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In January I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Los Angeles for our inaugural Poets & Writers Live event, part of an exciting new initiative to bring writers together to celebrate the personal and professional connections at the heart of every writer’s community. It was inspiring, and it came at the perfect time for me: Along with the rest of the editorial team, I was putting the final touches on this, our annual Writers Retreats Issue, which explores the allure and benefits of travel, of stepping outside our comfort zone and experiencing new places, new people, new things. I didn’t experience Los Angeles the way I imagine most literary tourists do, but for me, seeing a new city, albeit from the confines of a hotel room as I prepared for our event—going over my talk on publishing, refining my remarks for a panel discussion titled Why We Write—qualified as a remarkable breath of fresh air, an invigorating adjustment to my daily schedule. I returned to New York City with a different perspective; my world had grown just a little bigger. For a writer, there is nothing more important.
Of course, my experience doesn’t even come close to some of the adventures described in Kevin Nance’s “Residencies Gone Wild: Finding Inspiration at the Ends of the Earth” (page 72). Consider the escapades of Marybeth Holleman, who kayaked alongside humpback whales on Holkham Bay as part of a residency in Alaska’s Tracy Arm–Fords Terror Wilderness. “There’s an expansiveness that happens, and you have more energy and creative thought coming into your art than you do in your daily life,” she says. “A collaboration with the place occurred, and it’s stayed with me.”
Which makes me think of a collaboration that has stayed with me. Patricia Ryan, who during her remarkable career was managing editor of People, then editor of Life, and who, along with her husband, Ray Cave, offered invaluable guidance when I was named editor five years ago, died on December 27, 2013. I will forever remember one piece of advice she shared in an e-mail, written in response to my preference (not hers) between two cover designs for our November/December 2009 issue, which ultimately featured Jonathan Lethem on a street in Brooklyn. After detailing the reasons why she favored the other cover, she added: “I love the youth and everyman feel that Lethem in his environment portrays. Don’t ever lose these instincts, Kevin. You have to go with your gut.”
As writers, we would all do well to remember those words.