Monday, August 13, 2012

Writers' Residence, Last Week, Day One

This is the start of my last week here at Lavigny. A glimpse of our days:

In the morning we walk alone in the cool air, in the evening, together, through vineyards and orchards, past shorn golden fields, inhaling the damp smell of earth and the light perfume of pesticides. In between, we work in our separate rooms in the deep quiet of the chateau.

At 7:00, we gather on the terrace for a glass of white wine from the very vineyards we have been walking through. (Try not to think of the pesticides.)

After dinner we work or read or talk. The night before our public reading, we spill over several tables, pruning translations, grooming our texts. It is quietly thrilling to be at work with people who will argue the merits of the word "gathering" over the word "collecting," and then change their minds and argue the reverse.  

Later we argue over an epigram by Goethe. Does the fact that it is (apparently, in German) beautifully phrased excuse the fact he says you can "use" a girl as you would a boy? (Our first night here, we discussed whether you could be an asshole and a good writer. There is ample evidence that these are not mutually exclusive occupations.) 

My goal for this last week is to write the last two chapters of my novel. Already I am pulling it apart in my head, preparing for the second draft. This has been a very good place to write and think. When I get stuck, I lift my head and listen: aside from the rhythmic cooing of doves and the wind in the sycamore tree, I can hear the other writers working.  They don't make any noise, but their silence hums. That's how I know they are writing.

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