I’m back from my third Stonecoast residency, where in theory I was finally supposed to know what I was doing. I did a talk on podcasting with James Patrick Kelly, which was pretty damn cool, and we got some good feedback. (I recorded it, it will go live soon.) I workshopped a short fiction piece that takes place 50 or so years before The Shambling Guide to New York City, then workshopped the first chapter of book 2, tentatively titled Ghost Train to New Orleans.
I have learned that sequels are hard.
I’m going to be working on my third semester project over the next six months, and finishing a book, and doing freelance work, so if you see me playing with my phone, knock it from my hand and watch me cry. Or at least ask me if I’ve done my wordcount for the day.
It was a strange residency in some ways, but I’m excited about my work over the next six months, especially working with my mentor, Nancy Holder. I’ll write more about my project when I’m closer to finishing. I may need some beta people to look at it, so I’ll be putting a call out later.
The friendships and connections I have made at residency were cemented further. It’s really great to connect with people who may not even write anything close to what you do, and still connect on the angsty writer level. On our day off, we had a presentation about life after Stonecoast, what do you do when you graduate and don’t have a workshop to look forward to in six months? The response among the students was all over the map – some thought about the end with horror, others felt reassured that “post-Stonecoast blues” happens to everyone, and others even looked forward to returning to a solitary writing life.
Personally, one of the reasons I chose Stonecoast over Clarion or Clarion West (I weighed many, many things, I may blog about it someday, but this was one of them) was I’d heard the intense “boot camp” feeling of six weeks of workshopping at Clarion can overwhelm a writer and many stop writing for months when they are done. They have to process everything they learned and they miss their Clarion friends and teacher. Stonecoast is an intense 10 day residency every six months for a total of 5 residencies, bookending a two year program. Coming home after a residency is always a bit of a shock but I usually jump right back into writing. It’s very similar to post-con letdown, which I experience several times a year. I was hoping that spreading out the experience over two years would allow for gradual absorption of what I was learning and lessen the shock when it was over. I fully expect to get bummed in July of 2014 when it’s not my turn to plan to go to Maine. But I’m also excited to graduate.
(And am I the only one who thinks that the family stress, travel stress, and expense of continuous semi-annual residencies would overwhelm one after a few years?)
Anyway, nothing very good or very bad lasts for very long. Enjoy the ups, tolerate the downs, and remember what Dennis Leary said about happiness:
Happiness comes in small doses, folks. It’s a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm. You come, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you go to sleep, wake up and go back to fucking work the next morning, THAT’S IT!
Hopefully I can view the end of Stonecoast with that attitude.
Lastly, I’m hearing that many people came down with con crud (residency crud?) upon arriving home. I remain healthy and apprehensive.