Welcome to the Beach House AiR blog!
In celebration of Marion Davies’ support of artists, and to further the work of artists in all disciplines, the City of Santa Monica created the Annenberg Community Beach House Artist Residency program. Several times a year a local artist works out of an office at the Marion Davies Guest House, sharing their progress with the public both in person and online. Visit http://annenbergbeachhouse.com/cultural-programs for more information.
Well, time ticked by and I am sad to say this is my last
week here at the Marion Davies Beach House. I will miss everything about this
place and the people I met during my tenure here.
I took a little time over the weekend to reflect on how my
writing changed during my stay and I wanted to share my thoughts with you
below. If you came to my event on Tuesday night, I talked about some of these
same issues (I also read a short portion of my novel that I wrote here.)
best writing backdrop ever!!!
Over the course of the last 8 weeks, people who visited my
office hours often asked what exactly am I doing here at the beach house and how
did I get here? I had answered a call for a writer-in-residence from the
Annenberg blog. Each residency focuses on a different genre of creativity.
Before me was a choreographer and after me will be an acting troupe. My call
was specifically for a fiction writer.
The application process involved sending in a few letters of
recommendation, a writer’s statement, proposed events for these types of
evenings, a writing sample as well as a description of the project I’m currently
glorious sun in eyes in front of Marion Davies Beach House
So for the past ten weeks I’ve had the wonderful opportunity
of having a place away from home to call my office. In addition to the hours
spent writing without the distractions of my home office, (think lots of dog
barking and neighborhood construction) I hold office hours once a week for
three hours on Mondays from 11-2. I’ve been so pleased with the turnout of
these office hours. The work I’ve been presented with has run the gamut from
short stories, to novel ideas, to picture books to a graphic novel to a Greek
cookbook. All enthusiastic writers with great stories to tell. I will hold my
final office hours on Monday, March 14th from 11-2 in my office on the
second floor of the Marion Davies building.
The novel that I was able to complete during my time here is
currently titled, “Time May Change Me” The gist of the novel is about a woman
with a transgendered daughter who is forced to move back in with her parents
after years of estrangement. It sounds pretty heavy, but I think, I hope it has
a lot of comedic elements to it.
There are many ways in which my writing was greatly impacted
by my time here at the Annenberg:
Planning: Let me start by talking about the planning
rituals I usually go through. Because, in my writing life before the Annenberg,
I worked on such limited writing time. My average on a good day was 2 hours.
Keep in mind I didn’t start writing until I had kids, so I just learned to
write within these parameters. Because of this, I really would spend a lot of
time planning and outlining so that I could best economize my writing time. When
it came time to write, I’d just follow my outline and “produce". However,
something happened with all of the extra time I had here. I felt liberated from
my usual planning and for the first time, I wrote without a premeditated
structure. This was incredibly liberating for me and I felt as though a lot
more discoveries happened both for me as a writer and for my characters. I
allowed them to meander without pressure and they’d inevitably take me
someplace unexpected or interesting – places I don’t think they would have
ended up had I been locked down to preplanned plotlines. This leads me to
Structure: So as I mentioned, Time May Change me is
about a woman who returns home with her daughter to estranged parents. At
first, the structure was split in two: before and after the daughter's transition. My original vision was to have each section alternate between these
before and afters. But as I began writing, it became apparent that so much of
the momentum and energy of the story was in the after. So there was a lot of
cutting (not deleting because I ended up saving some of the before sections to
use as flashbacks) and I decided to keep the story in the “after” sections. I
did leave a “before” in there to start the novel as a prologue.
The Writing Process:
For me, the writing process has been very accordion-like
this sort of stretching and then compressing goes on. I’ve spend a long time in
my MFA program and in writer’s workshops discussing how we all write. I
definitely am a strong proponent of moving forward and getting words on the
page, even if those words are not ultimately the ones that will end up on the
So, there you have it! I think the biggest piece of advice I’d
offer fellow writers is to get out of your comfort zone, change up your writing
routine and try something new! If you usually write in the morning, try writing
at night. If you usually write in first person present, check out the third
person past tense. And keep applying to those residencies! You never know what metamorphosis
your writing might go through at a beachside office!
Come by my last office hours Monday, March 14th