Writers Residency @ the Vermont Studio Center, Pneumonia and Me

I couldn’t believe I was accepted in to the Vermont Studio Center for a one-month residency! If you ever want to get a lot of work done, just go to a residency and…oh yes…get sick. Sick enough to function, but sick enough to decline the evenings social happenings and that’s where you’ll find yourself, exactly like me, and my April 2015 writers residency at the VSC.


I cannot believe how seemingly overnight, spring has peeked from beneath the sheets like a wide-eyed kid at 5:00 A.M. on Christmas morning and announced it is here!  While I was freezing my ass off one hour from Canada – with pneumonia I must add – the slush, mud and snow of the northeast had cleared completely down in New Jersey. I came home to birds in full chorus, flowers bloomed in zest, and even a slight fuzz of new grass from the tiny layer of seed my partner had thrown down haphazardly while I was away. I must say though, bad weather and all, I miss the Vermont Studio Center immensely.


Gosh, it’s good to be back though too. My own bed, my girl, cannoli’s upon return. Mmm, there is no better place than home base. I just fished out my laptop after a solid week in an unreachable spot underneath my couch. I can’t remember the last time I took a week off; it had to be a year ago. That’s right, before we bought our house, just after the deadline for my second book, a perfect time. Ah, the blissful ten days off, that was. This experience has made evident one thing:  I am the WORST BOSS!

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being sick since I was living my dream; the utopia of being surrounded by only writers and artists, where the buzz at all meals was creative talk; where you were inspired by the person touching each elbow wherever you sat. Pure heaven, I tell you. And I would do it all again, yes, even in the winter, even close to freezing, in the split second of a heartbeat.

Ah, I miss it.

What I do not miss is the absolute insane pace and near-impossible goals I set for myself. It was near back-breaking. I may have taken a few afternoon hours off, once to have a meal in another town and once or twice where i took a cat nap at the studio, but I hadn’t taken a day off until the third week.(When my mom picked me up she said “great” to that news. Now I know where I get it from.)

Still, I’m grateful for this work ethic; you can’t complete books without it, much less be a success at anything you do. Thanks Mom and Dad. And, thank you for giving me a loan for the balance after the fundraising, the merit-based grant and work-based grant. After my dog sitting stint this week (and the longer one in August), I’ll be down to just under one thousand dollars. And that’s a loan I am glad to pay back. With pride. I am eternally grateful to the village who got me up there (thank you, Jayne!) and donated on Go Fund Me.

Ah, yes, Hillary, it does take a village, without which, I would be at least a book behind. Or two.

Final word counts.

zDiner Girl  Cover thumbnailDinerGirl = 105K; DinerGirl Too=28K; The New Writers Manual to Success Volume I: From Start to Self-Publishing (*working title)= 101k; The New Writers ”    ”    ”   Volume  II (*working title)= 64k;

Proposals:  Two Bipolar Chicks Proposal:ABCs of ECT, TMS, SAD and PPD=3,300. Writers book Volume I: 8,500.

Grand total = 309,800. This is not to say I wrote 309,800 words. Oh no no no. This total is not accurate because I came up with DinerGirl and the writers book already started.  I would say I wrote 180,000-200,000 words. DG TOO is all new, as is the 2nd writers book. The proposals are almost done, in time for my self-imposed, pre-camping, Memorial Day Weekend deadline, As I said, I am the toughest boss. Equally as tough is our agent, though not specifically to us. “This is a business” as Corinda our agent says. OH yes it is and our cupboards tell the story.

The VSC was a beautiful place to work…All the writers had a view of the river. The artists occupy many buildings (at least five),the largest, Wolf Khan, a stone’s throw across the river from us.


IMG_3457 IMG_3449

Maverick Writing Studio       March 2015

DO you like my studio? This is a very neat day. Picture day! 🙂


I was the paper recycling queen!

(This is code for a lot of mistakes, or lots of editing to be kind!)


By my second week in, I could identify who my roommates were. I began attenting the artists open studio nights and the writers open speakers nights too.

One of the most valuable parts of a writers residency is the visiting writers who advise you. For the prose folks, ours was Ann Pancake and she was amazing. She read fiften pages of my introduction and first chapter, my very rough draft of DinerGirl and told me – along with many other writers and artists there – that it read more like a memoir. That’s a relief because it truly is. I think I was trying to make it in to a novel, but it itsn’t one. Dinergirl Too is, because all kinds of fictional plots have come to me.  There is a big difference, I realize now.

Another memoir, yep!

My neighbor, Wendi, from Vancouver was a very talented, vivacious artist who organized the easter egg hunt. Love her. She was one of the other three other women in my same residence,  Mason House. The other two women were Laurie, a very talented poet and photographer from Reno, NV, and Laura, also a gifted painter, working on a series of enormous ships from Florida. I wish them all continued success, but it is evident they don’t need any well wishings from little ‘ole me. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, except made more meals and gotten to know people more. The people made that residency, what an amazing bunch from all over the world! Wow! I doubt I could ever find such a special bunch again. Ever.

Even if I went to a couple of residencies a year, this type of cohesive, all-for-one artistic residency could not be duplicated. Sixty artists and writers had a unique blend, a special sauce, a dyacism, while compatable, each with thousand old artist souls. We collided amidst determination, frenetic pace and formed in to an unexpected, effful dance.

To all the writers out there, please do yourselves the greatest favor to your soul and apply for writers fellowships. I sugest you mark that you will accept financial aid if you don’t receive a fellowship becasuse the fellowships are very difficult to get. You can get a grant, work study (how hard is it to vacuum ?? and run a Kickstarter, etc.) Pretty son you’ll have it all together and you’re on your way!
Good luck and I hope you apply someday. The VSC was amazing and I highly, highly recommend it. (Yes, even in the winter! They have more money for fellowships, by the way from November to April!) If you go in the winter, remember to bring a down coat and down blanket. (Even if you have to ship it!) It was a life saver!


4 thoughts on “Writers Residency @ the Vermont Studio Center, Pneumonia and Me

  1. my tech skills are so weak, still (have adhd and a computer teacher) that I tried so sign up and was unable to, for several reasons. They still have openings. Would be great to make the transition from ranting bipolar essays to diary format fiction as I felt as a young alternative disc jockey. I guess you read what I wrote re Kurt Cobain. We will never really know y he did it except maybe ‘male insufficiency’ he couldn’t b all things to all people, maybe. He was spread pretty thin in his life’s roleplaying. Father, junkie, husband, etc.

  2. It was such fun to read about your incredible experience, and a blast to live vicariously through you; well, except for the pneumonia part! 😦 I’m so glad you didn’t die on us because dammit, I want to read all those books of yours coming up.

    I’m hugely proud of you for making this retreat happen!! You worked your derriere off and you totally made the most of your time there. Give yourself extra-credit for that. I got a big kick out of reading the section in which you discuss how “Diner Girl” is morphing into memoir. Can’t wait to read that book! I’ve waitressed at 4 or 5 places, although never a diner.

    As the primary caretaker for two young girls and of course for the blessed beast Miss Lucy, I couldn’t take off for a month. BUT, re-reading your post made me wonder & dream a little bit; it fired me up I’d like to investigate even a weekend writing retreat in my neck of the woods so I can work my flabby ass off on “Birth of a New Brain”. We do have Esalen in Big Sur which is an absolutely stunning artists colony, but every year when I’ve pored over their high-end catalogue, I’ve found them to come across as elitist. The costs for any of their workshops is insane-to-the-membrane, even with a work scholarship! There must be other places and I’m going to investigate them! While you were in Vermont, Craig went to L.A. for four days to give several talks for his book “Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West”. He spent money on rental car and hotels as none of thge organizations covered his costs, and boy, will I use that in my favor if I find something I could attend. I could drum up money on Kickstarter too!

    By the way, can I just write again for the record “THANK YOU!!!”! You know why. I feel like if I had another child I should give it to you for the momentous gift you gave me with PHP but you probably wouldn’t want a screaming babe, ha ha ha. And at 45 yrs. old on 3 birth defecty meds, I won’t be having another kid in this lifetime.

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