In Residence at VCCA-France


A week ago, I boarded a train in Bordeaux (see what I did there?) and an hour later disembarked in the city of Agen, where I was met by staff from VCCA-France Moulin-à-Nef, the home of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in France. We made the short drive from Agen to the village of Auvillar, a picturesque town situated on the Garonne river, where I proceeded to settle into my very comfortable accommodations.

La Maison V.

VCCA-France has room for four artists at a time, all with bedrooms in the gorgeous Maison Vieilhecazes, a very old house near the river that dates from the days when Auvillar had a bustling port. We have shared bathrooms and living space–a beautiful kitchen and dining area, plus a lounge–that make for a cozy environment when we aren’t working.

La Cebo

But the work is the whole point, so right next to the Maison is La Cebo (an Occitan word that means “onion”), the studio building where we all have large studios. Because the workspaces are designed to be used by either writers or visual artists, they are big and bright. Mine is at the back of the building, with a view of the hill behind the property. (A similar studio at the front of the building

market hall

looks out on the river.) This is where I spend the bulk of my time.

rear studio

Residencies are for working, so the availability of entertainment is irrelevant. For a bit of daily distraction, I’m content to walk up the hill to the village and wander around the narrow streets, and stop into one of the shops (if they happen to be open–hours seem pretty haphazard), the bakery, a cafe, or a bar. There’s a small market weekly in the village’s gorgeous market building, but the VCCA residents also once a week go across the river to a larger town to shop at their much bigger farmers’ market and a supermarket.

But mostly, I’m working on a new novel. I’d had to put this project aside for most of the year as I was finalizing three other books and the anthology that just came out, but with all of those done and under contract, I can focus on this single book, which is nice. No more excuses! By the time I leave here, I won’t be done with the book, but I should have a good idea of what’s left to do to get the manuscript in shape, which I hope to do in 2019.


About the author


  1. Cliff,
    So wonderful to get these updates on your writing and publishing. I will check out your latest in Book Culture.
    We met years ago in Tepoztlan at UTV.
    I’m currently working with the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia. I am a contributor and editor of a narrative social work book that Columbia Press released last year. Most of my time is spent with master student Practicum experiences and workshops i facilitate for doctors, nurses, chaplains, and other healthcare workers in New York. But I am getting”itchy” to spend more time on my own writing and have thought about writing residencies. Reading here of your experience is encouraging me to look into possibilities here and abroad.

    Thanks and warm best with your novel.

  2. Thanks for all your info. I would love to do a residency like you. I am about to finish m y MFA at Sam Houston State University here north of Houston. I’m 77, so it was a trip. A lot of writers bad-mouth the MFA but it was the best thing I ever did. I am a retired periodontist. My graduation trip and residency was an all expense paid trip to Southeast Asia. I was the dental officer for the 538th Army Engineers. Tet was exciting. Again, thanks for all your hard work and the sharing of information. I will be submitting some short stories this next semester.

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