Kara Levy is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University and was a recent Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. Her work appears in such places as Mississippi Review Prize Stories, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Golden State, Drunken Boat, 30: The Mississippi Review Thirty Year Anthology, and Narrative Magazine, where she was a winner of the 30Below Prize for writers under 30. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize special mention and a residency from Hedgebrook, Kara lives in San Francisco, where she is finishing a novel.
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
The retreat was not only very productive, but also very relaxing -- by far more than I could have hoped for from any typical writing week or any vacation! It was the perfect combination of solitary writing time, laid-back atmosphere, and friendly new people.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
I was surprised by how much I could accomplish when nothing else was expected of me. I was able to complete an entire story draft, start to finish, in just four days. (Usually it will take me months; once it even took more than a year!)
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
It had been a while since I'd had unencumbered time to write, and the feeling of being able to work without any other obligations was phenomenal. I also loved chatting with the winery staff and getting to know their stories.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
I think just being in a beautiful setting, so removed from your day-to-day, relaxes you into thinking more creatively. The area right around Moshin is one of my favorite parts of the whole country, so being there felt comfortable, but also far enough from life, laundry, and freelance deadlines to let me really focus on fiction.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I was at a pause point on my novel during the time I was on the retreat, so I wrote a new short story while I was in residence.
What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
I would wake up and write from about 7 am, then usually broke for a waddle around the vineyard at about 3 pm -- I was 9 months pregnant while in residence, I should add here! Afterward, around 4, I'd stop by the tasting room to chat with the winery staff. I'd go back to work for an hour or two and then drive into Forestville, Guerneville, or Healdsburg for some kind of dinner. Pretty luxurious!
Any tips or advice you think might be helpful for future residency applicants?
I think it can be overwhelming to find yourself suddenly unfettered, free to write, with a blank page before you. I'd encourage future residency applicants to have a clear idea of their project before envisioning their residency.
Can you sum up your experience in eight to ten words?
The gift of creative freedom for fiction, wine, and excellent conversation.