In our "Been There, Done That" series, Literary Mama editors and readers share their experiences at conferences, workshops, classes, writing festivals, and residencies. Ginny Kaczmarek reviews Elsewhere Studios Family Residency.
2. Where was it and what was the time requirement?
Paonia, Colorado, and the residencies are one to two weeks in the summer (determined in consultation with Elsewhere)
3. What were the course offerings?
No courses; this is a self-led, community-oriented residency with a stipend. Artists work on individual projects in a creative space with partners and children welcome. Other artists in a variety of disciplines are in residence at the same time, so there is opportunity for conversation and/or collaboration. Residents are asked to offer a workshop, class, or presentation to the Paonia community.
4. How did you spend your time?
While my family explored—for such a tiny town, there was lots to do—I wrote, either in the beautiful backyard or upstairs overlooking treetops. Setting up a do-not-interrupt-Mom schedule helped me to focus and them to come and go as needed. In the evenings, we checked out free live music and telescopes at the local library, visited restaurants, and hung out with other residents and Elsewhere staff. The community is incredibly engaged, and we made friends after only a day.
5. What did you take away from the experience?
At first I felt like an imposter, intimidated by the artwork and craft throughout the space, much created by previous residents and the local community. But once I began my work in earnest, the space inspired me to approach my challenging project with fresh eyes. Being introduced around town as “the artist in residence” and introducing myself that way helped me to embrace my identity as an artist. My spouse and children got to engage with me in a professional, artistic context, which made us all value my writing in a new light.
6. Did you have the opportunity for a writing critique? Was it helpful?
No formal critique, though at the end of my stay, I held a reading of my work-in-progress. The Q&A and conversations afterwards illuminated which aspects of my work resonated most with potential readers. (They invited me to return when my book is published, a real confidence boost!)
7. Would you attend this event again?
Absolutely. Alumni are welcome to return whenever there is space. I felt welcomed and supported as an artist, and my family connected with the creative mood so much that they made and presented a movie with the other child in residence.
8. Share some helpful tips for a writer considering this experience. (Tips may include transportation, lodging, food, classes/instructors, or anything you think future attendees would benefit from knowing.)
Paonia is mostly walkable, but we rented a car to explore Mesa Verde, Colorado National Monument, river rafting, and cherry picking. Elsewhere does not have A/C, so dress light & loose and drink lots of water in the summer. Taking things easy and keeping hydrated helped with a little altitude sickness, as well. Parents of very young children might want to talk to the Elsewhere staff about which spaces are the most baby-proofed (my kids are big, so it wasn't a concern).
Creatively, I would arrive with a specific, short-term task in mind, something that would benefit from the shockwaves of a new space and limited, dedicated time. For me, developing a concrete plan to re-envision my messy novel felt like a huge accomplishment.
Have you attended a conference, workshop, writing festival, residency, or class? We'd like to hear about your experience. Email us at lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com.