Ragdale–January 2019

Then We Came to the End.

No, this isn’t a post about the Joshua Ferris novel. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the beginning of my residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). A four-week gig, it is now over and I’m heading home. It’s been eventful, to say the least:

  • I spent time with some wonderful artists—a composer, a painter, and a gaggle of writers in various disciplines. For me, this is one of the best reasons to spend time in an arts colony, and I look forward to staying in touch with these folks.
  • It snowed. A lot. There was no snow on the ground when I got here on Monday, January 7 for the beginning of the residency (see the pictures in the post linked to above), but on Saturday we got a bunch (5 inches? More?) and it never went away because it stayed cold. We got more the following weekend and another dose the next, the last one nearly a foot of it. The snow made walking into the town of Lake Forest a little tricky, and also complicated walks on the prairie behind the Ragdale House, something I would like to have been able to do daily. Still, it was pretty, and maybe it kept me at my desk more than I would have been otherwise.
  • It got cold. Really cold. I mean, it was below freezing the whole time, but this week the Polar Vortex escaped the Arctic Circle and attacked us with a vengeance. The high temperature on Wednesday this week was -11, the low -24, windchill of more than -50. Crazy cold. The Ragdale staff wisely stayed home and we all just huddled in our rooms (there was plenty of heat).
  • Before the hyper-cold set in, I made a couple of forays into Chicago on the Metra, the local commuter rail. One Saturday night I went to dinner at a friend’s house, which was fun. And one Sunday I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, something I do almost every time I visit the city. Love that place.
  • The cover for my new book (The Shaman of Turtle Valley, forthcoming from Braddock Avenue Books in May) was finalized—I got some helpful input from the other residents here—and we revealed it on social media, my blog, and the publisher’s website. It’s now available for pre-order and ARCs are beginning to go out to reviewers.
  • We had an all-residents reading in the living room (plus a studio visit to see the visual artist’s work and a slide-show for a presentation of the work of a writer/artist who has been working on an interdisciplinary project). It was great to do that all in one evening rather than taking up many nights with separate events.
  • I finished reading some excellent books. Check out my post on my January reading.
  • Oh, yeah, and I got some writing done. It is great to have so much time to dedicate to a project, and my work-in-progress made some, um, progress. I’ve got big decisions to make in terms of structure before I embark on the next draft, but I currently have a draft of 111,000 words that is more or less complete. It’s unreadable, however, and needs lots more work, so that’s what I’ll be doing at home beginning Monday.

So, that’s how I spent my January.

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