April Blog: Made At MacDowell Part I


Sitting in my Boston hotel I’ve less than 24 hours before I take that transatlantic flight back home. As per my usual modus operandi I’ve left my monthly blog until the eleventh hour and although I know there’s no one waiting with bated breath for me to hit the publish button, I’d hate to miss a month. I did toy with waiting until I got home and backdating my post but that’s not how I do things. Why take the easy route when you can torture yourself?

Since my last blog post a lot has happened, both good and bad. After much anticipation, and some trepidation, I got to The MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. Located just outside the quaint and picturesque New England town of Peterborough, MacDowell has over 30 studios spread across an old farm and woodland. I arrived in the early evening and collected my information pack and keys from their designated place in my mail slot at Colony Hall, the main hub of MacDowell. Whilst en route from Logan Airport my lovely driver Dan spoke of one of the amazing studios and when I showed him the map in my pack at Colony Hall he raised his eyebrows and smiled. “I think you lucked out”. Not a bad start.

Calderwood Studio (named for Stanford Calderwood) was to be my home for the next four weeks however I had no idea at the time how well we would become acquainted. I was expecting my studio to be a somewhat rickety old hut in the wood, lovely but drafty and perhaps a little Dickensian in nature. What I got was a beautiful log cabin with underfloor heating, a bath overlooking a meadow and woods, and an incredible view of nature and all her creations.


Prior to leaving Ireland I had done some unintentional self-reflection on my work (as discussed in my March Blog) and I carried some of this introspection with me to the States. I wasn’t actively doing anything but it was an unconscious process that I only became aware of after a few days. My issue was this: I was in a wonderful studio in a stunning location with lots of lovely people but I just couldn’t settle in. I felt at odds with the place and began to wreck my head as to why this was. I knew it was a me thing rather than a MacDowell thing but I was still a little perplexed by it.

As my first week progressed I was grateful that at least I was getting some writing done and there were lots of interesting and lovely people to chat to over dinner. Through this I realised something; everyone was singing the praises for MacDowell, and rightly so, but speaking to people one-to-one it became clear that there was a definite settling in period. Phew; it wasn’t just me. It’s not just the physical change and the new routine to get used to but it also brings you face to face with your work. This raises a lot of questions. Why am I doing this? Is my work good enough. Am I good enough? I got some great advice from the lovely and talented Misha Rai as she was waiting for her laundry and I was on my way from Colony Hall to the library: don’t read the bios. It was slightly too late to take on board but it made perfect sense. Don’t compare yourself to other colonists. As soon as I knew what I was doing the penny dropped. More importantly, knowing that I wasn’t alone in doing so helped me immeasurably.

With a changed point of view (ahem, one of the very reasons I was at MacDowell in the first place was to continue my novel Attrition with a new PoV) I really began to get into the swing of things. Being there had a whole new vibe and I was genuinely enjoying it. My writing was progressing, albeit not as much as I’d hoped, but I recognised that I had too great an expectation on myself so I readjusted my daily writing goals. I had turned a corner in my settling-in process and all was well with the world. Then this happened…

On April 9th I broke the 5th metatarsal in my left foot and things took a distinctly Stephen King twist. I was in New England after all. Calderwood studio, as lovely as it is (and thankfully mobility accessible) took on slightly different feel when I couldn’t just walk out the door whenever I wanted to. Cock-a-doodie indeed.

kathy bates misery
Okay; this clam chowdah ain’t gonna eat itself. I’ll continue Made At MacDowell next month and I think having some time to process everything and being back at home will give me a new perspective on things. Stay tuned…


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