It's that time of year again. Yesterday's mail brought a rejection letter from the MacDowell Colony. Today's or tomorrow's will most likely feature another of the same, this one from Yaddo. Then I can look forward to a No from the New York Foundation for the Arts, due to arrive in early April.
These were my three attempts to cadge the means for the optimal writing situation during my vacation days this coming summer. The optimal writing situation being two or three weeks in some quiet, pretty place outside the city. I've been dreaming of a sojourn at one of the arts colonies. Courtesy of rich donors, the colony houses and feeds you and provides everything you need to forget about everything you deal with during your regular workaday life so your mind can just sort of waft off into the ether and the words emerge. There's nature! Birds, trees! A swimming pool, even, at Yaddo!
I've been to three previous residencies and at each I became practically a different writer: enormously, uncharacteristically productive. I wrote a big chunk of my first novel at the first. At the second I completed the final rewrite. And at the third, two summers ago, I began my second novel, writing 65 pages of what I first thought was dreck and have since discovered is a pretty decent start to the story. None of these stays was at a place nearly as fancy-shmancy as Yaddo or MacDowell. I knew I'd have scant chance at the big time, but I decided to try this time around. I knew right, it seems.
As for NYFA, that's simply a piece of cash. I've applied many times before and I know, as with the arts colonies, that there's little likelihood of hitting the jackpot. If I did, though, I'd use some of it to create my own little writer's retreat. A cabin on Lake George is what I fantasize, just Teresa and me. In the morning I write while she reads or cooks or putters about, in the afternoon and evenings we vacate ...
As it happens, I've recently sent out a new batch of submissions to literary journals so there's another bunch of rejection letters I can look forward to. I have mixed feelings about most of them (the journals, not my submissions ... well, okay, my submissions too). They are none of them the journal of my dreams, they are all of them pretty mainstream, they none of them partake of the class struggle, literary division. But they're what there is. They're where my stories might get read, should anyone accept any, and I have a humbly stubborn little feeling that a secretary's stories deserve to be read.
Does that sound pathetic? Nah, it shouldn't. For here I sit in my urban aerie and as I finish eating lunch and turn back to the work of entering data, filing the records, scheduling classes, helping students with their endless registration difficulties, I'm also watching out the window mesmerized by the buds on the tips of the winter-stripped tree branches as they begin to fuzz out into something like spring. It's that season too, or nearly. Rejection I can take, especially while I watch this promise peeking forth.