Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Introducing the 2018 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Wendy Welch has been chosen as the 2018 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence! Wendy lives in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and is the author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, a memoir published in 2012 by St. Martin's Press. She has a forthcoming book about foster care and adoption in the Coalfields of Appalachia entitled Fall or Fly. She has also published a book of academic essays on the subject of Public Health in Appalachia. Dr. Welch is employed as the Executive Director of the Graduate Medical Education Consortium of Southwest Virginia, and will be taking a three-month leave of absence to serve as Writer-in-Residence. She will arrive in Fayetteville on or around New Year's Day and will be with us through the end of March.

Welch plans to use her time in Fayetteville to work on a forthcoming sequel to Little Bookstore, focusing on issues important to Coalfields Appalachia. “It is certainly a positive Appalachian Narrative, with West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee at its core” she wrote. “It is writing that has created the happiest, most balanced and examined moments of my life, and I am so looking forward to having the time and space to do what brings me such joy and stability.”

This year’s residency marks the fourth consecutive year that Lafayette Flats has hosted a writer for the winter. The previous writers were Eric Shonkwiler (2015), Mary Ann Henry (2016) and Kathleen M. Jacobs (2017). We are thrilled to have yet another talented writer to continue the tradition of excellence for this residency.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

On the Road: Interviewing Candidates for the 2018 New River Gorge Winter Writer's Residency

We were delighted with the quantity and quality of the applications we received for this year's residency! Thank you if you helped us get the word out this year.

After narrowing down the list to two finalists, we decided that instead of interviewing via Skype that we would road trip it and meet the candidates on their own turf. So last weekend while everyone else in Fayetteville was enjoying the Bridge Day festivities, we headed north to Columbus, Ohio,  to interview our first candidate; and next weekend we will be heading off again, this time due south, to meet the second.

People have asked us what we look for when deciding who will be the Writer-in-Residence, and the answers are not always simple, because each applicant has his or her own strengths and challenges. Almost every application we read makes us go "hmmmm," when we come to the part where they explain what they hope to accomplish during the residency, often listing things that we never thought of. These statement often inform the questions we ask during interviews. But the basic criteria is as follows:
  • Can they take the time? Three months is  long time to be away from home, family, pets and jobs. 
  • Will they thrive in the quiet setting of the Flats during the winter? Anyone who has read "The Shining" or seen the movie knows that long sequestrations aren't for everyone!
  • Will they engage with the community? We always have a reception in town where people can meet the writer, but will they enjoy being part of the off-season Fayetteville community? It's important to us that they do.
  • What will they be working on during the residency,and how will it help us advance our goal of providing an alternative narrative of West Virginia? While we can't - and wouldn't - dictate what they will write, we hope that it will reflect the true West Virginia and not buy in to the same tired old stereotypes. 
  • Will the experience benefit them, creatively? As supporters of the arts, it is at the core our mission to help introduce creativity of all sorts into the world. 
Watch this space around the first week of November to find out who will be coming to Fayetteville this winter!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Applications for 2018 Writer's Residency are coming in!

We have already received several applications for the 2018 New River Gorge Writer's Residency at Lafayette Flats, and with less than two weeks left before the deadline we are getting excited to find out who will be living and writing in Fayetteville this winter! 

Thank you to everyone who helped us get the word out, especially the West Virginia Hub and the Appalachian Studies Association.

Submissions will be accepted until October 15th, so now is the time to get those applications and reference letters in! Click here for more information.

We will be announcing the Writer in Residence on or about November 1st, so watch this space!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Looking for Our Next Writer

Sometime around the middle of our first season hosting guests at Lafayette Flats, it occurred to us
that the flats were probably not going to be in high demand during the winter months. We began to imagine how we could use that time to continue to promote the arts, and it didn't take us too long to land on the idea of hosting a writer-in-residence for the winter. We consulted our Charleston neighbor Colleen Anderson, who had participated in such writer-in-residence programs, and she helped us come up with a plan for promoting and structuring the residency. We chose the name "New River Gorge Winter Writer's Residency at Lafayette Flats" and went about the process of publicizing it to the writing community.

Eric Shonkwiler
We were thrilled with the response we received and even more thrilled with the writer we selected when Eric Shonkwiler became the very first New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence and arrived in Fayetteville on January 1, 2015. Over the next three months he lived and wrote in Flat #2  Corten. You can read his contributions to our blog here.

Mary Ann Henry
In 2016, we were pleased to be able to facilitate the return home for a native West Virginian when Mary Ann Henry became our second writer-in-residence. After living in that other Charleston (South Carolina) for many years, Mary Ann was delighted to spend a few months in Fayetteville to re-write a book that she had written years before that was set in West Virginia. Read what she wrote on our blog during her visit by clicking here.

Kathleen M. Jacobs
Earlier this year we were pleased to host another West Virginian, Kathleen M. Jacobs. Kathleen's focus is on writing young readers and children's books, but her blog posts were terrific reading for us grown-ups. Her appreciation of Fayetteville and its people was palpable and she didn't want to leave when her residency was over at the end of March. We think she'd still be here if we didn't need the space for our guests!
Who will be our 2018 Writer-in-Residence?

And now, even though summer is still high and there is a lot more outdoor fun to be had in Fayetteville before winter arrives, it is time to think about who our 2018 Writer-in-Residence will be. We are taking applications now and would love for you to help us find our next writer! If you know someone who would benefit from having a three-month retreat in beautiful surroundings where they can muse, create and live please refer them to our website where they can apply, or have them email us at lafayetteflats@gmail.com. Applications will be accepted through October 1st.

Friday, June 2, 2017

2017 Art Fund Purchase

Lotus Rising
Lotus Rising
Since part of Lafayette Flats' business plan is to promote local West Virginia art, each year we dedicate a portion of its vacation rental income to a fund that is used to buy a new piece for our guests to enjoy.  (You can read more about this component of our business plan here.)

For this year’s purchase we chose a mixed media painting by our Fayetteville friend and Tamarack Artisan, Meredith Gregg. “Lotus Rising,” one of Meredith’s 2016 works, now hangs in Flat #4, Eddy.

Meredith is best known for the beautiful landscape paintings she creates of the New River Gorge, her adopted home of more than 20 years. She shares a Fayetteville studio with another great local artist, Ginger Danz, and she teaches painting at the Fayetteville Arts Coalition’s Creative Juices.

We choose “Lotus Rising” as the 2017 Lafayette Flats Art Fund purchase after learning of Meredith’s commitment to achieving a deeper understanding of yoga and witnessing her ability to translate that desire into visual art.

In 2012, after many years of practicing yoga, Meredith completed teacher training and now teaches the fundamentals of Ashaya Yoga – the alignment of the mind, body and spirit in a supportive environment– at Fayetteville’s community yoga studio, Kula.
Meredith Gregg, Artist
In her yoga practice, Meredith found herself drawn to mandalas: symbolic representations of the universe. These geometric figures are often used to focus attention during meditation. The practice of creating and utilizing mandalas dates back thousands of years in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Meredith decided to combine her love of yoga and art into a series of mixed media paintings she calls Spirited Art. We saw her April 2017 show of the same name at The Grove and fell in love with her modern spin on this ancient tradition.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Waters Ahead

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her third contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

     Writer Natalie Goldberg directs:  “Write about “leaving.”  Approach it any way you want.  Write about your divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.”  And so, in this final Lafayette Flats blog post as the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence, that’s what I’ll do – or at least attempt, reluctantly, as I challenge myself to recognize that this incredible experience is approaching its end – and I’d rather it continue until those delightfully-powerful creative tugs rest just a bit.

     Making my way through the “gallery” of the Lafayette Flats, the artwork from wide-eyed, talented West Virginia artists continues to invite me to stop and visit for more than just a few minutes, to look closely at details that have been unfolding with every glance, uncovering something new and reflective.  Works by Paula Clendenin, Stephanie Danz, Charles Jupiter Hamilton, Mark Tobin Moore, and many others set the stage for the alternative narrative that hopefully every West Virginian yearns to promote, not just the owners of this fine establishment.

     Standing before the built-in bookcase on the second floor hallway, I gaze at the spine of my debut YA-novel, Honeysuckle Holiday, as it rubs shoulders with literary works by Giardina, Phillips, Harshman, Maynard, and Hickam to name just a few, and I am overwhelmed and incredibly humbled.

     Walking the main thoroughfare of town – one of America’s coolest towns – brings to mind every shop owner and restauranteur who has not only provided nourishment to my body, but to my soul and my spirit, as well:  the eateries of Gumbo’s, Secret Sandwich Society, Pies & Pints, Cathedral Café, and Vandal’s Kitchen; the welcoming staff at the Fayetteville Public Library; spiritual enrichment found along trails and walkways at the Gorge; and even story ideas from a recovered treasure at the New River Antiques Mall; and finally, there was the day that I discovered Thurmond, as if I had been the one to truly discover it.  It was an unusually warm, sunny winter day in late January.  The waters of the New River were rolling gently, and although I wasn’t sure where I was headed, I was beckoned to that spot where, if I closed my eyes, waited a few minutes, and opened them folks would magically appear, shops would be opened, and the brick pavers would not yet have been laid.  And yet, it was in that moment that I realized that as I soaked up not only the sunshine on a winter day but nature, too, in all its glory that West Virginia was truly Almost Heaven, and the spiritual world took on a whole new meaning for me.

     And so it is with sincere gratitude that I bid a deeply-fond farewell to The Eddy, a space I’ve had the distinct privilege to call home – albeit for a much-too-short time.  I bid farewell to the Peregrine Falcon – or better yet, the pear green falcon – that has stood like a sentry in the corner of my living space, assuring me that yes, indeed, I am welcomed.  The Eddy, ahh the Eddy:  “The water brings life and the river flows continuously, but every now and then, an eddy is formed.  These eddies can be respites, but more importantly they are tools used by guides to safely navigate the river.  As the water swirls and the currents pull, just as in life, we must acknowledge the experience and right ourselves for the waters ahead.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Nature of Writing

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her second contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
--Mary Oliver

. . . and this is what happens when you’re the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence.
My publisher has accepted the manuscript for my first children’s book, and my illustrator has started bringing her vision of the work to fruition, capturing each nuance of character and place.

Over the past six weeks, my cadre of readers has helped me fine-tune the manuscript.  The red light turned to yellow, then back to red, and then finally to green, and we sent it on its way.  We picked over word choice, like picking through a basket of ripe tomatoes, until the perfect one presented itself.  We spoke and spoke again and again each line of dialogue, until one six-year-old reader, Max Hartman, told us we had it right.

The journey began several years ago with a rather annoying nudge.  The more I tried to ignore it, the more it nudged.  Finally, I had to open the door and let it in.  We shook hands and agreed to take it step by step until we arrived at a spot where we both nodded in assent.

Bird by Bird, a remarkable read by Anne Lamott, derives its title from a story she shares with her readers.  Her brother, a student at the time, who was writing a research paper about birds, became overwhelmed at the sheer number of species.  His father advised:  “Take it bird by bird.”  And that’s what he did.  And that’s what we, as writers, do too.  That’s what creativity reaps.
Fayette County Treasures

As I journeyed throughout Fayette County these past weeks, capturing the unique nuances in nature, I was reminded that as West Virginians we are gifted with the ability to not only hold on to those cultural riches that have defined us in the past, but to embrace too the possibilities – the fresh possibilities and opportunities – that will define our future.  To experience and promote the uniqueness of our land, our artists (musicians, writers, painters, craftspeople, film producers, talented chefs, and persistent entrepreneurs) and all our citizenry who bring the rich flavors of our region to the table.  And let’s not forget – not for a moment – the fresh ideas of the next generation of talented West Virginians who are eager to leave their mark, as well, with their store of fresh ideas.  To introduce to the rest of the world who we are becoming, rather than who we once were.

All five senses wove their way into the fibers of my first children’s book – a story that wouldn’t leave me alone, a story that woke me in the night, a story that like The Eddy swirled in my mind until I settled, listened, and took note – in so many ways, the story mimics where we’ve been as West Virginians and where we’re going, where we hope to go, where we know those possibilities and opportunities await, if we but take notice.

. . . and this is what happens – with sheer, grateful abundance – when you’re the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer-in-Residence.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Locking Eyes with Lafayette

Editor's Note: Kathleen M. Jacobs is the 2017 New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. Kathleen was born in St. Louis and moved to West Virginia as a young girl. She received degrees from WVU-Tech and WVU Graduate College, and has worked as a teacher at the high school and college levels. Kathleen's writing has been published in various journals and periodicals. Her first book, published in 2016, is a young adult novel called "Honeysuckle Holiday," and her second book is due to be published later this year. Kathleen will be a guest of Lafayette Flats through the end of March and during her stay she plans to work on a children's book that is set in Fayette County. This is her first contribution to the Lafayette Flats blog.

"I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."  –Eudora Welty

      Having arrived at Lafayette Flats earlier this month as the 2017 New River Gorge Winter Writer’s Resident has introduced yet another “daring” moment – three months of working at my craft in a space that welcomes not only my physical presence with its warm and inviting appointments, but with a spirit that suggests its own “daring.” For it dares me to look at all things with fresh eyes: a town quite different from the thousands of Bridge Day visitors that spotted this landscape on an incredibly picture-perfect-postcard autumn day last fall to its early morning sprinkling of snowflakes that gather and will eventually carpet the streets and alleyways and mountains and grassy knolls of the Fayette County Courthouse.

     A “daring” moment, because a three-month excursion into the depths of this place called Appalachia is not something I’ve ever before experienced. A few weeks here and there and even a month spent living only with Honeysuckle Holiday’s manuscript when it was in final edits is the extent of my self-directed, dedicated writing retreats. And now that Lucy and Caroline and Grace are forever etched into the pages of my first published YA novel, I sense their whispers of encouragement and resolve, support and endearments. They are missed, but it’s time to explore this terrain that the characters of my first children’s book will travel, as I walk with them through the hills and valleys of this place I call home – a place that will become new for me once again, as it did when I first came here as a child many years ago.

     The Gateway Arch in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri sits at the site of the city’s founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 – the year before my family moved to Charlton Heights, West Virginia. In the summer of 1974 construction began on the New River Gorge Bridge. It was completed in the fall of 1977. The steel arch bridge reminds me of the Gateway Arch, and I find both a quiet zeal and a near-reverence in that single commonality. And I am anxious to begin this “daring.”

     As I gaze out the window of the Flats, my eyes and those of the Marquis de Lafayette (whose formidable stance is both certain and watchful) meet. And I am suddenly transported to a day – a sunny, warm summer day – in 1966 shortly after my family had just moved to Fayette County from St. Louis, and my sisters and I were being escorted by our parents to a Judge’s chambers to ask if we wanted our new father to adopt us. This awareness of a place so entirely different from where I had started my life was filled with excitement and adventure. And over the course of the ensuing years, it would not disappoint on any level, just as I’m confident that my time spent in a place that was so mesmerizing to me as a child, with its creeks and mountains and music and its own unique culture will once again open its doors to me now, as I rediscover these treasures from an entirely different perspective.

     Standing in front of the Marquis all these years later, surrounded by an entirely different landscape of unique treasures to explore, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and follow the Marquis’s command to move forward to the unknown, yet very familiar. Locking wide-opened eyes with Washington’s French advisor during the Revolutionary War, I read the etched words on the front plaque inscription, not feeling one bit overwhelmed, but quite in awe.