Nan Kavanaugh is an award-winning magazine editor and writer based in Jacksonville, Florida. She is an eighth generation Floridian with a deep appreciation for the wonderfully, strange mire of the Sunshine State. She is currently working on a novel that explores the lingering ghost of the Confederacy on the South and its affects on current white American identity.
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
The retreat provided me exactly what I needed. A beautiful, peaceful place to hunker down and get to work. It exceeded my expectations in allowing me that sanctuary for creative space.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
The flash floods! While I was in Napa, I witnessed record rains and it made my stay unexpectedly adventurous. That and not having strong cell service. That provided a wonderful barrier to unwanted distraction.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
Starting my day sitting outside on my little patio with a cup of coffee, breakfast and my work. Those quiet mornings, listening to the world wake up and watching the mist clear from the fields was as meditative as it was productive work time for me.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
I am working on a novel that has an agricultural setting, only it is set in the borderlands of Florida and Georgia. That region is very swampy and wet, and Napa was in the same state with the rain season saturating the land. I spent time walking and thinking about the sponginess of the earth under my feet in the fields, mitigating natural ebbs of weather and was able to transfer those details into my novel.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I set a goal of 10 pages a day. I would not leave the vineyard or visit the tasting room until I reached that goal. I would start at 9 and usually have met my goal by 2 or 3 pm. I cranked out close to 40 pages in three days.
No one can write 24 hours a day! What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
I was thrilled to be near Healdsburg, which is my favorite town in wine country! Every day, once I met my writing goal I would head to town and explore. The first day I went to the grocery story and bought a supply of farm fresh eggs, fruits, veggies, cheese and charcuterie to make breakfast and lunch while I worked. I explored Healdsburg, had some fabulous dinners out, met other travelers and stumbled upon a jazz festival one night. I went hiking in the redwoods and explored nearby towns. I ended each day with adventure, celebrating my work ethic in meeting my writing goals.
Any tips or advice you think might be helpful for future residency applicants?
Set a goal for each day and work until you meet it. I didn't come in with an outline or a plan other than 10 pages a day. They were not the best 10 pages a day, but I sat and I wrote until I hit that number and then moved forward the next day.
Any other comments, impressions, and surprises about the retreat you wish to convey?
It was awesome.