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Sunday, March 21, 2010

JENTEL: A RESIDENCY PROGRAM FOR WRITERS AND ARTISTS

The Spring Equinox is a time of earthly balance, when day and night are everywhere the same—a good time to envision the rest of the year with clarity and focus. My creative life is out of balance right now—I know this. Whenever I’m not spending enough time engaged in the creative process of writing my brain gets cob-webby and I get cranky. Half-formed thoughts congeal and cloud my vision.

Writing requires introspection. Yet the business of writing requires extroversion, reaching out to the world at large. When I expend too much energy with the business of writing, and not enough time with the creative act of writing stories, I find myself longing to be back at Jentel, where nothing mattered but the writing.

In 2003, I was awarded a month-long residency at Jentel. The award included a $400 stipend, a private writing studio, a private bedroom, and a fabulous community kitchen and living area that I shared with the other five residents: another writer, and four visual artists.

On our first evening together, I wrote in my journal, “Every room of this luxurious house—every alcove, every tiled floor, every bit of eclectic artwork—glows with color. Reds. Blues. Greens. Yellows. Purples.” The vibrancy was intoxicating. I had come to Jentel during a mid-life juncture, “to color my life with possibility.” It turned out to be the perfect place.

Jentel sits at the base of Wyoming’s majestic Big Horn Mountains on the historic ranchland of Lower Piney Creek Valley. Renovated from old ranch buildings, seven separate buildings form the residency village. Sage and native grasses blanket the landscape. There are four private artist’s studios. The two separate writer’s studios, housed in a log cabin about 100 feet from the main house, come equipped with antique desks, bookshelves, recliners, ergonomic chairs, and reading lamps. Mine had a red enameled fireplace and a red stained glass window.
 
Wib Walling was painting landscapes, like this one he later named "Wyoming Ridge." Leslie was creating a hanging yellow wallpaper installation. Terry worked in charcoal and had us each pose for a portrait. Dehlia, the glass artist from Philadelphia who painted everything backwards, admitted that she feared the dark expanse of grassland that stretched beyond the borders of the village yard. They all assumed that because I was from Wyoming, the wide open spaces didn't frighten me. 
 
Millicent Borges Accardi, a poet from California who had done residencies at Yaddo, Vermont Studio, FundaciĆ³n Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain, and Milkweed in Cesky Krumlov, would occasionally stand at our adjoining doors and read a few lines of her poetry. I would share a scene or two from the novel I was working on. Sometimes, we wandered over to the artists’ studios and peeked in on their work.  The month we spent at Jentel was a centering time, a time to re-balance the priorities in our lives. For four weeks, we imersing ourselves in our own internal creative landscapes. The creative endeavors of those weeks are still coming to fruition.  Millicent's first chapbook, Woman on a Shaky Bridge, was just published by Finishing Line Press

Neltje, the founder and benefactor of Jentel, is the granddaughter of publisher Frank Nelson Doubleday. She is Jentel’s driving, visionary force.  "An author has the ability to communicate a reflection of our present day society," writes Neltje, "and perhaps forecast a possible future if we could only listen...Old societies know the worth of art.  We of the United States are young and foolish and not yet steeped in wisdom."

Apply for a residency at Jentel.

10 comments:

Alice Liles said...

Spending a month at this place and enjoying the luxury of being left to your own devices and inspirations sounds wonderful.

Connecting People with Nature, and Writers with Words said...

Alice, it WAS incredible - relaxing and fun and productive. Every evening, we gathered with the others and shared creative discussions over dinner and a glass of wine. Inspiration in every nook and cranny!

Melanie Mulhall said...

Page,

This looks like heaven to me! Oh, how I could use a month to focus on my own work. Thanks for showing that it is possible.

Melanie Mulhall
http://www.melaniemulhall.wordpress.com

Page Lambert said...

It is possible, Melanie! And there's plenty of time to prepare before the next application deadline. So check it out!

Eunice Boeve said...

What an experience! How close you must have become with those also in residence. Besides the time all to yourself to write, those in residence with you had to have colored your perception and will undoubtably linger long in your memory. Wonderful!

Connecting People with Nature, and Writers with Words said...

Yes, Eunice, we did become close. Most evenings, we got together during dinner and talked about art - both literary, and visual. One of my favorite poems, "Form and Function" was a direct result of listening to Leslie talk about design.

Joyce Lohse said...

Hello Page -- This looks like a wonderful place to let writing soar. Maybe some day ... In the meantime, I hope we cross paths sometime.
Best wishes -- Joyce

Connecting People with Nature, and Writers with Words said...

Hi Joyce. Yes, it is a wonderful place! I hope you'll check out their website, mark the next deadline for applying on your calendar, and add Jentel to your Wish List!

lesinfin said...

Sounds heavenly!

Connecting People with Nature, and Writers with Words said...

Check it out!