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I never used to be a vacation kind of guy, not really. I recall, with no small amount of regret, how at the delightful age of fifteen I resisted my mom’s invitation to accompany her to nearby Door County, Wisconsin, for a vacation of mother-son bonding (no matter how badly I may have needed that connection at the time). I don’t think it was just adolescent angst that accounted for my waning enthusiasm for vacations. It may have been the midwestern practicality that was etched into my psyche as a youngster (“What are you, crazy? Who’s gonna feed the cows while we’re gone?”) or perhaps the flat farmland, which so thoroughly captured my imagination that I didn’t see the appeal of the sandy beaches or mountaintops that tend to figure prominently in fun-filled itineraries. Whatever the reason, only relatively recently has the escape to more relaxing, or occasionally more exciting, environs begun to appeal to me. Surely this is due in no small part to my two adventuresome kids: The son is now a father.
I’ve also started to recognize the value of expanding one’s writing community. While I spent my formative years as a poet alone in the stereotypical garret (in my case, a studio apartment in college), I eventually stepped out into the sunshine with a desire to talk to and learn from others about literature and creative writing—the art and its place not just in my life but in the lives of us all. I suspect I’m not alone in having experienced this gradual transformation, which is why I’m eager to share the contents of this issue. As writers we do most of our work in the privacy of our own minds, but at some point all of us need to take a vacation—a working vacation—in order to recharge the batteries and open our minds to new perspectives, new experiences, and new landscapes. It need not be a long or expensive trip: Check out “The United States of Writing Vacations” (page 66) for a quick look at just how many opportunities are out there, many of them less than a day’s travel away. But if you have something a little more exotic in mind—a month in Ménerbes, France, anyone?—consider our “International Itinerary” suggestions (59).
I hope this magazine, and especially our section on writers conferences and residencies, illustrates the importance of the writing community to which we all belong. Whether we realize it or not, we all need that kind of connection.