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A Week in the Writers Coop

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I was completely unsure what to expect when Erin Elizabeth Smith offered me the chance to test out the new Writer’s Coop at the Sundress Academy for the Arts at Firefly Farms.  I had been to several events at the farm itself, and, like most who stay at the farm, I was charmed by the colorful murals of mermaids, flowers, and Sylvia Plath, the shelves full of chapbooks, and, of course, the friendly animals (Jayne, the enormous resident donkey and professional selfie-taker in particular).  Though Erin warned me that the coop was still something of a work-in-progress and part of my job was to identify what still needed to be done, I arrived at Firefly Farms with high hopes of a good time full of productive writing.  I am happy to say that the Writer’s Coop did not disappoint.

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To access the coop, one has two options: you can have someone drive you on a four-wheeler, or you can walk the dirt and gravel path that winds behind Firefly Farms. The walk itself was quite easy; maybe a five minute jaunt when sober or ten when I had some beers down at the farm while getting to know the week’s residents. At the top of a small hill, the path widens and a tiny cabin appears.  Indeed, while the Coop started its life housing chickens, the Writer’s Coop resembles a charming re-creation of a log cabin that you might find in a museum more than anything else.

Erin and Joe, anticipating the needs of the future residents like myself, have included all the necessities: a front and back porch for catching the breeze, a comfortable bed, and, of course, a bottle opener mounted just outside the door.  The Coop even has its own outhouse close by.  Though I am the type of person who is normally horrified by going to the bathroom in outhouses or Port-a-Potties, I found the outhouse at the Coop to be fastidiously clean and completely devoid of smell.

I found my time at the Coop so enjoyable that the first morning, despite my hunger and need for a shower, I found myself lingering, writing poems and catching up on reading rather than making my way down to the farmhouse.  If you are like me and you work best in silence with few distractions, the Coop is the best possible place to write.  Something about feeling completely alone in nature without even the sound of passing cars really focused me.  I wrote five poems in the space of one afternoon while there.

I would recommend the Writer’s Coop to anyone who values alone time, peace and quiet, privacy, and affordability while still having options to commune with other authors (and play with adorable animals). Though I was lucky enough to test out the Coop, I will likely apply for my own residency in the future.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is now accepting applications for fall residencies for the Writer’s Coop! Applications are free and rolling!

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Chloe Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee. She earned her MA and BA from Utah State University, where she also helped to establish and direct the Science Writing Center. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including Public Pool, Off the Coast, and Driftwood Press. While she’s procrastinating her homework, she can often be found with a beer in her hand and her dog, Simon, by her side. She is the current Staff Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts.

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OUTSpoken Opens 2015 Workshop Registration for LGBTQ+ Writers

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OUTSpoken is a second-year program from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) that will take place in Summer 2015. Our goal is to create a platform for the LGBTQ+ community of Knoxville, Tennessee, and its surrounding areas to record and perform the experiences of sex- and gender-diverse individuals in the South.

Registration for the OUTSpoken workshop series is now open. On-site participants will be a part of three workshops over the course of three months in order to create, edit, and produce a piece of art to be performed during SAFTA’s OUTSpoken events in Summer 2015. Workshop attendees will work with professionals in performance, prose, and poetry to compose and tell their own stories.

Workshops will be held on January 17th, February 21st, and March 28th, 2015 and run from 1PM to 3PM at the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Cost for the workshop is $25 for one, $45 for two, or $60 for all three. (Participants who attend at least two on-site workshops will be eligible to perform their piece at the OUTSpoken events later in the year.) Scholarship applications are also available on our website.

As LGBTQ issues gain greater visibility, it is crucial that we explore the complexities of sex and gender diversity respectfully. That said, we realize that unity cannot and must not be silent, and that in order to create a meaningful dialogue, we must acknowledge and listen to the stories, experiences, grievances, arguments, and counterarguments of all sex- and gender-diverse persons.

Register today!

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