Letter from the Director – November 2023


I tout myself as an “idea” person. I come up with more ideas than I can possibly implement here at the colony. To be honest, not all of them are good ideas, so it’s wise to let some of them go, but many are worthwhile. I just don’t have the time, the money, the equipment, or some other necessary item to take some of my ideas past the “idea” stage. I put those in the “someday” category, or the “maybe” category,” or the “when you’ve done everything else, here’s one more thing to try” category. I don’t want to forget them, so I write them down in my Idea Journal. There’s no particular order or structure to it. It’s a jumble, a conglomeration of randomness, a gathering of the wispy thoughts bouncing around in my mind all the time. Having the ideas all in one book, though, makes for a handy cache when I’m ready to start something new. 

I gather words and phrases in a different journal. These are snippets I’ve stumbled upon while reading, listening, or simply observing the world. When I’ve reached a writing draught and every phrase I think of seems downright stupid, it’s helpful to pull out my word journal and peruse the jewels on those pages waiting to be rediscovered. Sometimes, I use the words exactly as written, or I use one of the forms of the words, or sometimes the word itself launches me into a new way of thinking and relating, and I use it as inspiration and arrive at a completely different place. 

There’s another type of gathering that I get to experience multiple times a year at RWC. It’s the gathering of people who’ve signed up for a themed, all-inclusive weekend retreat. Writers come from many different states to sit around the large table with us and talk and learn. We’ve hosted 32 retreats in the 5 years the colony has existed and every single one of them left me awed and inspired. The writers are the reason! When like-minded people gather to share their energy along with their willingness to learn and grow, magical things tend to happen. I’ve witnessed such magic at RWC.

We’re brainstorming about retreats for 2024 right now, cataloging ideas, titles, and themes. I’d like to ask you, newsletter readers, about YOUR ideas for retreats. Are there specific things you’d like to see us offer? Are there specific things you can teach and lead? Give us your thoughts in response to this newsletter and if we think it’s a good fit for us, I’ll email you. It’s fun to think of all of our writer energies converging as we gather new ideas. Thanks for gathering with us!


Letter from the Director – October 2023


When I travel, I take photos of the plants I encounter as I explore the land. I use an identification app to name them, and then I draw or paint them. This is a way I become more attuned to the environment, and more appreciative of my experiences. I love botanicals. If I truly want to understand a place, I study its plants as well as its civilization.

I’ve studied the plant life of Tennessee for a long time. I’m particularly drawn to wildflowers. I think of coneflower and black-eyed Susan, bergamot and passion flower,  iris and primrose – the plants I grew up with and recognize as part of my landscape. When I see beautiful plants from another region, I feel much appreciation and awe. When I see the Tennessee natives, I feel a sense of home. 

I feel embedded in the land and cities of this state. My ancestors are buried here, and my experiences and lifeblood circulate here. I am rooted in Tennessee, so deeply that I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Even though I’ll happily visit other places, my heart always longs for where I feel belonging. 

This connection is important to me. It gives me purpose and passion. The work I do here, I do with satisfaction, knowing it is meaningful work in a meaningful place. To be able to create here, to write here, in the place that holds such soulful connection is a blessing. I end all my correspondence (and these newsletters) with the word “blessings” because it fits so well the way I feel every day. Blessed to be able to do this work. Blessed to write. Blessed to meet writers and welcome them to the colony. Blessed to dream, plan, imagine, and have new ideas. All the wispy joy that comes with those thoughts doesn’t just float around untethered on golden wings. It’s bound, it’s rooted to something solid and deep. It must be that way. Roots and wings go together. One without the other makes for an unbalanced existence. 

When I think about my writing roots, many things enter my mind. One is my poetry mentor, Bill Brown. Bill taught me everything I know about writing poetry. I would not be the writer I am if not for him. I also feel rooted in the poetry of Mary Oliver and Robert Frost and the stories of John Steinbeck. I don’t fashion my writing after theirs, but I feel a connection with them for other reasons. When I was a child, my parents gave me a book club subscription for John Steinbeck books. Every month, I’d get a new book that I read immediately. They also gave me the collected works of Robert Frost, a book I still have in my library. Even though I didn’t understand much of Frost’s poetry at the time, I labored over those pages. The tentacles of belonging to the writing world were birthed from those gifts. They reach farther now, stretch into a landscape I’ve built at the colony, and wear the wings of dreams, but their roots are basic and unsophisticated – the way most roots are. 

This month, my wish for you is the awareness and appreciation for what holds you to this writing life. What are the places, the people, the circumstances, the memories that nourish and sustain you? It’s worth a nod in that direction, to acknowledge the roots that allow you to grow taller and wiser, that hold you to yourself, but also set in motion the desire to stretch and dream. May you find the blessing in your roots and wings.


Letter from the Director – September 2023


I want to talk about bucket lists. You know, those lists we make of things we want to accomplish before we “kick the bucket.” Do you have one? I have a loose one, not written down, existing only in the contours of my mind. I’ve contemplated making my list more official, filed on the desktop of my computer or written on an index card and pinned to the bulletin board above my writing space. I haven’t done that. I like keeping the list in my thoughts, where there’s room to expand and reenvision, where no idea is limited by the physicality of a piece of paper. I want my special goals to be free to roam the universe. 

I want to talk about bucket lists and imagination. One thing about choosing items for a bucket list is the need to fight the urge to limit yourself. Let your imagination soar. Put huge, unwieldy, megaliths on your list, and don’t take them off. It matters less what you put on the list than it does your attitude about what you put on the list. Ask yourself to imagine without constraints, as if anything is possible. 

I want to talk about bucket lists, imagination, and the sky. Have you guessed by the photos accompanying this letter that one thing on my bucket list was skydiving? That’s me in the photos – tandem jumping with an instructor at Music City Skydiving. It was awesome. When we leaned out of the plane at 14,000 feet into freefall, my instructor decided to do a backflip – without telling me! For a second, I thought we were falling in a wild, out-of-control sort of way and I hoped it was recoverable because my kids were waiting for me below. We did recover and then, all I saw was sky. Beautiful, open atmosphere and altitude. I was falling. I felt like every rule I’d ever composed for my life was in the past and unnecessary, and I was completely, passionately free. The fall took only 60 seconds, and then, with the pull of a cord, I was tethered again to reality as we floated toward earth.

I want to talk about bucket lists, imagination, the sky, and the ground. When we landed, I gripped the grass for a moment and tried to find perspective for the experience. I couldn’t. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt or known. It was a thrill, yes, but it was also deeper. It was as if I’d taken my heart out of my body and said, “fly.” Back in the solid and grounded state of my life, I appreciated the surety and safety of what I’d always known: standing, walking, talking, the trees, the buildings, the people waiting for me. I felt settled again and it was good, but I also realized I had experienced something new – a freedom that somehow changed me. 

I want to talk about bucket lists, imagination, the sky, the ground, and writing – because you knew this had to end with writing. Maybe you’re not expecting it to end with questions though. Here are some things to ponder.

  • What’s on your writing bucket list?
  • Can you let your wildest imagination have a say in the goals you make for your writing?
  • Where, what, when, or who is your sky – that ethereal, mystical ‘thing’ that makes you feel completely new and free?
  • Where, what, when, or who is your ground – that stable, dependable ‘thing’ that makes you feel safe?
  • What are you doing with your writing? Are you satisfied or is there something more or different that’s calling for your attention?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Respond to this newsletter email if you’d like to share. Meanwhile, I continue to send you . . .


Letter from the Director – August 2023


Back in the spring of 2021, I bought a John Deere 5045 tractor and a 12-foot flex wing bush hog. Had I ever driven a tractor before? No. Had I ever cut large fields of grass with a bush hog? No. Did I have any business buying machinery that I had no idea how to use? Ummm, probably not, but I did it anyway. I had 30-plus acres of field and pasture to mow and care for and I needed to step up to the task. 

I’m not a timid person, but a diesel engine, hydraulic lines, and a PTO shaft were far out of my comfort zone. I had no previous experience on which to build my tractor knowledge. I was starting at ground zero. The tractor and bush hog were delivered by the Sales Manager of Tri Green Equipment in Franklin, TN. He drove a hefty pickup truck pulling a long flatbed trailer. His name was Josh. Josh unloaded the equipment and proceeded to tell me how to use it. It was a one-hour lesson on the basics of tractor driving and bush hogging. It was far from complete, but I understood (sort of) what he said. He suggested I drive the tractor to the barn and park it there. I did. He gave me the user’s manuals and left. Later that evening, I poured a glass of wine and read them both in their entirety. I realized I had much to learn. 

How do you become proficient at something for which you have little or no previous knowledge? You read about it. You watch YouTube videos. Nervously, I took the tractor and bush hog out for a first mowing session in the north field behind the barn. It’s a rocky, lumpy, bumpy field but I was mowing high and driving very slowly. It took me over 2 hours but I finished the field. I felt like a champion.

I knew I had to conquer the hilly field with the crazy three-quarter turn and slopes. To prepare, I read about tractors flipping backward and flipping sideways and operators being crushed under the machines. It was sobering and I knew I wasn’t quite the champion I thought I was. So, I did something I don’t really like to do. I asked for help. My neighbor in College Grove rode with me on the tractor while I mowed that field, giving me pointers and suggestions about how to handle the slope and angle. I started to understand how to do it. 

Over that summer and the following summer, I mowed the hilly field many times, each time gaining a little more insight, a little more confidence. I don’t fear it or have anxiety. I have respect for the equipment and what I’m asking it to do. I also have experience and some data points that allow me to feel secure. I do a very good job, but it wasn’t an instantaneous achievement. It took time. More importantly, it took humility and being ok with not being ok with my knowledge of driving a tractor and bush hog. 

We’re often impressed with confidant people, those humans who show their mastery of something in an assured way. I remind myself, though, that confidence comes with the steep price of experience. We can be confident because we’ve conquered the learning curve and given ourselves the gift of time. It works that way with writing, too. A confident writer often has years of effort and fortitude. There were probably successes but I can almost guarantee there were plenty of failures along the way. (Ask me about my failures on the tractor!) That’s how life works.

Confidence in writing goes hand in hand with learning. Here at RWC, we offer learning opportunities in the form of all-inclusive weekend retreats on all sorts of writing-oriented topics. Coming up this fall, we have:

  • Sep. 29 – Oct. 1, 2023 — Nurturing the Creative Self: A Weekend of Mind, Body, & Spirit for Writers (a couple of spots left)
  • October 6-8, 2023 – Forest Bathing: A Walk in the Woods for Writers (full with a wait list)
  • November 3-5, 2023 – Claiming Your Magic: A Retreat for Women Writers (a couple of spots left)
  • November 17-19, 2023 — Peace Retreat: For Readers, Writers, & Dreamers (a couple of spots left)

We invite you to come learn with us!


Letter from the Director – July 2023


My youngest son, Nicholas, is 25 years old. He has a good job, a comfortable apartment, a lovely girlfriend, and many friends with whom to share social outings. I look at Nick and think he must feel very content with his life. And he does. But he also has a longing for adventure, for “something different,” and that fuels a desire to expand the boundaries of his life. In January, Nick decided he would take a short trip once every month to a place he’d never been. He would step out of his comfortable life and into a new experience. He would explore. He would challenge himself to become more than what he already was.

Perhaps this is simply the restless discontent that sometimes comes with youth, but as his mom, I have to say I understand the desire. As a fellow traveler in this world, I am jealous! I want to explore and have adventures too. I want to feel free and live in an open-ended world with fewer constraints and obligations. I want to be more than I am. Before you say that is simply the restless discontent that comes with being a writer (or a writers’ colony director), let me suggest it might be more than that. It might be our heart telling us not to settle for what we already know, but to reach for what we could know but don’t know yet. It is the voice of curiosity and exploration calling us to follow. 

It’s July, and Nick, so far, has stayed true to his word. He’s traveled from Hawaii (work trip) to England (trip with friends), from Austin, TX (trip with girlfriend) to Charleston, WV (trip with me!). He’s taken hundreds of pictures and sipped coffee at dozens of coffee shops. He’s lived in a way that challenged his status quo and brought him an awareness of the world that he hadn’t previously had. He gained this by making a decision, by deciding to act in a different way than usual. He’s growing as a person because of it. 

I sometimes think I get stuck in a rut here at the colony. In July, the rut looks like this: mow the lawn, weed the garden, clean the farmhouse, repeat. While the repetition of chores may be necessary for the summer months, I try not to let my writing lay dormant in the same old dry ground. I try to shake it up occasionally. One thing I’m doing right now is joining a new writing group. My resolve to produce new poetry has been less than successful so far this year and I think new eyes and new feedback might be inspiring. I’ve also tried my hand at some CNF essays. Expanding ideas on the page has been cathartic, even though I don’t feel like I’m very good at it yet. 

Here’s a truth about exploring: You don’t have to be good at it! As long as you move toward the newness, the change, the diversity, you’re doing it correctly. Here’s another truth: Exploring doesn’t have to mean travel, although goodness, if you can travel, why don’t you?! Exploring can mean changing your internal landscape of habits and routines, moving from “known” to the daring possibilities of the “unknown.”

What do you want to explore this year? As we move past the halfway point in 2023, it seems to be a good time to set down the usual and pick up something different. A new delight. A new experience. A new adventure. 

And if you need some adventurous travel tips for the rest of the year, I know a really great 25-year-old you can ask! 


Letter from the Director – June 2023

Beyond the Blooming

Each spring and summer, I wait with bated breath for the garden to start bursting into color. I adore flowers. I especially love disorganized, free-spirited gardens. Our Rockvale Garden is a little on the reckless side. I plant new flowers in late spring wherever I can find an empty spot – where a perennial failed to deliver on its promise of returning, or where a winter freeze might have thwarted a small shrub. I want lush, full-bodied, full-color blooms that make my eyes bulge. I don’t necessarily want order. 

I focus on the beauty, the variety, the simplicity of a Gerbera daisy next to the complexity of a red hot poker (Kniphofia). I long for Gladiolas tangled with climbing roses and Echinacea blending with Calla lilies. I celebrate the floral summer, create bouquets of phlox and hydrangea, aster and blossoms from the chaste tree. It is an everyday delight. It feeds my soul. 

But what happens after the blooming, beyond the color, when things wither and fade? Does the garden cease to have purpose? Oh friend, no! I think the flower garden’s main purpose is not in the circus of blooms but in the quiet promise of the seed. Every organism’s focus is on replacing itself through the next generation and the next. Reproducing. Keeping on keeping on. The beauty of the blooms is only necessary to attract pollinators which in turn allow for the formation of seeds. The seed is the ultimate gift of the garden. The blooms are a bonus. 

Now, let’s talk about writing. (You knew this was coming, right?!) I suggest that one purpose for writing is to create beautiful (important, humorous, intelligent, meaningful, thoughtful, touching, instructional, etc., etc.) works of the word. Our gifts with language allow us to plant gardens with sentences and paragraphs and lines. With words. When our gardens bloom, for instance when we finish writing our novel, or publish a chapbook of poems, or secure an agent, we delight in the blossoming of our efforts. But, as lovely a sight as those things can be, I don’t believe the sole purpose of writing is to reach the blooming stage. There’s more, something more important and it has to do with the seed. 

While you work on creative pursuits, everything you do is preparing and programming the next generation of your own growth. If I write a poem, submit it to a journal, and it gets published, that’s a wonderful thing, but if I don’t gather and replant the seeds produced by that effort, I’m wasting something equally as valuable. Gardens aren’t meant to be stagnant and neither are writers. What we create and offer to this world is meant to spread via the seed of experience. It’s meant to continue. 

When you find yourself at the pinnacle of your blooming, think further, think beyond. The bloom is just the start of the wonder. Plant the seed formed from the rich soil of your own experience and let the wonder begin all over again. 

What are you waiting for? Are you ready to bloom? Are you ready to plant the seeds?


Letter from the Director – May 2023

Cultivating Peace

Confession #1: I don’t get enough rest. 
Confession #2: I haven’t tried very hard to alter confession #1.

Are you like me? Do you tend to push yourself to the limit, figuring sleep and adequate rest will happen when you’ve accomplished everything else? Do you wear the nametag, “Busy,” with honor, believing, in your secret heart of hearts, that being constantly on the go proves you’re contributing to your world in a worthy manner? Oh writer and friend, let me implore you to reconsider those thoughts if you have them. And, let me share a story that might help prove my point.

Two weeks ago, I got up very early on a Saturday morning to go on a long bike ride with a friend. We were starting at 7:00 am and the drive to the starting place was about 45 minutes from the colony. I got out of bed at 5:30 and was on the road by 6:15 am. This would have been fine ordinarily. I’m a morning person. Getting up early doesn’t phase me – except that particular morning, I wasn’t rested. I’d been babysitting my son’s puppy and the pup kept me up a lot for 2 nights in a row. Add to that a couple of hard days of work during the past week and you can guess my state of being. Tired. Overtired. 

I finished the 58-mile bike ride and got in my mini-van to drive the 45 minutes back to the colony. I was aware that I felt sleepy. I kept driving. I talked to myself, sang to myself, shook my head back and forth, and still, the sleepiness seemed to grow like a shadow in front of me. I promised myself I’d take a nap when I got to RWC. I was 3 miles from the colony, feeling like I had cheated a potentially dangerous situation. I was still awake. And then I wasn’t as I drove off the road and into a ditch, slamming my mini-van into a large drainage pipe and rock-filled culvert. I had fallen asleep driving. 

I won’t go into the gory details of what happened next. Suffice it to say I was very lucky. I was bruised, but not broken. The wreck cost my car, but not my life and not anyone else’s life. When I got home from the Emergency Room, I let the affairs of the day wash over me. I had experienced a significant event and it was my duty to learn from it. Sleep and rest are too important to our body and mind to ignore. I experienced a wake-up call, pun intended. As I continued to mull over things, I realized I was not just missing rest, I was missing peace, the sort of deep calm and serenity that makes rest more likely to happen. 

I’ve been considering how to cultivate peace ever since that day. I like the word “cultivate.” It infers gentle action, caring for something so much that you give it a sort of sacred tending. It would be nice if peace just happened, but that’s not been my experience. Sometimes, it requires a little effort. Here are a few of the things I decided to focus on in order to nurture peace in my life:
1. Walk while holding grateful thoughts in my mind
2. Read a poem a day in my inbox
3. Sip hot tea before bedtime
4. Sit for 5 minutes on the back porch listening to birdsong
5. Visit the creek
6. Draw in my art journal
7. Pick one flower to put in the bud vase on my desk
8. Meditate

I’m not so naive as to believe these eight small things would have saved me from having a car accident, but I can honestly say that making an intentional effort to cultivate peace has made a difference in my ability to feel settled, to experience the composure necessary for true rest. When we’re rested, we’re much more able to make good decisions which lead to better outcomes, which lead to the best scenarios for being the best version of ourselves in this sometimes crazy world. 

How can you cultivate peace in your life?


Letter from the Director – April 2023

Embodied Writing
(What in the world is that?!!)

A couple of months ago, as I was hiking on the Fern Moss Trail, I came across a big 8-point buck lying about 10 feet from the trail. It was dead. I first thought it had been shot, then wandered onto the property injured, and finally succumbed to its wounds. But, there was no visible sign of trauma to the body. No bullet wound. No evidence of attack from predators. In fact, the buck looked perfectly healthy and robust, other than the obvious fact it was no longer alive. Its body had not started decomposing. There were no flies or other insects, no scent of decay. This was a recent death, and by all accounts, a peaceful death – not the usual kind of death I envision for a deer. I stared at the body for a long while as if I had stumbled upon some sort of holy moment, as if I was a witness to a key turning in the wheel of life. It spoke of a natural occurrence: life giving in to death which would give in to another kind of life as fuel/food to the species that would consume it. 

I looked at the antlers and admired them. I’d started collecting antlers I found in the woods, placing them in various places on the Doorways Meditative Path. These antlers would be a valuable addition.  I knew I would not dishonor the body by taking them now. They were not mine to take; rather, they belonged to the cosmos, the natural universe which viewed ownership as a useless label utilized by the insecure. The deer wasn’t mine. The land wasn’t mine either, though somewhere on a government property website, you could find a deed that had my name on it. I was only a guest, a witness, and that day, kneeling beside a magnificent animal, not moving, not breathing, but still bearing the magnificence of its life within the body, I was a spectator with a glimpse of the eternal. I felt an emotion I was not prepared to feel. I tried to give it a name. Wonder? Awe? Yes, those, but also something else. Humility. 

And then, this thought came: How do you embody humility? A strange thought, yes? How can you give tangible form to an idea or feeling, especially one so foreign in our culture today? I have thought myself important at times, thought of myself as attempting to put good into the world by offering writers a space to write. Yet, here I was standing beside a dead buck and I felt small, unimportant. I felt it in my heart, in my body. 

How do you embody humility? I’m not sure, but I know it requires silence and space. I gave the deer a nod and went back to the farm. 

I couldn’t let it go. I had to keep checking on it to see if the predators had found it, to see if it was doing its job in the circle of life. For a week, it wasn’t touched. And then it was. And then, one late cold afternoon, as the sun sank towards the western hills, I rounded the turn of the trail and looked for the deer in its accustomed spot. It was gone, completely, except for a few small tufts of fur. No bones, no flesh. It was just gone. 

I looked around, confused. It was a big deer. It would take some doing to move it very far from where it lay, but there was no sign of it anywhere nearby. Buried? Perhaps, I thought. If it was, the diggers had done a fine job covering their tracks. 

I went back several times to examine the scene. Every time, I reached the same confused conclusion. I had no clue what happened to the body of the deer. Two months passed. One day, I rounded the corner of the trail and something white caught my attention. I nearly gasped aloud. There, about 5 feet from the original place the deer had died, was the skull complete with antlers. 

How do you embody humility? How do you embody awe?

I don’t know what natural magic occurred in that space near one section of the Fern Moss Trail, but I do know there was something pivotal happening in me. I was no longer so concerned about understanding as I was delighting in the gift of witness. And then, somehow, it made sense. Embodying any emotion or idea has to do with standing in its center and taking on its translucence, its spirit, and allowing yourself to be changed. 

I’ve often thought about living inside a poem or a piece of writing, taking on its form and message, until the lines that separate me from the writing become blurred. That’s when I know it matters, and when I feel the truest sense of belonging. If embodying is a type of belonging which is a type of soul connection which is a type of freakin’ miracle, then let us step outside of logic and into what lives inside the words. That’s what I wish for you and your writing: that kind of embodiment.

The buck’s skull and antlers now grace the start of the Doorways Meditative Path. Every time I see it, I think about its journey from body to fuel to gift.

Now, I’m contemplating how to embody gratitude. 


Letter from the Director – March 2023

Is it Sacrifice, or is it Commitment?

I was eating dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, sharing stories and ideas. I told him about our RWC Newsletters and how we were choosing a word to dissect each month. I shared that we were toying with the word “Sacrifice” for March, but finding it to be a little heavy on the tongue, and heart for that matter. It has so many connotations. I added that we considered what we would sacrifice for our writing, or for the writers’ colony. He looked at me.

“Is that sacrifice, or is it commitment?” he asked. 

I said, “More. Tell me more about what you mean by that.” Thus began my exploration into the nuances between those words. 

Sacrifice is the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important. It feels like a loss, even though it’s chosen, even though it’s a decision. It has a kind of bitter taste. Western culture frowns on sacrifice. We shouldn’t have to give up anything. We deserve to have it all, right? Maybe that’s why the word felt odd to me. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I believed it plays a part in a writing life and in the existence of the colony. But, then so does commitment. I began to see these two words as a pair, spiraling around each other to create a tight cord. 

Commitment is the state of being dedicated to a cause or activity. We’re committed to our writing projects. I’m committed to the success of the colony in order to secure this space for future writers. That notion seems acceptable. It’s a truth that feels settled and real.

And then came a storm – the kind of storm that bears wind gusts of 60 mph and driving rain. Our buildings are old and fragile. So are our trees. Every storm makes me grit my teeth with concern. Surveying the property for downed limbs or damage to wood siding, I looked towards the carriage house and noticed a large piece of the roof was gone. Where the green metal strips used to be, I saw only brown (and wet) plywood. Inside, I first heard, then found, water dripping from the ceiling onto the floor. 

A week or so later, a roofer walked across the top of the carriage house, surveying the damage. His report was not unexpected. Our 25-year-old roof, now damaged, and to tell the truth, long in need of replacement, needed to be . . . well, replaced. The estimate was also not unexpected, but it wasn’t in the budget for 2023. It would be now. (And before you ask, yes, we have insurance! We also have a high deductible!)

“Sacrifice or commitment?” I asked myself. 

If I’m committed to the success of the colony, then these random maintenance issues must be addressed. In some ways, it feels like sacrifice because I had other plans for that money. The Carriage House has to have a roof though, so I chose the more important item. We’ll work to rebuild the finances.

With your writing, you may feel committed to your work. You may even, at some point, feel like you’ve sacrificed something for the sake of your craft. I think the point is this: what we may give up in the short term can be countered by the joy we gain in the long term. You get to decide how much your work matters and where it lands in your list of priorities. 

I found this quote from soccer phenom, Pele: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” 

The final word, which seems to pop up amid so many of my musings, is love. Do what you do for love and it will usually turn out fine. 


Letter from the Director – February 2023

Focused and Unfocused:
Why It’s OK to Be Both

A few years ago, I was very into photography. I even took a course to better grasp the language of the art: aperture, f-stop, focus, depth of field, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, etc. While I understood a lot of what was taught, there were some things that confused me. For instance, I couldn’t wrap my mind around f-stops. (A measure of the aperture opening in the lens defined by dividing the focal length of the lens by the aperture diameter. What??!!!) Then, cell phone cameras started improving and the ease of handling one device, as opposed to a camera body plus a variety of heavy lenses, made me rethink my budding interest. One term, however, remained a significant word for me, especially as I turned my attention to building a writers’ colony. That word was “Focus.”

We all know what that word means. In photography, it means a central point of attraction or attention. It’s important to the composition of the picture to have a focal point, to have an area of focus. I want to expand the idea of focusing and attach it to writing. In this context, focus means to concentrate or direct one’s efforts towards a particular end. If we focus on a writing project intently, chances are it will be completed. 

That seems very straightforward. Because my brain likes to complicate things 😉 I started contemplating what it might mean to our writing if we fell out of focus for a short time, if we allowed our thinking to blur – just enough to permit a different sort of “seeing” into our work. To me, this aligns with another concept I read about lately. It’s the difference between resting in certainties and remaining open to possibilities. 

This might seem counterproductive to our pursuit of finishing our writing projects, but follow me down this rabbit hole for a minute. If we have the answers, if every part of our work is unshakably in focus, if we have predetermined every outcome, then we have also limited our creative selves. Sturdy answers close the door to opportunities, to new thinking and new creativity, and to the magic of allowing a piece of writing to embody its own destiny. It reminds me of what my poetry mentor used to tell me: “Get out of the way of your poem!” I used to argue back, “But I’ve already decided what this poem needs to be!” He would reply gently, “The poem knows better than you do.” He was right.

I often think I have the answers and that I’m a powerhouse when it comes to focusing. When I allow different focal points, even areas of “unfocus,” to speak into my writing, my writing expands into places I couldn’t even dream of. This month, I challenge you to loosen the reins of your focus a little bit, to open yourself to the possibility of different answers, and to see beyond your determined plans into fields of vision that might hold something surprising and beautiful, something that even an f-stop wouldn’t be able to measure or control.