Jentel Artist Residency: Week 3 (Winding down)

While the first several days (week and a half) brought a flurry of inspiration, the tail end of week 2 and beginning of week 3 brought some serious winding down in terms of productivity and confidence on my part. In speaking with one of the other visual artists she also said that she was upset with herself for not producing as much as she wanted to in a month's time and that in reflection she needed to be easier on herself because of the fact that inspiration can't be commanded on a whim. In my case I was on a roll and found myself in slump. Said slump consisted of me typing up things and immediately hating what it was I was scribing but pushed myself to keep going, and at some point I just couldn't. At various moments I stopped and this is when Facebook and Twitter and the schedule for Book Expo along with work for my job came into play to distract me from the creativity that just wasn't flowing.

On top of which the end of the week brought a rejection from the only lit mag I queried about a flash fiction piece I'd been working on for over three year.! Yes, less than 1000 words worked on and edited and nitpicked for 3 years + (it happens). I got a one sentence reason for the rejection which I took to heart and am currently editing this piece again for mass submission this summer.

Other things catering to said slump may be the feeling of cabin fever (as beautiful as the residence and locale are sometimes you just need to get away) or the reality of time clicking away at a steady pace (What day is it? Friday! Crap.).

Yes, slumps happen to all artists. The residents here have all had those moments or are currently in the midst of them in some way and believe-you-me we are none too happy about having to leave said paradise and go back to our day-to-day lives where some of us just don't have the luxury to create full-time. The insecurity has bound in and I'm coming off the high of March into May with reality slapping me in the face again. The reality of wondering if your tale has a place in the growing African-American diaspora let alone the literary canon. The reality of wondering if you'll ever truly be done. And of course the reality of wondering if you're even good enough.  I was just reading Megan (aka Writer Girl's) blog about giving over her first draft to loved ones to read. Just a few months ago I posted about not believe in my NYC Midnight submission. And of course I see Twitter updates from writers grinning and baring it and plugging away and asking for good vibes and sugar sent their way so they can keep going. There are days when you feel you are just producing crap and to do so at a residency may feel like a waste, but it has to happen. It's going to happen, so you just have to deal with it. I produce stuff I am none too happy about at home in NYC all the time, so why not in Wyoming too? And maybe now's a good time to take Lynn's advice to heart and take a break from producing and just focus on moi.

Friday brought a nice trip to Ucross, another residency several miles away from Jentel that has hosted some big name writers like Heidi Durrow, Colson Whitehead, Sigrid Nunez (a former instructor of mine at The New School), Elizabeth Gilbert, Junot Diaz, and Wyoming's own E. Annie Proulx! I was so excited I had to tweet the authors I follow on Twitter and let her know I saw her work there. Turns out Ms. Durrow was not only a resident at Ucross (and Hedgebrook and Norman Mailer and Vermont Studio Center; yes, she's my idol!) but she said she found her voice here at Jentel. Amazing! Three of the visual artists and myself went to see the Ucross gallery celebrating 27 years of artist residents and saw some amazing work. Joyce and I were particularly blown away by the coloring and such for this piece:

And this was another favorite by the Ucross alumi:

If you're near Banner or Clearmont, WY I strongly urge you to stop in. I believe this particular showing is going on until June 1st.

As the days go on and we continue to experience cold, hot, warm, cold, chilly, snowy weather we also prepared for Jentel Presents! This is the time when us residents get to show our work to people in the community. And Lynn informed us that this presentation has also become mandatory for college students both in art and creative writing. Like I did at an Inspired Word NYC open mic I decided to read my flash fiction. I'm trying to stay away from reading aloud too much from the collection as I feel I've exhausted the strongest bits by reading to the residents and sending out to residencies these past few months. Though I am proud of what I've done here (some of it, well most of it) flash fiction tends to be a great thing to read because you can actually complete something and provide the reader something to mull over afterwards.

Everyone did an extraordinary job in presenting and talking about their work. For the artists, Lisa, Joyce, Rachel, and Karen it felt like I was being re-introduced to their work as we heard more about their process even though I had seen some of it before. Seeing them stand up tall and talk about it so confidently in front of a crowd was amazing and gives you a sense of pride in sharing space and time with such amazing artists. Lorraine read one of her favorite portions to write from her novel-in-progress and it definitely showed in her reading it. It was vibrant and the characters well constructed. She has a great reading voice.

After the presentations were over we got to speak with some of the people who attended, full house as you can see from the picture above. I spoke briefly with a poet who asked me why I felt insecure (something I mentioned before reading noting that while I'm in love with my collection I have bouts of sadness at the prospect of not finishing) and I told him the truth, just a few days earlier I had been blocked. He said he was going through the same thing. He's in the midst of writing something about his father and was going to do a series of poems but realized the structure may be better as one poem with four sections. I commiserated, informing him I think I just got an idea on the structure of one of the stories for my collection that morning and it'd been something I'd been thinking about for years since it's part of the crux or linchpin of the stories involved. I wished him good luck with his current block and we agreed that we'd get back to things when it was meant to be. We just had to be patient, though that can be hard.

We ended up having dinner with some local artists, Randy one of the heads of Sagebrush was such a pleasure to speak to as were Joel (another artist) and Sarah a teacher who is trying to find time to write while raising a family and working a full-time job. Everyone was friendly and the food at the Pony Bar & Grill was ridiculously large in size. All in all a great night.

We're headed out at the latter part of this week and working hard as we get to the last week and preparing to depart and get back to our real lives. *le sigh*

On another upbeat note,  my flash fiction piece, "The Resolution" has pubbed in the latest issue of Eclectic Flash. On top of that, Joyce made huge cookies! So after the end of a bad week looks like this week is progressing to end well.