The night before my week-long writer’s residency at Prospect Street Writers House in Bennington, Vermont, I found myself surprisingly calm. I learned about this residency from a fellow book inc writer who loved her visit the previous year. After researching the residency, I knew immediately I wanted to go. I had taken a few weeks off from revision and I was having doubts if I should continue working on my novel. The residency seemed like a great opportunity to reconnect with my book. Also, I was looking forward to connecting with other writers while getting a brief reprieve from my busy life in Brooklyn. As the Amtrak train left Penn Station, gliding along the Hudson River up toward Albany, I was in awe that I was actually on my way to my first residency.
The quick bus ride from Albany to Bennington was peaceful as I took in the green countryside, the abundance of trees, the tops of mountains, and the Victorian houses. The founder of the residency, V, met me at the Bennington bus station and drove me to the house. The first view of the house made me giddy. I was here! My gorgeous room overlooked a lush garden. I sighed in contentment and felt myself begin to relax. The other writers arrived soon after. There were eight of us, all women.
The house resides on Prospect Street near the top of a long, curving hill. The store and cafe where I would buy light snacks every day and eat breakfast and lunch was at the bottom of the hill. On my first day, I realized I would be walking up this hill at least twice a day for seven days. I could feel the burn in my legs every time I climbed. But when I saw the house near the top, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking of my quiet, cool room and my novel waiting for me. Every day I wrote for three to four hours, taking breaks to nap or read a book to inspire my work.
My days found an easy, natural routine. Down the hill I went to the cafe for breakfast, back up I went to write my reverse outline, reread my manuscript, and brainstorm new plotlines. Down the hill I went for lunch, back up I went to write. Each day I got stronger walking up and down the hill. I was also getting closer to completing my writing goals for the week.
At dinner every night, I talked with the other writers about their day and ate the delicious meals V cooked with the help of Laura and his daughter Alice. We ate, talked, and laughed. I received wonderful feedback about my novel. My fellow writers inspired and motivated me with their talk about their projects. The doubts I had about my novel faded away. I was focused and determined to achieve what I set out to do at the residency.
During my one week at the house, I was able to connect with my story again by completing my outline, generating new story ideas, and creating a revision plan for the upcoming Book Revision Lab II, where I plan to hone my first 50 pages. I walked barefoot through the countryside, laid down by a small stream near a waterfall, and felt at peace with where I was in the revision process. I was grateful to be in this beautiful location and to have spent time with such funny, kind, talented, and unique people. I would gladly visit Prospect Street Writers House again.
And the hill? Maybe walking up and down the hill was a metaphor for my writing journey. There are times when I struggle, and I am filled with doubt that I won’t make it to the end of this phase of novel writing. But if I just keep on, enjoying the process despite its challenges and difficulties, I can reach the top and finish my novel