One of the great gifts of the writing life is the chance to be with other writers and artists in cross-genre communities. One of the ways to do that is through a residency. When a residency comes as a gift, and it includes the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, moonrise, prairie dogs, and antelope–what could be better? Thanks to the Hemingway Foundation and PEN organization, I got to spend 27 days this fall at Ucross Ranch, writing in my studio, meeting new artists, filmmakers, writers, and musicians. Dinner was congenial and delicious, prepared by chef Cindy, and we got our hands dirty in Cindy’s kitchen on Sunday nights, making soup and cookies, the most essential comfort foods for the writing life.
In the way of full disclosure, it’s true that I spent most of my writing studio time growling at my manuscript, sighing heavily, thinking what a bad writer I am, and going and lying on the floor. But then I would look out the window and there would be antelopes. Or a whirlwind of yellow cottonwood leaves. Or snow. The whirlwind turned into a scene, the scene turned into a metaphor, the metaphor begins to hold the whole thing together. Oddly, the residency’s deluxe washer/dryer also inspired a scene. Everything is art in such a place.
Now that I’m home, I’m appreciating new friends made, and letting the writing simmer until I can plunge in again. Thanks to Ucross friends Suzanne, Carmiel, Frank, Sharon, Yehuda, Chris, Janet, Lalita, and Justin for making a home on the range a comfort zone for writing and creativity. And thanks to Craig Johnson, of the Walt Longmire mystery series, one of the “population 25” at Ucross, for taking the time to talk to a visiting writer about cool places to go and see. Including the Busy Bee Cafe, home of the Western version of biscuits and gravy (more pepper than in the South). Been enjoying his “paranormal western detective” books ever since.
Another Ucross moment: making jack-o-lanterns. Mine is the squinty one at the left.
A long-dead longhorn at King’s Saddelry in Sheridan.