I've been back from Yaddo several days now, and it's all starting to feel like a marvelous dream. To be able to write and read all day in a quaint little sun-lit study with no interruptions whatsoever, and a plastic lunch pail packed with a sandwich and fruit and carrot sticks wrapped in wax paper; to go for a run in the woods, or lay my yoga mat out on the back porch, and listen to the birds and the squirrels going about their business in the trees; to meet up with new friends at dinner, and play games in the pool house and have wine and snacks by a fire in a cozy sitting room, and to go back to work for a little while afterwards, if I felt like it...the whole experience was magical, it really was. One Saturday I laid in bed all afternoon reading Neverwhere—even ate my lunch in bed—and I didn't feel one bit guilty about it!
As I said, I was a little nervous about going without internet access, but it actually felt really good to be unplugged and unreachable, unless I wanted to be (and I did quickly check my email a couple times a day, usually after breakfast and before dinner). And of course I was meeting so many interesting new people that I wanted to get to know them all better, rather than spend much time on the computer in the evenings. Everyone—staff and residents—was so incredibly kind and friendly!
I know each person's experience of an artists' residency is going to be a bit different, and I think we were all looking to gain slightly different things, but for me the social aspect was almost as important as the actual work. We talked for hours about books (our own, and others'), and art, and pop culture, and shared horror stories from our childhoods, and I went to bed every night just feeling really, really content. I was fortunate enough to give my first-ever reading of Petty Magic after my new friend Nova read from her forthcoming novel, Imaginary Girls (look for it, summer 2011...it's going to be amazing!)—and even more fortunate afterward to be able to have one of those marvelous conversations with her that would, the next morning, allow all the disjointed bits of my fledgling novel to click into place. I love that kind of conversation—one you can look back on as a real turning point.
So, if you are reading this and thinking of applying to Yaddo, I have one piece of advice: DO! If you haven't published a book/had a show/whatever yet, don't let that stop you; part of what makes Yaddo so awesome is that they bring together writers and artists of all levels of experience.