A quick summary of VONA, as if such a thing were possible

It’s been more than a week since I wrote here, but my writing muscles have been far from idle.  Rather, they’ve gotten maybe the best workout of their lives… and I’m not sure the rest of my life hasn’t been changed either.

VONA poster

Poster I made at VONA

From last Sunday until two days ago, I was at a writing residency with the lovely Evelina Galang at VONA, an arts foundation for writers of color. It was an intense, focused week of writing, reading, eating, and sleeping, that left little time for anything else! I’d shower first thing in the morning, and then take a train and a bus for an hour to the scenic USF campus, where I’d write my morning pages and read a short story or two over breakfast. Then our residency group would meet for about an hour over lunch to discuss craft and the assigned readings. In the afternoon, I’d hole up in the computer lab or write with friends at Sacred Grounds, unless there was a workshop or reading going on. I also had two one-on-one meetings with Evelina during the course of the week. By the time I got home in the evenings, it was all I could do to eat a good dinner and get to sleep at a reasonable hour. It was one of those bizarre weeks that feels palpably outside one’s normal life: on Tuesday I felt as though it were Friday, and by Saturday I felt as if I’d known the VONA family for weeks.

VONA lunch meeting

Lunch meeting - photo borrowed from Evelina's Facebook 😉

There is so much I want to say about VONA, but I want to take a little more time to digest my experience before sharing it with you more fully. What comes to mind at the moment is a cliché metaphor, but one that expresses my emotions accurately. I feel as though I was flung into a fire and have come out forged into a stronger version of my artist self: base metals cast out, form made cleaner, edges more incisive. I’ve discovered so many new sources of inspiration (including my 78 fellow writers and the 7 faculty), and have found an almost tangible sense of purpose and forward motion with my work — and by work I mean drawing as well as writing, life as much as art. And I’ve joined a community of some of the bravest and most generous spirits I’ve dared to claim a connection to.

It is good.

Kitty journal

Tina made this for me!

Contrary to my fears pre-VONA, my time there dovetails especially well with the resolutions I made right before I went, and I’m anticipating some really committed work from here on out. And in a moment of perfect (and perfectly thoughtful) timing, my dear friend Tina hand-sewed and mailed me an adorable felt kitty journal just as my residency ended. Process is more important than ritual (says Chris Abani), and I agree, but all the writers I know treasure their rituals and their significant objects. I’m so touched that Tina sent me this one to coincide with this milestone in my writing life.

Expect more in days to come: more blogging… more writing in general… more drawing… more everything.