Luskin: Next door to paradise

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(HOST) Commentator Deborah Luskin has discovered a paradise-on-earth for writers and artists – just down the road from Eden.
(LUSKIN) I recently spent a week at the Vermont Studio Center. Founded in 1984, it’s the largest international artists’ and writers’ Residency Program in the United States. Fifty visual artists and writers from across the country and around the world stay for anywhere from four to twelve weeks at a time, except at the end of April, when the Studio Center accepts fifty artists and writers from Vermont.
As one of the sixteen lucky writers at Vermont Artists’ Week this year, I had a room of my own, overlooking the Gihon River. In this clean, well-lighted place, I wrote all day, every day, coming up for air only for fabulous meals and conversation served up at the Red Mill. The Mill is one of the Center’s thirty buildings that house artists’ studios and residence halls in Johnson, about ten miles southwest of Eden.  They include several churches, houses, industrial buildings, barns and an old firehouse.
My residency at the Studio Center corresponded with the twenty-fifth anniversary of my arrival in Vermont. I originally came to Vermont to write a novel in rural isolation. I met a man, and I stayed. Marriage, motherhood and management preoccupied me for the next twenty years, though I did manage – somehow – to draft three and a half books.
As the writer Fay Weldon says, "A writer’s life is not a piece of cake, though better . . .than a waitress’s."  She also says, "that if you want to be a writer – don’t; if you want to write, which is a different matter, nothing will stop you, not lack of time, nor the existence of husband, home or children; these things will merely sharpen your determination, not deter you."
I wish I could say I never became discouraged by the way domesticity interrupted my train of thought, or that I never became short tempered when my children’s needs absorbed my writing time, or resentful of my husband’s professional advancement – but I’m human.
Being human, I’ve also muddled through. I’ve learned how to make mental drafts while engaged in the activities of daily life, like hanging out the laundry. This has worked well for the short essays, the short stories and the novels already in the box. But since 1991, I’ve been taking notes for another book, even as I wrote the others. What I needed was another stint of rural isolation. What I got at the Studio Center was even better. In addition to the concentrated quiet in which to think clearly without interruption, I could also tap into the great wealth of creativity humming around me.
I returned home with a detailed outline and a renewed sense of purpose, determined, finally, to write this big book, even in the midst of family life.
Both in the Bible and in Vermont, the Gihon River flows out of Eden. And as a writer, I have to say that the Vermont Studio Center is pretty close to Paradise.

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