This weekend I am traveling to Italy for a two-week writing residency at The Lemon Tree House. My luggage is packed and I’ve coordinated with family and friends to take care of my daughter while I am away. But it still doesn’t seem real. I’ve never had the luxury of devoting two full weeks to my writing. And I cannot wait to arrive and get started.
I have been working on my current novel, Memoir of Shame, for exactly two years. The title has changed too many times to count. Memoir of Shame is a historical fiction that centers on the love affair between a French African soldier and German woman during Hitler’s rise to power. It’s a beautiful, tragic story – and one that was the reality for many Afro-German families. The first manuscript saw a rejection from one major publishing house, which was followed by many rounds of revisions. Then I deleted the entire manuscript and started from scratch, telling the narrative from an entirely different perspective.There is an extra weight that comes with wanting to tell a narrative as honest as possible, especially one that is already heavy with genocide. It has been a very difficult project. Still, Memoir of Shame has been a work-in-progress for too long and I am ready to finish it.
Many writers will tell you, especially those who are parents, spouses or caregivers, that it’s hard to devote an ample amount of time and energy needed to finish a novel. Yes, this is true even if one is a full-time creative. Which is why I set a goal to apply for three writing residencies in 2017 – Hedgebrook, The Lemon Tree House and Rhode Island Writers Colony. I was not accepted to Hedgebrook. Bummer, I know. But it is a highly competitive residency and fortunately, Hedgebrook offers many other opportunities for women writers throughout the year. I’ve attended one of their writing salons and it was a wonderful experience. I will learn whether I was accepted to Rhode Island Writers Colony (RIWC) later this summer. RIWC provides a unique experience as its objective is to provide space for speculation, production, and experimentation of works and projects for and by writers of color. Fingers crossed! And so for now, my focus is on spending two weeks in Tuscany with fellow writers and artists “in a tranquil hamlet in the Cetona foothills.” *faints*
Artist and writing residencies provide the type of environment and structure that many creatives need to complete their projects. And this is an opportunity that I will not take for granted. I look forward to sharing my experience and encourage other creatives to pursue residency opportunities. When I return, I plan to announce that Memoir of Shame is FINISHED! Wish me luck!