A “Thank You” Letter from Vermont

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I want to thank ALSCW for making it possible for me to attend the Vermont Studio Center this May and June. I feel deeply grateful for this privilege. These weeks have been even more inspiring and fruitful than I could have imagined.

Much of what I had planned did indeed happen: I completed a draft of an article that will be published in September and that will be part of my book project; I revised a personal essay for publication; I completed and submitted another personal essay which, I was happy to learn, was just accepted for publication in Crab Orchard Review, I wrote an introduction for an article, and I worked on my manuscript… All this went more or less as I had planned. But the best parts of my residency were actually the unplanned things:

For instance, a visual artist reminded me that the Vermont Studio Center offers free figure-drawing sessions on weekday mornings and convinced me to give this a try. I have never taken drawing classes and don’t even know how to properly hold a pencil. But my friend said: “Just look carefully and try to reproduce on paper what your eye sees.” The experience of working with pencil and paper was so freeing that I have started every morning with a brief figure drawing session. I am still unable to draw an accurate human figure, but I feel that I have become a better observer. Trying to translate the shadows and lines of a human body into pencil marks on paper has made me think about vision and the senses, and about the way we experience the world. This may very well be the seed of a new essay.

Another surprise highlight was a literary reading at the local laundromat. One writer, who wanted to make good use of his time, proposed that we all share our work while doing our laundry. It was one of the best readings I’ve ever attended. We were joined by visual artists and by local towns people, and we succeeded in turning a laundromat into a temporary literary salon!

I also organized two story-telling meetings, which for some writers was the first time to discover the power and directness of the spoken word as opposed to the written word.

But among the most inspiring aspects of my experience at the Vermont Studio Center were the meals, which almost always turned into deep conversations, ranging from topics such as climate change, to justice, to explorations of the meaning of gender.

One particular conversation that stands out in my mind was a lunch-time conversation with visiting writer V.V. Ganeshananthan about diaspora writers’ relation and obligation to their country of origin.

This month at VSC has not only allowed me to focus on my work, but it also allowed me to forge inspiring new relationships with fellow writers and artists. One of them is the wonderful writer Sonya Larson, my fellow recipient of an ALSCW fellowship. Sonya and I have become friends and look forward to continuing seeing each other in the future.

I am returning home full of creative energy and new ideas, and I want to express my deepest gratitude for allowing me to have this wonderful experience.

Gratefully yours,