Hello to My Village, but Also to the World at Large:
I write to you today, October 28th, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Brevard, North Carolina, where I have paused in my journey home to assume the role of Aunt Extraordinaire, Older Sister, and First Official Guest in Her New Abode.
As you may be aware, readers, it has been quite some time since I’ve been home. I was, in fact, in the middle of a metaphorical literal nowhere, having the time of my life, and now, on the other side, I’ve got some things to say about it.
Significant Note: First, and foremost…
I. DID. NOT. DIE.
Do you hear me? Do you realize the magnitude of this announcement???
It was me. In the mountains. In the woods. Alone. No electricity. No Wi-Fi. Not much, in fact, from good ol’ Maslow’s pyramid except the shelter part, but, BOY, was I glad for that much.
In case this is news, bear with me, please, for some backstory.
I applied for, and was awarded, the chance to be writer-in-residence for a week at The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA), a nonprofit artists’ colony of sorts through Sundress Publications. SAFTA operates out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which is, to be clear, VERY DIFFERENT FROM PHILADELPHIA.
Located on Firefly Farms:
and including REAL LIVE sheep and goats and chickens and ducks and a super chill cat named Simon…
I was provided a 10′ x 10′ dry cabin:
with no running water or electricity, and a woodstove, as well as access to Maslow’s OTHER amenities in the communal farmhouse a half mile walk away.
Significant Note: Walking through the woods at night is TERRIFYING. TERRIFYING. They were absolutely haunted, and just RIFE with serial killers and backwoods genetic mutations attempting to hunt me down, “Wrong Turn” style. However…the same path, in the morning, in the sunrise, with the dew heavy and the fog rolling and the rooster crowing and the sound of the natural world waking up around me, was nothing short of transcendental for this city girl.
I was using this time to work on a memoir, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Really? A memoir? Everyone and their mother fancies themselves writing a memoir, what makes YOU so special?”
Well, here’s the thing. A memoir about my life may or may not be interesting, may or may not warrant the time and expenditure to publish, but a memoir about how my life can ultimately impact yours, or those of your family and friends, seems a bit more engaging and a bit less indulgent.
When I spent months at the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders in 2014, I took notes; a lot of them. I was in no position to be writing anything of any weight at the time — and no, that’s not intended to be a witty eating disorder pun or play on words. But I could see there was a story there, and not just my story; the story of the facility, and all the women who have traveled through its doors, and all the people who are impacted by eating disorders at large — which is to say, everyone, because everyone knows someone.
And thus, an idea for a full-length manuscript was born, and I shoved the idea in a drawer and covered it with paper clips and rubber bands and old receipts, and lived my life for the next five years.
But, with this residency came opportunity, and it was an opportunity I did not intend to squander. So I broke the idea back out, reshaped it, rethought it, rearranged it, and started to write it, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past seven days in Tennessee.
It’s not a book, yet, of course, and probably won’t be for a bit; but I can see it. I can see the finished product, and it isn’t indulgent, and it’s something that helps the layperson understand why their friend or child or parent is suffering from an eating disorder and can’t seem to recover; something that brings awareness to the pervasive mental health stigma that leads to such misinformation about eating disorders; something that reaches society at large as to why eating disorders have such a high mortality rate, like information about how vicious insurance companies are and the vitriol of an eating-disordered inner monologue and how, perplexedly, eating disorders really have so little to do with food.
Significant note: At least, I HOPE it isn’t indulgent.
And now, residency complete, partway home, with half a novel under my belt and the glow that comes from gathering your own firewood WITHOUT freaking out about spiders, I am ready to finish this project in the real world, writing on the train, researching as I feed my children bites of yogurt, continuing to learn what I want to say and how I want to say it.
And I’m excited.
A Final Significant Note: I had put out a Patreon to fund my airfare and the residency fee, and was LITERALLY BLOWN AWAY by the response. My village, your generosity cowed me; I was touched in a way I cannot even articulate that so many of you wanted to help me reach this goal.
This experience was amazing, once-in-a-lifetime, everything I wanted it to be, and I have you to thank. Thank you. 🙂