Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is from writer Glendaliz Camacho. Camacho, a 2013 Pushcart
Prize nominee, has worked in the editorial departments of Victoria Sanders & Associates and Cambridge University Press. She has attended several residencies including being the 2014 Jentel Foundation Artist in Residence, and 2015 Caldera Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson, and Hedgebrook Artist in Residence. She is also a proud alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) 2010 Fiction Workshop with Tananarive Due and the 2013 Fiction Workshop with Junot Diaz. Starting September, she’ll participate in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s nine-month Workspace artist residency program. She’s also been a judge on a selection panel for a residency.
She’s offering a webinar on how to land a residency with an exclusive offer for my blog readers!
After a month in Wyoming, I knew this was how I was supposed to live. I don’t mean the wide open sky, flat landscape or backdrop of mountains. As a New Yorker, yes, I gawked at those things like a tourist in Times Square, but what I meant was writing all day.
I’d gone to Banner, Wyoming (population 40) on my first writing residency through the Jentel Foundation. I had already been through fiction workshops at VONA twice that left me brimming over with ideas, clear direction on how to go forward with revisions on work I’d had critiqued,and with a renewed sense of vigor for writing. I had no shortage of material – notes for a novel, drafts of essays and short stories – what I need was uninterrupted time.
At home, I was running to catch trains, working for others, meeting the demands of parenting, unable to say no to time with family and friends. A myriad of things pulling me away from the page. In Wyoming, I woke up without an alarm clock, made myself breakfast with eggs from a farm down the road, took my cup of coffee into my studio and worked for myself. I jotted ideas, organized myself, churned out rough drafts, reread old work, made edits. I read, I cleared my head on walks. I had time to think, to experiment.
I credit that time in Wyoming with setting me on a course I’m still on. A devoted approach to writing that I’ve maintained through subsequent residencies at Caldera in Oregon and Kimmel Harding Nelson in Nebraska. I leave in about ten days for Hedgebook, thirty miles off the coastof Seattle, on Whidbey Island to work on the next chapters of a fantasy novel, essays, short stories and an idea for a piece of musical theater.
Before I go though, I’d like to impart the top three things to consider if a writing residency is something that sounds like a good next step in your own process as an artist.
The Importance of Starting Early
I start on a residency application six weeks, eight weeks in advance. The closest I’ll cut it is starting a month in advance. Starting early allows you time to gather yourself and the many pieces of information they ask for on an application – everything from basics like your address to you artist statement and recommendation letters. It gives you time to move forward purposefully, to reread, revise, enlist a second set of eyes to help you. I haven’t found working under pressure to be a good motivator when it comes to residency applications. As a matter of fact, I’ve found the contrary to be true. I can’t tell you how many times writer friends have just chucked their applications halfway through because they just didn’t feel they had enough time. Start early.
Become One with the Spreadsheet
Be your own administrative assistant. When I learn of a residency I’m interested in I add it onto my spreadsheet. It’s organized by due date and it’s a way for me to collect and have handy a lot of information in one place. Immediately, I know how much the application fee is, if I’ll need references or recommendation letters, when the residency’s season starts. How? By keeping it in one spot. And this helps enormously when you’re applying for a slew like I did last year. I can move on from one application to the next, like a to-do list.
A Rejection is Not a Reflection of You as a Writer or a Human Being
Speaking of moving from one application to the next, eventually this is what you have to do. It’s normal to feel disappointment when a rejection letter comes in, after you imagined yourself in a quiet cabin writing your day away, but it doesn’t serve you to wallow in that disappointment. Throw a pity party, fine, but not a pity rave. Speaking from experience of serving as a panelist on a selection committee for a residency, there are reasons other than quality of work for a rejection. Perhaps your work sample is a big deviation from what you’re proposing to work on while at the residency. Perhaps your project description is unclear and leaves the selection committee with doubts about you maximizing your time. It could come down to scheduling logistics. The point is all you can do is try to troubleshoot your process and keep applying.
If you’re interested in more (and there’s always much more), I’m leading a webinar on applying to writing residencies. You can find more information on it and how to register here. Plus, if you’re one of Icess Fernandez Rojas’ readers, just include the code ICESS in the subject line of your email and you’ll receive a discounted price of $25.