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Advice for your first residency at WCDH

On August 17, 2020, we posed a question to our writers-in-residence alumni on The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow (WCDH) Facebook group. We asked what advice they would give to a new writer coming to WCDH for their first-ever writing residency. Below are their suggestions. WCDH accepts writers of all genres and all levels of experience, without discrimination. That diversity is reflected in the eloquent and insightful responses we received:

Woody Barlow – Relax. Soak in the silence. Read as much as you write. Check-in with your characters. Enjoy your captured moment in time.

Zev Benjamin – Don’t be too hard on yourself with scheduling. The Grotto is a great place to go and mull over ideas!

Cynthia Erb – I like to pack my own ground coffee. I drive down so I probably overpack.

Crow Johnson Evans – Forget about the clock and consensus time. Write, sleep, and dream on your own schedule.

Marcia Gaye – Have a plan but not a schedule. Keep it loose. Get out of your room and wander. Allow yourself to be fed by Eureka Springs – and by Jana! Meet your fellow residents over weeknight dinners even if you have your own kitchen. Breathe in the mountain air and listen to it. Take the trolley ride loop. Pack less clothes than you think you’ll need but allow for layering in variable temps. Personally, I love visiting the local attractions and going to open mics at local joints. I actually do more for inspiration than I do writing but it’s all good.

Darwin Jones – Go in with a plan but allow flexibility. Be kind to yourself. It is okay to take a breath, to take a walk, to take and afternoon/morning/evening. Brews is great for coffee or beer. Ask the locals for the non-obvious trails to get to town instead of always walking the roads.

Diane Kelly – Take walks to keep your stamina up. Don’t waste a second of this precious time.

Anthony Longaker – Homesickness happens—so do tears at departure. Sometimes you make a new friend—sometimes not. Define your purpose. Don’t skip dinner!

Deirdra McAfee - 1) List some goals on Day 1, not to beat on yourself, to ground you; 2) bring walking shoes and walk each day—it’s better if you have a car, because you can sightsee elsewhere, but you *can* survive without one, and walking brings you the full magic of Eureka Springs; 3) Visit the library, which is great; 4) Bring an extra blanket if you’re downstairs; 5) Earbuds/phones to protect others’ privacy; 6) Do your wash when others aren’t sleeping or working, and talk on your phone outside; 7) Never miss dinner.

Kim Estes McCully Mobley – Make a checklist of what you want to work on and then prioritize it.

Elizabeth Diane Newell-Mack – Don’t overschedule yourself. Take a day or two to acclimate to Eureka. It’s a magical place you don’t want to avoid. Visit the grotto and leave and appeal for good writing vibes. Pack lots of stretchy clothes.

Jen Nipps – Know your process and “pack” your projects accordingly. (I typically take something that I’m currently working on and something that needs to be edited.)

Candyce L. Rusk – Visit the bins at the grocery store… only place in the US that sells Brach’s chocolate-covered peanuts in bulk. Also: do dinner in but visit the great restaurants in town off nights.

Paul Sampson – Bring a radio with a headset so you don’t bother the neighbors. You need good walking shoes.

Marian Szczepanski – Go with some work in progress. Facing the blank screen/page at a colony is much tougher than diving back into something you’ve already started.

Amy Holt Taylor – Arrive when it is snowing. Dinner is divine. Enjoy the view. Roam Eureka Springs. Get lost in your space.

Lonnie Whittaker – Take a carton of plastic food storage containers so you can take leftovers from the kitchen to your suite. The lids are always missing on the ones there. Leave them there when you leave.

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