After spending a month or so hanging out with my family and Zack Hample, I spent a week writing the bulk of my essay on him in the quiet seclusion of a writing residency run by my friend Tatiana Ryckman in Amish Country, Ohio. The area was, in fact, so Amish that the local Wal-Mart parking lot had stalls for horse carriages.
I shared the residency, at a place I shall only call "The Young's Estate" (residency by invitation only) with three other writers and artists, thinking about the book manuscript I’m developing, about beginnings and endings, about losing and loss, and periodically about my family going about their business without me while I thought about these things.
The estate itself is composed of three main buildings: central quarters, rooming quarters, and the plantation house. The first thing I noticed upon entering my space in the rooming quarters was that it smelled like the Seventies. Feeling the soft, plush carpeting and the mahogany paneling of my room, I thought of the many basements of friends and cousins where I ogled my cousins’ Star Wars action figure collections, played Mousetrap, and tried in vain not to spill Tang all over the always-damp carpet.
"As you can probably guess, everything about the estate was built to spec for the Young family," Tatiana told me. I would have guessed this. I could feel the eccentric personality of the family in every room, but especially mine:
On the third or fourth night, Tatiana sat down with me and Kate Senecal and recorded a conversation about the experience for Ian Bodkin's wonderful podcast Written in Small Spaces, which you can find here:
Written in Small Spaces: A Grand Movement of the Mind (the interview is in the second half of the podcast)