I don’t think I met one person at AWP who wasn’t a writer, no matter whether he or she were also a teacher, publisher or administrator. And last count, I think there were 16,000 people in attendance at the Minneapolis conference. That’s a lot of writers!
Kathleen Ossip also suggested alternatives to actual residencies for those who can't get away from home, such as one-night-a-week dinner take-out residency; one night at motel residency without the kids, who stay with grandma or dad; weekend mini-residencies organized ad hoc with fellow writers; month of July residency at home, trying to be a little more writing focused while doing everything else. Here are some other ideas for stay-at-home writers' retreats.
Other discussions among the panelists included what it’s like as an administrator to start up a new writing residency -- and the importance of taking time to have fun and enjoy your surroundings while at a residency. It shouldn’t be all work, work, work, according to writer Sally Franson. Go hike, make friends, do handstands, don’t necessarily take the Calvinist approach to your work. Franson said, "A residency is a place to face yourself and what you're into or are writing; a place to be the true you. You fill yourself back up."
I tend to side with Ossip. With so many other distractions in my life in Chicago – work, family, friends, poetry readings, yoga classes, more, I find a residency away from the urban hub-bub as a time to really focus on my writing in an uninterrupted manner. During a week in a Wisconsin cabin at a retreat center, I fitfully completed forty pages of a first-draft play and several mandala colored-pencil drawings (unrelated to the play!), while also taking time to enjoy meals with other residents and opt for a few onsite yoga and meditation activities. It was an exhilarating week, a lot of effort, and a deeply satisfying start to a new work under my belt.