2014 PEN New England Award in poetry

So – strange. I’ve put off writing this post for a few weeks, partly due to travel (vacation, yay) and partly because, as it turns out, winning a big award comes with certain obligations. The obligations are fun – an award ceremony this weekend (April 6), alerting all the publications who have ever been so kind as to publish something of mine or a review (I’m still not done yet), and in the future, some readings. All good.

Mostly, though, I’ve had to let this one sink in. My book, out of all the books of poetry published in New England in 2013 and submitted to PEN, was chosen. I don’t know if I can say who the final judge was, as PEN has not made this announcement, but my book had to rise in the usual path through all those books and somehow, somehow, get chosen. Over the past weeks, I’ve felt both ridiculously giddy and very humbled, mostly at the same time. I’m a little closer to tears than usual. My husband is so happy for me that I think even he is closer to tears than usual. I wish I could tell my mom. I wish, I wish. Why is it that an award leaves me wishing? 

When Karen Wulf of PEN New England called me, she told me my book just “levitated” to the top. Ms. Wulf, nothing before has made me believe in the supernatural, but my book levitating anywhere makes me believe. I’m going to keep an eye on my contributor copies at home, see if they occasionally hover. 

I know there’s some ground down there, and my feet will eventually encounter it, but for now, my book and I don’t feel gravity’s tug.

Here’s the link to the PEN announcement:
PEN New England Awards

Wellspring House, a writing retreat

This summer (2012) I did my first writing retreat. I decided to avoid huge travel costs and stay in-state at Wellspring House in Ashfield, MA. For very little in rent ($220 per week, and it gets cheaper if you stay there off-season), I had a private bedroom, shared bath, shared kitchen and living areas, a gorgeous outdoor patio and lawn, wireless Internet, set in the cutest town you can ever imagine, and tucked in the hills and mountains of western Massachusetts.

I dutifully trucked up my manuscript(s), imagining that I would spread out pages and pages in my bedroom and re-organize, toss some poems, edit some lines. I have to tell you that instead I was swept up in new writing – twelve new poems for the five days I stayed (additional travel cut my week short). And not just twelve crummy poems – at least eight of these are total keepers, maybe more.

I’ll explain Wellspring. It’s run by the most darling southern-born gentleman, Preston Browning, as a retreat for writers and artists. He’s now 83, and if you are of the mind, he will happily talk literature with you. The house is stacked in books and literary journals. There’s a sun porch for the artists. Six bedrooms. While I was there, Wellspring housed a fiction writer, a food writer, a writer of historical fiction, a painter, the mother of a visiting actor, and a poet (me). The mornings were quiet and seemed to be devoted to our creative endeavors. By the afternoon, some of us had burned ourselves out and we’d find other things to do – hiking, shopping, hitting up all the local farmer’s markets. At night we drifted in and out of the kitchen, talking or not. Everyone was lovely. Preston has his own apartment in the house, so I saw him some but not daily.

I just got an email from him saying that although the summer was packed, he doesn’t have many reservations on the books for fall & winter. Ah, I’d go back if I weren’t teaching! Alas. But I will try to spread the word to other writers and artists about this amazing place. He’s extending the less expensive winter rate to the fall, too: only $200 per week or $50 per night starting now.

Oh! I haven’t put a link to the Wellspring website up yet. Here ’tis: Wellspring House. Heck, I love this place so much I’ll put the link up twice: Wellspring House. That should do it.

While you’re there, I recommend visits to Shelburne Falls, Greenfield, Colrain… any of the little hilltowns are fabulous when you need a break from the huge amount of writing you will surely do.

As I tell my students: Write on!