Advice for Writers on Residencies

Posted Tue, 1/30/2018 - 1:37pm by  |  Category: , , ,

A sanctuary away from home and the distractions of daily life with time to work on your craft: every writer’s dream.

Photo by Christine Texeira from a Made at Hugo House fellowship retreat.

If a writer’s residency is in your plans this year, we’ve rounded up resources and words of advice from Residencies Revealed: Writers and Programs Tell All, an event we co-presented last January in partnership with the Seattle Public Library.

Whether you’re an established writer or just getting started, there are plenty of options to choose from in the Northwest. 

Some overnight residencies include Artsmith, a B & B residency on Orcas Island; Bloedel Reserve, a public garden reserve on Bainbridge Island; Hedgebrook, a writing retreat for women writers and women screenwriters on Whidbey Island; Mineral School, a residency in a former school house close to Mt. Rainier; Till at Smoke Farm in Arlington; and Chinquapin Center for the Arts in Grants Pass, Oregon. Hugo House also offers non-overnight residencies and fellowships—and applications are open now! 

In general, all residencies have an application process which may include a statement of purpose and writing samples. Many residencies offer fellowships to cover the costs while others require a fee. Regardless of which residency you choose, keep these thoughts in mind:

1. Know yourself as a writer.

Understand your particular needs as writer and embrace your strengths and your weaknesses. Are you a writer with a well-developed piece of work who needs one last zone of seclusion to get you through the homestretch of your novel? Are you an emerging writer who would benefit from master classes and generous workshopping for your work-in-progress? Writer and Hugo House instructor Cara Diaconoff found the energy generated in large group residencies to be invigorating and inspiring for her writing. Do your homework and find out what each residency can offer you at the unique stage in your writing process, but keep yourself open to challenges that will help you grow.

2. Use your strongest and most polished piece of writing.

Writer’s residencies often require a writing sample. Writer and Hugo House instructor Karen Finneyfrock advises offering your strongest and most polished piece of writing when applying to residencies to ensure the best response—even if you don’t plan to work on that piece during your residency. Remember to also follow the particular residency’s guidelines. If there’s a page count or word count, honor that. 

3. Formulate a work plan.

Some residencies ask for a work plan indicating how you intend to spend your time at their residency. Don’t be intimidated. Residences don’t want to pin you to a regimen; they’re interested in the integrity of your focus and determination.

4. Make time work in your favor.

Your time is precious. Many overnight residencies require a lengthy time commitment from you. Coupled with that, you may have to plan in advance to utilize time away from work to cover your stay. Do your research and find out both the appropriate length of residency that will work for you and what each residency’s notification period is. For those of you who are time strapped, more residencies are offering weekend events. Others like Till, offer one-night events in the city to support writers.

5. Ask for feedback.

If there’s a particular residency you set your heart on but failed to get accepted to, write back and ask them how you might make a stronger case for yourself in future applications. Take heart; even well-established writers like Anastacia-Renee have faced countless rejections, but forged ahead to eventually find success; she is the current Seattle Civic Poet and a former Hugo House writer-in-residence.

6. Redefine residencies.

Can’t leave the city? Daunted by the application process? Design your own writing retreat with a writing group or by yourself. Residencies and retreats can be as simple as disconnecting from social media, family responsibilities, and whatever else might keep you from your writing for a day or a weekend. Sonya Lea is offering two opportunities for brief weekend “retreats” this Winter quarter at Hugo House: Retreat in the City (on February 24 and 25) and Quick Retreat in the City (on March 24 and 25).

For more information on writer’s residencies, check out our Northwest residency resources list.