inspirations / writing / writing spots

Inside an Artist Colony

What happens at an artist colony? I keep getting asked this, and each one is different, but here at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in the northern California mountains I’ll give you a small peek of what happens:

I would just like to take a moment and say the trees in California are REALLY tall!

You must apply to get in, and international artists of many disciplines can apply, so right now I am here with seven other artists: another fiction writer, a playwright, a choreographer, a composer, a media artist, and two visual artists. We live together in two shared spaces (an Artists’ House that holds mostly writers and an Artists’ Barn that holds special studios for dancers and composers and visual artists). We don’t pay to be here and we’re not given a cash prize: The award is the time and space itself. It’s the month of being here, doing our work. We eat dinner together at night and share presentations with one another. In fact, my presentation is tonight! (Nervous.) We talk. We crave cake and pounce on it when the amazing chef provides a dark chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese frosting (oh my!). And during the workdays and late at night we wander the house in our pajamas, deep in our creative stupors, going back again and again for more coffee or more tea.

You’re here to do your work, at your own pace, for yourself, in any way you want. No one is policing your time—or your internet usage. If tomorrow I want to lie on the porch outside my sliding glass door with my notebook on my face and “write” in my head, I can do that. If I want to stay in pajamas all day and have a strawberry breakfast and write as much as my fingers will spit out, I can do that also—in fact, I might just do that.

We’ve also been: amusing ourselves with poems and scary stories; trading books; laughing; sharing chores; baking sweet potatoes over a wood stove; admiring the amazing view of the land and the Pacific Ocean in the distance; eating the delicious food the chef makes us for weeknight dinners; not watching TV; and working, tons.

The on-site staff members who live and eat with us are also artists—so you’re surrounded at all times by creative people. Oh and animals. So far I’ve seen: one snake, two bunnies, multiple deer, one hummingbird, and Neil Young’s cows.

The Pacific Ocean sometimes looks like a part of the sky. And on the property, in the woods, are a series of sculptures made by artists who’ve been residents here. They’re like treasures, peppered throughout the trees, made to last as long as they will and then weather away and become a part of the forest.

"Vanishing Ship" by John Roloff

Faery by Derek Johnson

"Orpheus Coyote and Friends" by William King

(someone forgot to write down what this sculpture was)

Feel free to ask me questions, but I hope this explains it!

To find out more about Djerassi artist residencies and sculpture tours open to the public, visit


A tiny note about the world outside the artist colony: Yes yes, I know The Hunger Games opens tomorrow. Yes, I am in mourning that I don’t have a way to see it. Please don’t tell me how awesome it is. I won’t be able to contain my jealousy. Just please go and make the movie very, very popular so it is still in theaters when I get back to New York City on April 13!

2 thoughts on “Inside an Artist Colony

  1. Sweet potatoes in a wood stove? Damn. I hope you are making the good words dance, Nova Ren.

  2. Thank you so much Nova for sharing the details of going to an Artist’s Colony. As an aspiring writer myself, I was always curious. It sounds so wonderfully blissful! *sigh*🙂

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