Guest Post by Marianne Villanueva
Writer-in-residence at Mendocino Art Center
Marianne Villanueva writes everything from science fiction to prose poetry. Her short story collections are Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila (Calyx Press), Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press), and the Lost Language (Anvil Press of the Philippines). Her novella, "Jenalyn," was a finalist for the 2014 Saboteur Awards. Her work has appeared in a wide range of magazines which include The Threepenny Review, ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, the New Orleans Review, Rhino, Pank, Your Impossible Voice, the Crab Orchard Review, and J Journal. She teaches on-line for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
It’s an old Buddhist saying.
Or perhaps it’s something I picked up in grad school from one of my Chinese philosophy professors: David Nivison, perhaps.
All I know is: my months as writer-in-residence at the Mendocino Art Center have flown by. And I feel as if I only arrived yesterday.
I feel as if I’ve just managed to haul my desktop up those narrow wooden stairs, I’ve only just discovered what a plentiful array of good food is to be had within five blocks my apartment, I’ve only just crossed the street to chat with a volunteer at the Mendocino Community Library, I’ve only just discovered Janet Self and Odd Fellows Hall, I’ve only just discovered the gull kites in front of the Ford House Visitor Center, I’ve only just met Christie and dropped off my books to be sold at consignment at Gallery Bookshop, I’ve just bought the prettiest grey dress EVER from The Great Put-On on Albion, I’ve just tried my first loaf of warm-from-the-oven bread from Café Beaujolais, I’ve just met Karen Bowers and Lindsey and Jewels and Kim Thoman and Mary Ellen Campbell and Pavlo Mayakis and Mitch Iberg and Jessie and Havana and Mimi and Vicki from Corners of the Mouth (Her partner, I just found out yesterday, did a documentary on the Albany Bulb that’s part of a film festival at SoMarts Gallery, “Refuse and Refuge.”) I’ve just read Maureen Eppstein’s Earthward and I’ve just discovered the jaw-dropping views in Elk.
I’ve just started doing a myriad of new things: I’ve just started pondering where my science fiction is going, where my new collection-in-progress is going, where that novel about an 18th-century Spanish priest assigned to a Philippine island is going, and where I should be applying for my next residencies.
I have spent the past month indulging in two of a writer’s most precious luxuries: community and solitude. Community because I’m usually the odd fish left gasping for air in a room full of 9-to-five workers who think what I do is read e-mails all day. Or blog. (HA!) And now suddenly everyone or almost everyone I speak to is an artist.
Solitude because there is no reason in the world that demands I step out of my apartment, not even for a single moment -- not if my fridge has food, and if I still have fresh coffee. I’ve discovered the thrill of spending day after day in my pajamas. And that thrill has made it possible for my imagination to grow and stretch in all directions.
I should have come sooner. September. October. Sooner.
Because now I have to leave. I have to go to my next engagement, which is in New Hampshire. A good friend wrote an orchestral arrangement for an opera we collaborated on, an opera about a 17-year-old mail-order bride from the Philippines. My friend Drew Hemenger got the Hampshire Symphony to perform the world premiere of the Marife Suite. It’s being performed on March 14. So of course that means I can’t be in Mendocino in March.
I can’t come back in April because I have to be somewhere else in April (a writer’s conference, AWP, among other things)
I could try to come back in May but the artists I’ve met will be leaving (Almost everyone else came in September).
Besides -- Mendocino in the summer? When it’s probably full of tourists from out-of-state? When there are no gale force winds to give me excuses to stay inside all day? When it will be all too easy to spend all my time outdoors, instead of feeling as I do now -- feeling smart and even oh-so-smug for deciding to stay curled up in bed, reading?
No, I’ll just have to be happy with the two months I got here.
And know that I was so ready. In ways I didn’t even realize.
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