When I was accepted to this residency, I was understandably ecstatic. Scotland! A castle! A month! Paid for! And then it all got even better. It would be wintertime, or late fall, anyway. I would be able to follow it up with a second month in Iceland, with Elizabeth. And there was plenty of time to sort out which project, to prepare and collect my thoughts. I am not going to waste this, I thought. This is going to be special.
But of course there’s always that little fear. Maybe it won’t be special after all. Maybe I won’t be in a place where I really can write. Maybe something will get in the way of going at all. That’s all fine, I kept saying to myself. If the food is weird or the people are strange, if I am too tired or stressed to write, if the mattresses are terrible – it’ll be fine. (I realize that these are probably the exact same fears people have when they come to my workshops: if so, my dear attendees, I sympathize so very much! I will always try to make sure it’s good for you, or at least that we are not too weird.)
So I waited, hoping for the best but also preparing as carefully as I could. Here’s the story I’ll work on. Here are my notes for it. Here are my plane tickets, checked and doublechecked. All the wonderful events leading up to leaving ticked in place, one after the other: Chris and Lauren’s wedding, the book release, World Fantasy Con, the reception, signings and dinners and visits and all the rest until it was time to pile onto a plane, me and two months’ worth of luggage and a monster named Tinker T. Evers. Plains, trains, and autombiles, and I got to Hawthornden a week ago today.
Everything is so much better than even my fancies might have painted it, better because real. It is a small castle in Scotland, clinging to overhanging rocks halfway down a little gorge, surrounded by rambling walks and rough crags misted over with a pale green lichen that looks like springtime, despite the frost on the grass in the morning. Deer and squirrels avoid me, not over acclimated to people. Some dark bird that is not a crow lives in a niche in the wall just below my window; a family of six chat on the roof tiles.
There’s no internet, no phone service. I’m posting this from Hawthornden’s library, a separate building some minutes’ walk away, the closest connection there is, and not great even then. Minutes go by at their usual pace, but days stretch like taffy, especially the afternoons, after I’m done with a writing session and I’ve already gone for a walk, but before the sun sets – which it does early.
And I am writing. This is the perfect way to start this book, which I knew would be tricky to wrap my head around.
And best of all, there are still three weeks of this, and then Iceland. What can I get done? What can’t I get done?