Next month, I will leave our comfortable home in South Carolina and head to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I will be attending Tinker Mountain, a week-long writer’s residency at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia. I reserved my space at Tinker back in March. To prepare, I had to submit an up-to-twenty page manuscript for critique. I will take classes, workshop writing samples in a smaller group, and take advantage of the built-in “writing time.”
Just like when I began my MFA program, I am excited and anxious. I’ve already received thirteen submissions from other Tinker Mountain participants that I am to critique. I plan to spend plenty of time with each, putting together thoughtful and hopefully helpful feedback for each writer. Fingers crossed that I get the same from them. Faculty at Tinker Mountain include some of my favorites from Queens University: Dan Mueller, Fred Leebron, Pinckney Benedict, Kris Baxter and Jon Pineda. I will be workshopping with Barbara Jones, Executive Editor at Holt.
What do I hope to gain? I’m taking the opening chapter of my up-market women’s fiction project. Maybe Ms. Jones can advise me about what editors want in literary fiction. What keeps them turning pages? In contrast, what makes them toss a manuscript to the side? I have a good idea what works in the mystery world, but I’m crossing to another genre here and don’t have a good paddle.
But that’s not my main reason for going to Tinker Mountain. When a writer friend of mine once asked, “how do you nurture your writing?” I was slow to respond. I know I commit time and energy to it. I know I have a great writing space and the tools I need for the task. I even have a husband who understands how writing comes before vacuuming. But what do I do to keep writing from just being another job? Sometimes—often, actually—it feels that way. How do I nourish it?
Four years ago, when I would return from my school writing residencies, words would explode from me. I completed DEATH IN ZOOVILLE while working full-time and completing massive school assignments. It was one of the most fertile writing times of my life.
I hope Tinker Mountain nurtures me the same way. Being around other writers, learning from an outstanding faculty, enjoying a lovely landscape: this may be the recipe to nourish my inner writer. I could use another explosion of words. I want to return to a fertile writing ground.
But mostly, I want to love, love, love writing again.
How do you nurture your writer self?