Where Big Books Are Born: Stephan Eirik Clark on the Anderson Center

by
Stephan Eirik Clark
2.14.18

Most writers think of a writers residency as a place where they can dedicate themselves to their work without interruption. (Or in my case, to write like a bachelor again.) But residencies are also places where your work is introduced to others. At the Anderson Center, that didn’t mean just the five other artists who were staying on the grounds at the same time as me. The publisher of an independent press had helped screen residency applicants, and before I could even travel to Red Wing to begin my monthlong stay there, she reached out by e-mail to compliment me on my writing sample and inquire about my novel-in-progress. I’d completed a first draft of that book two years prior, and though several agents had praised it, none had been willing to make me an offer of representation. Only once I got to the Anderson Center was I ready to give up on that draft and begin a new one. I came to the residency with a plan to restructure the novel’s story. One agent had remarked that the flashbacks in it disrupted the momentum, giving the reader a push-pull experience. I’d secretly feared as much myself, so I spent my days untangling the narrative and delivering it in a more straightforward way. I completed this work on the last day of my residency and a few months later shared the novel with the publisher who’d read my application. Impressed by its first seventy-five pages, she agreed to recommend me to a handful of agents, one of whom took me on as a client a week later and represented me through the sale of Sweetness #9.

Anderson Center: Two- and four-week residencies from May through October for poets, fiction writers, creative nonfiction writers, and translators on a 330-acre estate in Red Wing, Minnesota. Residents are provided with lodging, studio space, and meals. Next deadline: February 15. Anderson Center Residency Program, P.O. Box 406, Red Wing, MN 55066. (651) 388-2009. www.andersoncenter.org (Credit: Augsburg College)

Three Points of Productivity:
1. Quiet time outside of daily prepared dinners.
2. Close proximity to home for visits from my family.
3. Access to mountain bikes and the adjacent Cannon Valley Trail.

 

Stephan Eirik Clark is the author of two books, including the novel Sweetness #9, published by Little, Brown in 2014.