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The Porches

Taking a Creative Breath in Upstate New York

By Self-care, The Writing Life, Travel
I have a strict policy of traveling with only carry-on luggage. But this week, I boarded  a plane with my trusted backpack and a suitcase the size of a small coffin. That’s because I discovered that fat sweaters don’t like cramped quarters – and neither do imaginations. I’ll be needing both for my trip to the Finger Lakes Region of New York, where I’ll be doing a residency at the Rowland Writers Retreat, now in its second year. For ten glorious days, I’ll be living and writing with women whose careers are inspirations to me. This generous residency is fully funded by Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl, and by the Rowland Reading Foundation. It's by invitation and it's free for authors, except for the cost of getting to Aurora. My only obligation will be to use the precious time to work on projects that I’ve been thinking about. I will not cook a meal or walk a dog or answer emails or sign-scan-fax anything whatsoever. In short, it will be a godsend, for which I am profoundly grateful. When the invitation came, my first thought was, unbelievably, to decline. There are a million reasons to stay home. Hadn’t I traveled too much for work? Wasn’t this just an indulgence? Couldn’t I write perfectly well in my home space? Not to mention Tía Isa at the nursing home; who would sponge bathe her or change her diapers on Sundays when the staff is thin? And there was the dog walking,...
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Why Writers Should Run Away

By The Writing Life

I never outgrew my fantasies of running away from home. When I was little, I wanted to leave Queens and live on a tropical island instead. Later as a teen, I imagined the pleasure of ditching my mother and renting an apartment of my very own in Manhattan. These days, I fantasize about living in Italy for a year. You know, eating, writing, drinking, writing, pedaling my bike through the hillside with a loaf of bread in the wire basket. Sweet fantasies one and all. In all these years, though, I’ve never managed to escape the way I hoped. One thing or another (life? money? my lack of nerve?) always seemed to get in the way. But things are finally looking up, if on a modest scale.  On the spur of the moment, four friends and I — all writers — are heading to the gorgeous mountains of Virginia. The Porches is a rambling 1854 farmhouse on the James River run by authors Bill and Trudy Hale. It offers gorgeous grounds,  a private room, walking trails, WiFi, and a communal kitchen. That, and utter respect for a writer’s work. Our group’s mission:  three full days of writing, interrupted only by evening meals and (if one of us has her way) cocktails by the fire. “Pack warm socks,” a friend told me. “And be prepared. You won’t want to leave. Ever.” I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do something so simple and healthy as going on a writer’s retreat. I…

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