The Writing Life


When I opened an email in mid-December, I felt like people probably do when they learn they’ve just won the lottery, utter shock. “Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into Ragdale’s Residency Program for the Winter/Spring Session of 2014.”  My euphoria was soon followed by a middle-of-the night uh,oh – what am I going to do with such good fortune? A whole month with nothing to do but write? Could I do it?  Do the thing I craved yet had hardly ever let myself imagine? 

When I told people about the residency, I always added – “and they feed you!”  – as if this was the best part; not the room of my own, the focused time, the small community of 8 writers, 4 artists, and 1 musician, not the 50 acres of prairie with its meandRagdaleering paths on which the Ragdale estate is built, not the comfortable country elegance of an artist-craftsman era house.  No, it was the food:  a kitchen stocked with my food preferences in mind, a guarantee of well-prepared communal dinners each evening with the other residents.  Somehow this fact symbolized everything that awaited – a deeply nurturing experience with my very own cloister, tailored to my specific needs, with no expectations except that I take advantage of the time and space to nurture my writing. 

Driving past the jaw-dropping country estates that line Green Bay Road, in Lake Forest, Illinois, a left turn took us to Ragdale.  Designed and built as a summer house in 1897 by a well-known Chicago architect, the building and grounds were instantly welcoming – a generously proportioned dark beam and warm white stucco with gray slate shingles, that looks almost exactly as the early 1900’s photographs show; two stories, two roof peaks, an inset porch with columns –a non-imposing Craftsman style dwelling.  The circle in front of the house is home to a granite sculpture of two lambs made by the architect’s daughter.

Upon arrival, I was shown my room, which brought me to tears.  The eponymous, Top of the Stairs, on the second floor had originally been a nursery.  With a cozy, sloping timbered ceiling, William Morris inspired wallpaper, a window seat, a comfy double bed, and a full bathroom, what more could I want?  A screened in sleeping porch!  O.K. it’s not quite April and still quite chilly, but I am sure I will use this. My room

Patricia Hampl, in her memoir, Virgin Time, writes: “Strange, the rooms that strike one as perfect. They needn’t be beautiful, but they must somehow register, touch a core of harmony. A room, after all is an interior: it speaks to the inner self.”

11 Responses to The Writing Life

  1. MT Cozzola April 9, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    Lovely post! And I loved reading about your work. More, please!

  2. Arline Saturdayborn April 9, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Write on!!

  3. Jackie April 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Sounds simply perfect. Thank you for inviting us in.

  4. Nora Jamieson April 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Thank you Patricia, for letting us live vicariously the residence experience, the “room of your own” where there are few distractions and good food. I love knowing where you are. May your time be deep and fruitful for you and the work. Enjoy that sleeping porch. Blessed wandering.


  5. Helen Warren April 11, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    How precious and reflective of you. Wishes for a nourishing and inspiring time!! Blessings!

  6. Sheila April 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Sounds like you are journeying on a mothership…..Your room a dreamy berth and the sleeping porch a deck. May the seas be full of phosphorescents and mermen. Write on.
    Love to you,

  7. Marcia Jamrog April 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    You will be such a great blogger, I’m thrilled to know you are doing this, and that I can look in on your process from my perch here in Lincolnville. Go, girl, GO! Big hugs, M

  8. Barbara Nicholson April 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    It sounds so lovely Patricia thank you for telling me about it. love Barbara

  9. Kathleen Fitzgerald April 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm #


    Just as I imagined! Your writings bring such excitement in the adventure of uncovering such beauty and immense happiness for me in knowing that you are capturing every moment!

    I’m sending you much love.

  10. Monique April 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Patrica, thank you for inviting me to share your residency experience. And how technically savvy you are to post a blog and with pictures!!!

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