A writer’s prolific residency at Virginia Center for Creative Arts

I’m re-entering civilization after a fertile six-week residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. During my stay, I completed both a short-fiction collection, Gelatin Prints, and 75 percent of a series of lyrical essays called Jaywalking. I also read two poetry books and a fiction collection by Ha Jing, whose work has proved catalytic for mine.

VCCA is one of many artists’ retreats in the U.S. and around the world. I chose a six-week block of time—my longest residency to date. But an artist who is accepted may stay anywhere from one to eight weeks.

 The bucolic, rural surroundings of VCCA enabled us to minimize distractions and sharpen our focus. Over my time there, I met visual and conceptual artists, a photographer, three composers, several poets, and many writers. Each fellow received a bedroom and separate studio space. Nearly all of us logged long studio hours daily. We also made time to play, work out, watch thunderstorms, gaze at rainbows, and share our work. Bicycles were available, as were hiking trails, and twice a week runs to town so that fellows could go to the post office, the grocery store, the bank, etc.

 Though we were at varying stages of our careers, each of us was a professional-level artist working at the peak of our abilities. Often, the most memorable part of our days was mealtimes, when we sat at roundtables, exchanging encouragement, industry advice, and war stories across disciplines. I was fortunate to meet several fellows from the Bay Area, where I live, and plan to keep in touch with them.

 Other residencies I’ve been accepted to include the Blue Mountain Center (bluemountaincenter.org) and Horned Dorset Colony — both in upstate NY; Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska; and Playa Summer Lake in Oregon. These places not only look for potential residents with serious talent and a commitment to their art, but also people who play well with others in close-knit communities.

 To be considered, you generally have to submit an application, writing sample, artist statement, project proposal, biography, and references. But check a residency’s website for current guidelines and, if applicable, funding information. If you’re a writer who applies to many residencies, consider becoming a member of the Alliance of Artist Communities, which sends out notifications of upcoming residency deadlines, and lists many residency opportunities in the US and abroad.

Lizette Wanzer is parliamentarian of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.