Residency? by Ken Waldman

Inspired by a friend who applied for, and received, a three-month internship at a honeybee sanctuary during the pandemic, in early 2021 I applied for more than a dozen writing residencies. Like so many other submissions, this was mostly met with rejection. But also like so much of this work, putting in an initial effort leads to results, though not necessarily those originally envisioned.

May, 2021 I spent two weeks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, ( I didn’t receive the all-expense-paid residency I sought, but was invited to come at half-price. It was an easy decision since half-price was the same rent I’d be paying otherwise, and Arkansas was en route to an event I’d be doing in Colorado.

At any one time at the Writers’ Colony, there might be a half dozen others on site. Week nights we enjoyed communal dinners. For our other meals we could scavenge the well-stocked kitchen. Eureka Springs is a small-town Ozark gem, and is completely walkable from our residency lodgings. In my two weeks, I started the ninth in my ongoing Trump Sonnets series (finishing nearly 40 new sonnets) and wrote a short essay that’s already been published in an anthology of music gigs gone bad. Since attending, I’ve become part of the Writers’ Colony community, which has not only meant volunteering to judge potential residency fellowships, but submitting to the organization’s online journal eMerge. The link ( gets to my acrostic poem in memory of the late 49 Writers board member, Frank Soos.

In January, 2022, I spent a week in Butte, Montana at Dear Butte (, a residency founded by songwriter, singer, guitarist (and former Alaskan), Christy Hays. An Austin musician pal, Beth Chrisman, a former Fairbanksan, alerted me to this opportunity. Dear Butte is a sweet little cottage next door to Christy’s own house. Originally rejected, I was invited to come when there was a January cancellation. Since I had another January commitment in Montana, it was easy for me to take advantage of the space, which was a ten-minute stroll to downtown Butte. In addition to the accommodations, I was expected to do a public event—my week I led a writing workshop followed by a solo show—and visit Christy’s program on the local community radio station. The creative highlight of the week was composing The Dear Butte Waltz on fiddle, and writing a poem to accompany it—and sharing them there in Butte.

May 2023, I was invited to spend three weeks in southwest Colorado after meeting the director of the Cortez Cultural Center at an arts conference in New York City. There was a house to stay at for this informal make-of-it-what-I-would residency, and I was encouraged to apply to a more formal residency at Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve and Education Center, twenty-five minutes away, outside Mancos, Colorado ( The week at Willowtail Springs was the highlight of my time in the region. Holed up in a beautiful high desert space, I had the time to go through my 2022 novel, Now Entering Alaska Time, published by Cyberwit Press out of India, and prepare for its North American edition (Ridgeway Press, 2023). I’d needed three or four completely uninterrupted days for this task, and at Willowtail Springs I’d finally found it—and made a few choice edits, plus fixed the typos that had resisted the best efforts of the initial publisher and myself. Without that particular dedicated space at that particular dedicated time, I’m not sure how exactly I’d have gotten the new edition of the novel published as quickly or effectively.

December, 2023, I spent the entire month in Fairhope, Alabama, at the Wolff Cottage ( I’d been invited soon after I applied in early 2021, but the pandemic had played havoc with their schedule. My own touring meant I could only come in December. When 2022 didn’t work, I had to wait until the end of 2023. The cottage is steps from the downtown Fairhope library, where mid-month the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts sponsors a reception for each visiting writer. The full month meant I could dedicate the first week taking care of essential other business, the final days preparing to re-enter my life as a touring artist, and had a few weeks in the middle to go deeply into the work.

The project I started at the residency in Arkansas two and a half years earlier, which I’d barely touched since, came to fruition as I wrote the remaining 90+ sonnets to finish a draft. I also had time to finally begin the next stage of another ongoing project, three collections of acrostic poems: one for young readers, one for young adult readers, and one for general readers (the Frank Soos poem is one of those). After writing all those new Trump-related sonnets, it was a joy to go through old files of acrostics, and see how they could fit into full-length collections for various readers. I also played fiddle daily, and had time to read books by former Wolff Cottage residents. There, as at the prior residencies, I donated some of my own work to the shelves. I loved my month, and wished I had a year.

What does it say, too, that I meant to write this essay before I left Fairhope, but didn’t get to it—and that it’s now taken more than two months to find the proper hours to draft this? This morning, Sunday, March 10, I’m in Colorado Springs. A week ago, Duluth. Two weeks ago, Kansas City. Three weeks ago, Austin. Next Sunday I’ll be in Salt Lake City. A month from today, April 10, I’ll be flying from Seattle to Juneau. I may be peripatetic. You reading this have your own busyness, and clutter. It can be hard to find a time and place to get started, or to continue, or to finish. Sometimes a residency is an answer.

Want to learn more? The Artist Communities Alliance website is a reasonable resource:


Ken Waldman has drawn on 38 years as an Alaska resident to produce poems, stories, and fiddle tunes that combine into a performance uniquely his. 12 CDs mix Appalachian-style string-band music with original poetry. 20 books include 16 poetry collections, a memoir, a children’s book, a creative writing manual, and a novel. Since 1995 he’s toured full-time, performing at leading festivals, concert series, arts centers, and clubs. He’s looking forward to his three-month spring and early summer 2024 tour in state—coming to some communities he hasn’t been in decades, or ever—with his recent novel, Now Entering Alaska Time.

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