When I was a beginning writer, lo these many moons ago, I applied for and received a Fellowship and Residency from the Ucross Foundation.
This was a huge thing for me. For the Residency, I spent two weeks with a private room and a vast studio with no clocks and people there to feed me. For lunch, a delivery elf would creep silently and leave an insulated bag outside my studio door. Because I could not be disturbed. Because ART!
For dinner, all the residents gathered at a big table and ate gourmet meals while we discussed our days. Because the residencies are given to all kinds of artists – musicians, painters, composers, photographers, writers – the conversation covered broad topics, always stimulating and delightful.
Best of all, everyone there treated me like someone special. It was the first time in my life that people introduced me as a Writer. When you’re a rank beginner, this labeling is profoundly validating. I wasn’t just another wannabe, making noises about writing a novel someday, to be patted on the head and indulged. No, I was a Writer and there to Write.
The feeling has remained with me always.
Just last month, I was invited to a reception at Raymond Plank’s home here in Santa Fe. That’s him in the center of the photo above. He recently came out with a memoir about creating the Ucross Foundation, called A Small Difference. The party was held in his honor, and because the foundation board was in town for their annual meeting. Then there were the previous Fellows scattered throughout the party, fairly easily distinguished from the donors and board members.
I wanted to meet as many of the Fellows as I could. Even after four years in Santa Fe, I don’t really feel like part of the literary community here. I’m told there IS one, but it feels thin to me. Ironically, my former community in Laramie, Wyoming, felt much denser and richer.
Maybe because we were so much more concentrated into a small space.
Santa Fe, for all its devotion to the aesthetics of art and beauty, does not really favor the writerly types. One of my writer friends calls it the Vast Siberian Literary Wasteland and it can feel that way, for sure. Visual arts rule here.
So, there I was, introducing myself, doing the tail-sniffing thing – who are you, what is your art – and every single Fellow I met was some sort of visual or earth-related artist. It became clear that I was the only writer there. One of the earth-artists patted me on the arm and said, “Hey, writers are artists, too!”
I had to laugh.
But that was the lesson I learned from that Residency, that came back to me going to the party. I am a Writer.
And that means something.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.
Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency. A contemporary e-Serial, Master of the Opera, will be released in January. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves in 2014. A spin-off story from this series, Negotiation, appears in the recently-released Thunder on the Battlefield anthology. Her newest book, Five Golden Rings, came out as part of the erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction, in late November.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.