Maria T. Allocco
Maria T. Allocco is a Voices of Our Nation alum and was an Academy of American Poets Prize winner by age twenty. Her work has been featured on KPFA and Mutiny Radio, and has appeared in Fusion Magazine, Lantern Review, Monday Night, Sparkle and Blink, and in the revolutionary new book Pariahs: Writing From Outside The Margins. She’s a co-founder of the first mixed race meditation group in the bay area, teaches yoga to at-risk youth, and lives by the edge of the sea, in San Francisco. Visit her at: writetoheal.us
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
Writing Between The Vines exceeded any expectations. I felt a beautiful balance between freedom to write, and engagement in activities that made me feel welcomed and honored as a writer.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
I was amazed by the commercial winemaking facilities. Tim, our guide, took us on a behind-the-scenes tour; we ooh-ed, ahh-ed and giggled past enormous metal containers full of wine, a bottle-packing plant, and hundreds of oak barrels stacked to the ceiling.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
Our cottage had one white bike and one black bike; I rode one through cool rain one day, and another up and down a sunny nature trail. That day the air was the perfect temperature. All along the way were little places to sit and write. Wooden benches looked out to the green hills, or sat tucked away under low-hanging branches. Two enormous trees stood at the very end of the trail, carved out by lightening and bleached by the sun. Inside one was just enough space to sit, and inside the other was a smooth stump of another tree: the perfect writing spot.
We also celebrated a birthday amongst us writers, right in the middle of our retreat. That day we lunched at the cottage, went on a tour of wine caves, had fondue for dinner, and celebrated our dear friend, Faith.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing?
Yes, I felt inspired; I felt filled with beauty and gratitude. That for me is the best place to create from.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I worked on three literary visual art pieces for a gallery show with the Global Arts Project (GAP) for the San Francisco International Art Festival this May. One was a flash fiction piece, another an interactive piece, and the third, a visual language-based piece.
What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
We ate at an Afghani spot, scored pretty well at a pub Trivia night (even though we started mid-way), indulged in birthday cake from a local bakery, and played a memorable game of Bananagrams.
Did you participate in any activities or events arranged by the host winery?
In addition to two wine tours and tastings, we were treated to a lovely dinner at the Wente Restaurant. We split three – yes, three desserts – including scoops of tamarind, dark chocolate and passion fruit sorbet. Plus, I ordered seared scallops. Muah! We felt like queens.
Do you have any advice or tips for future applicants that wish to apply for a co-residency and work together?
Our group Mixed Writes incorporates group meditation into our meetings. So, we decided to plan a time each day to come together for meditation. It was nice to have the option to sit together in the morning. I’d recommend allowing plenty of space for freedom, as it is necessary to write, balanced with intentional time together.
Any other comments, impressions, and surprises about the retreat you wish to convey?
Two specially chosen bottles of Estate Cabernet and Chardonnay were waiting for us upon arrival. There were many beautiful little details such as this that made our time at the cottage so special. It was also helpful to have Jen, the events coordinator at Wente Winery taking care of us while we were there. Much gratitude goes out to the organizers at both Wente Winery and Writing Between the Vines.