And One Thing to Avoid
Work on the novel your agent probably didn’t want you to work on. The one she said might need substantial edits to get it publishable. Put your all into this novel, both out of faith and out of spite. Change the setting to be where your residency is. Change the characters to fit the people around you. Research the flowers (forget-me-nots, fireweed, lupins). Take pictures of the grasses and trees, writing about each leaf in detail, how the prickly Sitka spruces rage at skin, how the sage brings multi-colored butterflies to your porch. Write every excursion into your novel. Make fact fiction and vice versa.
Make friends with the animals who are guests at your residency. Especially the dogs. Herd them into a group and lead them, with a singsong voice, to the river. Toss rocks to them once they wade into the glacial runoff, watching as they bite at the air, missing their target every time. Bite-miss-bite-miss. Encourage the oldest of the dogs to play, even if the half wolf in her can never fully understand the meaning of that word, even though her eye-paw coordination is rapidly fading. Toss them sticks. Sit on the tree stumps and watch them fling water from their coats, the Alaskan mountains rising behind them, cold clouds obscuring the snow-capped peaks.
Go to town once a week. In town, there are salmon burgers and salmon chowder, Alaskan fried dough, a marijuana dispensary, a brewing company, a saloon. Take pictures of the old railroad tracks and wagons, wheels turning to dust, weeds springing up around the rotting wood. Walk the entire length of the small town in heeled boots, then stretch out on the wooden sidewalk when you get a cramp. Ferry yourself over a footbridge to the side of a mountain where your residency host hustles you up a path several dozen feet high in your flip flops. Enjoy the view. Take pictures. Write the excursion into your book.
Provide helpful services to your residency hosts. Refill the birdfeeder outside your cabin window, shooing away the…