Dear 49 Writers Friend,
October comes later to Toronto than to Alaska, thank goodness, and this week it's unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the high 60s/low 70s, comfortable enough for quick dips from the sandy shore of Lake Ontario, just outside my door at an artists' residency called Artscape Gibraltar Point, on an island just off the city harbor. That's right--an island! It's a pedestrian-friendly, no car-community, 15 minutes by ferry from downtown. An old school was turned into a short-term artists' live/workspace with simple dorm-style rooms, working studios, and a communal kitchen. Applying was easy and the daily rate is very, very cheap, making this a halfway compromise between going your own way (as I've done, at a fabulous pay-to-stay residency called The Porches in Virginia) and going somewhere that charges nothing but excludes many by being well-known and highly competitive.
It's thanks to this community--including posts by Nancy Lord--that I first discovered the wealth of writers' residencies. And it's thanks to 49 Writers member Lucian Childs that I learned about this mostly unknown Canadian gem of a place. You can find a residency application, map and other details online. But my favorite surprises were these:
*The art center has its own small garden, and just at the end of growing season, there are still lettuces, tomatoes, basil and many other herbs to pick and use, no charge.
*The car-less community is ideal for walking, running, and cycling (bikes here to rent). The island is small--just over a mile to one end, location of the ferry terminal, and about 2.5 miles to the other island, where there is a café I'll be visiting this afternoon. Writer's block is easier to deal with when there is beachfront and pedestrian-friendly roads for strolling.
*Unlike some residencies, this one is casual and open to bringing one family member or visitor, either free or for a small charge, depending on how long that visitor stays. My daughter will be here for 3 nights; later in my stay, my husband will come for a day.
And one thing I did know before I came: There is a lighthouse here, the oldest on the Great Lakes, that is reputed to be haunted. The first lighthouse keeper, in the mid-1800s, was murdered, perhaps by bootleggers. Sounds like a story-starter for some enterprising writer. As for me, I'll focus on my novel-in-progress and try not to get the creeps.
Summer is busy here. Late spring and early fall have all the benefits of summer weather without lots of tourists or too much competition for studio slots. This is a wonderful secret for Alaskan writers to share!
Happy writing and travels,