This is a guest post by Pen Parentis author Danielle Lazarin, whose critically-acclaimed story collection BACK TALK lands in the UK in paperback today! Congratulations to her in her writing (and her parenting – she also has two daughters!) The post originally appeared as part of her wonderful newsletter Talk Soon, click here to subscribe.
TAKING UP RESIDENCE
Earlier this month I spent a few days at the beautiful Millay Colony for the Arts, getting back the spark with my novel. It was the first residency I’ve ever done. In part because I’ve been rejected many times over the years (and from this particular one at least twice before), but mostly because when you are a parent artist, it’s insanely difficult to hit pause on your home life and travel elsewhere to work. Most residencies are for a minimum of 2 weeks. Luckily, Millay does a virtual residency, which allows a parent to spend at least 5 full days at the colony and use a stipend to cover the costs of going away (childcare, dogwalking, perhaps an ice cream sundae party as apology upon return?). It’s a dream.
I got so much work done. Being able to work at any hour knowing that I would not have to conserve my energy to tend to others in the next few days—cooking, cleaning, picking up from school, breaking up arguments, kindly giving some version of “I don’t know, honey” replies to 10 questions in a row I could not possibly know the answer to—is a real freedom, as is the quiet and company of others hard at work on their own projects. I was with a group that’s in residence for the month of May. They were so lovely and welcoming. Talking to them about process and 80s movies and their disciplines and everything in between was invigorating, and I’m grateful to have had their company.
But I also immediately felt the strangeness of how many others can do this with relative ease. This is not to imply that leaving partners or pets or day jobs behind is without sacrifice or its own difficulties, but for parents it’s a different and more expensive cost—logistically, emotionally, financially—to step away from the daily responsibilities of parenting. So expensive it’s often prohibitive. I’m so grateful for Millay for providing this time and space specifically for parents and I wish that other colonies would consider shorter lengths of stays (most require at least 2 weeks, many more are 4). In a dream world, I imagine being granted 2 weeks over the course of a year, one without kids, but with fellow parent artists, and the other with my kids, with childcare provided. If you know someone who has property/funding/inclination to do this, hit me up. I want to see more art from parents. Access needs to expand. If it’s this hard for me, a person who has a lot of support from family and good resources, it’s a hundred times more difficult for so many other parenting artists.
When I said I was headed off to do this on Twitter, I got a lot of replies from parents who did not know this opportunity existed so I want to use this space to make a list of places like Millay that offer opportunities more suited to artists with families. Please send me any ones I haven’t included and I’ll put them in the next letter, and please pass this list along to those who might need it. Many of these are funded by Sustainable Arts, a grantmaking organization that also funds individual artists who are also parents. Check the link for more opportunities.
–The Mineral School (WA) hosts a parent-only week
–AIR at Headlands Center for the Arts (CA) provides a family house. I think you still have to occupy your kids though.
In the past I also have created my own short retreats with other parenting writers, stealing away to one person’s house or a rental. It’s complicated, and it’s never free, and every time it happens I get so stressed about logistics I consider canceling it all. But it happens every now and then, and it’s always so good for my work. I wish I had money to throw at someone else to make this happen for them. It’s a gift to have that room of one’s own.
Got a response? Maybe you have more ideas to add to the list? You can be connected to Danielle through Pen Parentis Behind Closed Doors on Facebook (you must be a writer and a parent to join) or subscribe to her newsletter through this link.