Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. My work has appeared in Racked, Femsplain, and Rum Punch Press, among other places. You can find more of her work at elysehauser.com.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
The level of focus I maintained over the course of my stay. With no interruptions or distractions, I was able to stay in my flow state for days - something that never happens at home.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
Surprisingly, the solitude. When I’m at home in Seattle, I’m always surrounded by people: roommates, friends, coworkers. I thought I would miss it, but I actually loved having time by myself. There were two full days of the residency where I didn’t even leave my lodgings - I just stayed in and wrote.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
I tend to spend a significant portion of my drafting and editing process staring out the window - really! My mind needs time to sort and process ideas while my eyes zone out. So having a different, and stunning, view for my eyes to unwind on surely afforded some subconscious inspiration.
What other activities did you do during the retreat—any hiking, or exploring the local area?
I slept more than usual, read some David Foster Wallace, took a couple of baths, went on a hike, made some fires in the fireplace, and tasted quite a few wines. Most of these activities were part of the necessary recharging periods between writing projects, but I kept them as short as possible. I really wanted to maximize my writing time while I was there. I’m going to have to plan another visit to the Okanagan Valley to explore all the other things the area has to offer!
Did you participate in any activities or events arranged by the host winery?
Nothing formal, but I did go on the hike winery staff suggested, and took the self-guided winery tour on my last day there. Staff was very welcoming and open to giving me ideas for entertainment, but I liked having an open schedule free of pre-arranged activities so I could write as much as I wanted.
Any tips or advice you think might be helpful for future residency applicants?
Although I worked much harder than I had planned to, I think it’s important to take full advantage of the writing time a residency like this affords. Make space for relaxation and fun, but remember: you are there to put words on paper.
Any other comments, impressions, and surprises about the retreat you wish to convey?
The Okanagan Valley itself is such a unique place. I never knew it existed before this retreat, even though I live just a six-hour drive away. I loved learning about the wine growing region, the unusual climate, and the geological and historical factors that make the valley what it is today. I look forward to coming back to visit with even more time to explore the area.