Review of Vermont Studio Center

After a breakfast discussion with four visual artists about their favorite and not-so-favorite art films I walked across the bridge to my studio.  Unlocking my door, I found my laptop sitting on my desk, waiting for me to start my writing day.  My studio, a cozy well-lit office has the sights and sounds of the Gihon River to my left, along with a bookshelf and a reading chair.  I’d never desired a private office/studio before, but it is certainly very nice.  My computer waits for me, along with my mess of papers and coffee cups.

I’ve been in Johnson, Vermont as a writing resident at the Vermont Studio Center for a little more than three weeks.  I leave on Saturday, which is when this will be posted.  It’s been a great experience.  “Instant grad school,” is my clever response when friends ask how my residency is going.  Unlike some writers and artists, going to Eastern Washington University’s MFA program felt wholly positive.  VSC recreates the best parts of the MFA experience: living in a community of writers (artists), having time to devote to your craft, the sense that what you are working on is important, and friends to have a beer with at the end of the night.

In addition, VSC provides three excellent and often vegetarian meals a day in a dining hall overlooking the Gihon river.  It’s always nice to look out and see a river rushing past while eating.  Plenty of hiking is nearby.  My favorite is a short, but steep route up to Prospect Rock.  The hike is a small portion of the Long Trail, and affords a great view at the top.  You can also find several swimming holes within walking distance.  The tiny town of Johnson has some essentials: a bookstore, a cafe, a pub.  Sadly, after the flood in the spring, no grocery store.  Still, it’s a friendly small town and you start to recognize everyone after a week or two.  You start to feel at home almost right away.

I’ve learned that artists don’t always read very much.  But many really like going to readings.  Artist also seem to enjoy the process of making art far more than writers enjoy actually writing.  Artists need and want big blocks of time to work.  I’ve learned more about contemporary painting in the past four weeks than I ever knew.  I’ve made a lot of friends and look forward to hanging out with them in New York City, and getting plugged into the art scene.

As for my writing, it’s been as good as I could have hoped.  Freed from the shackles of 8-10 hour work days, I almost instantly became productive, finishing new drafts of story after story, with an essay and some poems thrown in for good measure.  That was week one.  Week two brought me back to my novel manuscript, and I dove in, finishing a chapter I’d left undone months earlier, completing a plot outline of the entire book, and have made steady progress ever since.  Finishing a rough draft has become a certainty, rather than a hopeful possibility.  And that feels great.

So I’d recommend this residency to anyone who is interested and I’m happy to answer any further questions anyone may have.


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