to be surrounded by such talented and dedicated folks, many of whom became friends.
Every day I walked from my room on the second floor of an old wooden house to my studio, which contained the following: a large desk, a bookshelf, an easy chair, and a large window overlooking the Gihon River. I spent hours working in my studio. I filled a notebook with notes. I read. I worked on a fiction project I’ve been working on for several years, and I was excited by the notion of giving myself over to it completely. I printed pages and cut them apart and rearranged them on the floor, shuffling and reshuffling the piles I had made. Then I’d go out into the sunshine, or the rain, or the busy dining hall housed in a lofty red barn-like building. I’d walk to waterfalls with friends, watch leaves drop into the Gihon from an Adirondack chair on its bank, browse the books in the bookstore. I spent a lot of time thinking.
I’m proud of the work I was able to do during my time in Vermont. In order to teach writing, it is important to work on my own writing so as not to forget what a confounding and fulfilling (and vulnerable) process it can be. I came back to work in August feeling nourished. As the year begins, I’m excited to experiment with and practice the craft of writing alongside my students.