Gabriela Garcia is a fiction writer and poet. Her novel Of Women and Salt is forthcoming from Ecco/HarperCollins, and her short stories and poems appear in Best American Poetry, Tin House, Zyzzyva, Iowa Review, The Believer, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. She is a winner of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a Steinbeck Fellowship from San Jose State University. She has also received residencies and fellowships from Breadloaf, Sarabande Books, Lighthouse Works, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. She has an MFA in fiction from Purdue.
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
It exceeded them! Everyone at the Keller Estate was so helpful, kind, and lovely.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
I had come planning to work on my novel, which I did, but I also wrote poems and essays that took me down a completely unexpected writing path.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
I loved the routine I settled into—waking up early (thank you jet lag!) and cooking eggs fresh from the Keller Estate hens, then writing in the lovely garden with a glass of wine until afternoon, when I’d head off to explore and eat my way through Sonoma.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
The gorgeous, relaxing setting and hours of quiet gave me so much space to think and go deeper into characters and ideas. I think that’s why I ended up in unexpected places with my writing—I don’t think the poems and essay I wrote could have occurred to me in my usual setting.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I finished a chapter of my novel and wrote a couple poems and started an essay!
What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
A lot of easy hiking in the redwoods and Bodega Bay. Reading by the beach. Eating, eating, eating—Sonoma has amazing food!
Did you participate in any activities or events arranged by the host winery? If so please elaborate.
The Keller Estate offered a beautiful tour and tasting on my last day, which was a perfect send off. I also loved participating in a reading at Mohshin Vineyard with other residents on my first night.
If your retreat was a co-residency do you have any advice or tips for future applicants that wish to apply and work together?
It’s helpful to define how you’d like to work together before the retreat—whether you’ll be collaborating or working on individual projects, whether you’d like to write together or do your own thing. It’s helpful to both come in with the same expectations about how you’ll interact throughout the residency.
Can you sum up your experience in ten words or less?
Nature, wine, writing, wine, eating, wine…