On My First Writing Residency
MWL DIARY #1 on my first writing residency in November 2019 with Sangam House
This time last year, I was going through a whirlwind of change. Weeks before the holidays, my bank account was hacked and I lost all of my money. This amidst the news that I was accepted into my first ever writing residency at Sangam House in Bengaluru, India.
“How did you get into my first residency?”
For all of 2019, I made it a habit to apply to as many things as possible. This led me to newsletters, like StudyHallz, following Twitter pages like @WritersOfColor, and saving a lot of applications to a Google Doc. Then in the Google Doc, I sort the applications by the month of the year that they are due in, include any incentives the opportunity offers, and how much the application fee is. I also might bold the opportunities that I’m really excited about.
For Sangam House, I was in the middle of a bunch of applications, and in all honesty, I applied in an evening when I filled about maybe for other applications. By the time I got the acceptance, I thought, “Where is this residency again?”
“How was it traveling all the way to India?”
My total travel time to India was about 20 hours. I’ve done other trips abroad, so this was somewhat manageable to me. I prepped my snacks, got my visa, packed my books, and went on my way. The whole trip to Bengaluru, I kept thinking, “Look how far words have taken me.”
Then I arrived…
Each writer got our own room and bathroom. The living spaces, such as the kitchen, living room, dining room, and outdoor balconies, were shared. My room was really modern with lots of shelving, a glass shower, and even a first-floor balcony that I had to myself.
“What did you do for a whole month?”
I got to know the other writers. We ate dinner together every night and talked about the work that we did (or didn’t get around to that day). Sometimes we walked around the neighborhood together, bought whiskey, and read to each other late at night. It was these moments - being in another part of the world and connecting with others about art that kicked my writing into overdrive.
By the end of my time at Sangam House, I also did my first writer talk at the Bangalore International Cultural Center. I wrote two essays for publication; one of which earned me my literary agent and finished 70% of my memoir’s rough manuscript. And even started writing my first feature-length screenplay.
“What did you learn?”
I learned to apply to opportunities widely because we are not always the best judge of our own skills.
Try to stay organized while applying to things. Write down when the deadline is , when applicants are expected to hear back, and get moving on other work.
Keep your application materials organized and backed up. An artist statement from one application may be applicable to another application.
Dive in! Be earnest! And talk to other residents. Half of the worth of a residency with other writers is that you get to network.
Take time to rest and enjoy your environment when you can.