I’m currently at the Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) national conference in Chicago. One of the things I’ve done here is to co-host Ragdale @ AWP, a reception to celebrate the Ragdale writers and artists colony in Lake Forest, Illinois, just outside Chicago. Ragdale is one of the oldest and most prestigious writing programs in the country. Its peers in that regard are all located on the East Coast.
Yet I find that most writers I meet know nothing about Ragdale. They often know nothing about writers residencies, at all. Many of the great works of the 20th century were written at these residencies, especially the older ones like Ragdale. They offer those luxuries that are so necessary to good writing—time, quiet, and dedicated space in which to work.
I spent a month at Ragdale in early 2010. It was writer’s heaven. Their wonderful chef fed us all delicious and healthy food. Their staff went out of their way to take care of us and keep our environment conducive to good creative work.
Ragdale has the largest plot of virgin prairie left east of the Mississippi. The surroundings are inspiring. One winter evening while walking the few feet from Ragdale House to the Barnhouse where the dining room was located, I had an encounter with the muse in physical form. I wrote this poem when I got back to my rooms that night.