Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Passage to India

Sangam House Retreat

I've rhapsodized extensively about Sangam House on my own blog, when I was staying there in January this year, but I want to mention it again, because they're open for applications again and the deadline is very soon: July 31st, 2012. Sangam House is a writing retreat held annually at a dance community called Nrityagram, about an hour outside of Bangalore. They take about twenty writers (through a juried application process), ten from India and ten from other parts of the world. You have your own beautifully spartan room with windows opening onto gardens fragrant with bougainvillea and frangipani. In the coolness of early morning, hummingbirds and parakeets visit the trees outside the rooms. You share the open air kitchen and have the privilege to join the dancers each day for a homegrown, vegetarian lunch. Eating, writing, walking the red earth fields around the community, and at night, the stars throw you off kilter. Occasional power outages and the yelping of pariah dogs in the dark deepen the spirit of this peaceful place. An amazing place to get work done. Here's a comment from my new friend, co-retreatant and translator, Birgitta Wallin.

The best thing about Sangam for me, that was the peace of mind which I felt… I really enjoyed the listlessness which gave room for a kind of intensity of calmness and for sudden sights of green parakeets in the sky.
~ Birgitta Wallin

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Fionncara MacEoin's Place

Fionncara MacEoin is a writer living in Saskatoon. She has participated in writing retreats and workshops in Saskatchewan and at The Banff Centre. She has been involved in a number of community arts projects in Saskatchewan and recently had the opportunity to facilitate a series of creative writing workshops at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. A two-time Sage Hill alumna, Fionncara has performed her work in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. Her poetry has appeared in The Society, In Medias Res, Transition and CV2. Recent publications include the chapbook Even the Sky Parts (JackPine Press 2011). You can read more about Fionncara here.  Below, she talks about her writing experience at Sage Hill.
Fionncara with Paul Wilson
In 2009, I participated in the Introduction to Fiction and Poetry Workshop at the Sage Hill Writing Experience, where I had the pleasure of working with John Lent and Susan Stenson. I also attended the Poetry Workshop in 2011 and worked with Priscila Uppal.

I can honestly say, without a doubt, that both of my “Experiences” were huge turning points in my writing life. In fact, I liked them so much I moved in! I am writing this from the Sage Hill office in Saskatoon where I am currently the Programme Assistant. I am extremely happy doing my bit to help the magic happen at Sage and I have the added bonus of never having to be too far away from that magic!

This excerpt from an e-mail that I sent to a friend during my time at the Experience conveys some of what the Experience has been for me as a participant:
Sage Hill is quite possibly the best time I have ever had in my life. I’m writing, reading, learning, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, singing and dancing with some fantastic and interesting people.
I now have draft one of my new manuscript done!
After months of: “this will never make any sense, I am just stringing word doc's and scraps of imagery together, blindly hoping it will turn out"...finally, yesterday I caught a glimpse of its own internal organization. It is coming together!!!
All of a sudden it said to me: "All right we’ll give you a, this is what you're shut up and keep working".
It was beautiful.
I am moving in the right direction. It will be a while more, but it's progress. I’m having a great time and am so grateful.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Barbara Lambert's place

Barbara Lambert’s novel The Whirling Girl, set in Italy, tells a story of love and lies, of art and archaeology. It will be published by Cormorant Books in July. Her previous work includes A Message for Mr. Lazarus (2000) and The Allegra Series (1999). She has won the Danuta Gleed Award for Best First Collection of Short Fiction and the Malahat Review Novella Prize, and been a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Prize and the Journey Prize. Lambert has lived in Vancouver, Ottawa, Barbados, and Cortona, Italy. She now  lives in an orchard in the Okanagan Valley, where she is working on a novel closer to home. You can read more about Barbara here. Below, she writes about where she gets work done.

A hammock in Italy

How long does a novel take to be born? Sometimes much longer than any reasonable person might think. Ouch? All those dark nights in the garret, the pain, the angst? Ah, but here’s a guilty secret of the sort that writers tend to keep to themselves. In my case, at least, sweet afternoons in a hammock played a major part.

In the 1990’s I was lucky enough to spend nine months in an old mill house in Italy. Though in fact, those months were spread over a period of nine years.  On our first trip, it was May -- the hills riotous with wildflowers. And already, as we’d explored, a story had begun to settle around me: A botanical artist with a troubled past, who, in her paintings, would walk the fine line her discipline demanded between art and science, just as in her life she had always threaded between guilt and desire. 

I was involved in other work at the time, but her presence became insistent, recorded in snatches in the pages of my notebooks.  On each of those Italian visits -- sometimes for a month, once for three glorious months together -- mornings tended to be spent hiking the countryside, or exploring the Tuscan and Umbrian hill towns, or historic cities like Florence, Siena, Assisi, or (notebook in hand) wandering museums and Etruscan ruins -- expeditions almost always culminating in a long trattoria lunch. And then? 

In this civilized society where all commerce ceases during lunch and nothing reopens until after siesta time, what could be more essential than sleepily navigating back to the Molino where the hammock waited with its view of Cortona’s massive Etruscan walls, then settling into the gently swaying netting, taking out my notebook, my pen....And the hammock sways, and pen falls from the writer’s hand, and the dream takes over, vivid and seductive. Though never did that writer dream how many years it would take to bring that story to its final page. Or how many sweet hours of Tuscan dreaming would be available to her, still, in the pages of those travel journals.