I’m writing this post on May 5, 2014, exactly thirty years since moving to Vermont for the summer. I’m still here, and I’m still writing.
When I bought a car and rented a cabin in the late spring of 1984, I’d planned to write both a novel and my dissertation between May and September. I finished the novel that summer; I didn’t finish my dissertation until 1987, when I earned my PhD.
I chose Vermont for two reasons.
First, I’d been coming here since I was a child, and I had a network of friends and acquaintances here, which I needed. I was a single woman who worked alone, and these friends kept me company and kept me connected.
I’d also been in Vermont the summer before, to attend the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, where I discovered I’d rather spend my time writing than in what felt like the competitive company of writers. This was a good lesson to learn. I also made a lifelong friend there: the poet Mary Pinard, whose first book of poetry, Portal, has just been published.
My summer of 1984 was idyllic: I wrote from dawn to midday. It was the life I’d dreamed of and I’d planned to continue through an academic career that
would support annual summers spent writing in Vermont, a place I’d come to love. I hadn’t planned on falling in love with a man, but I did.
I hadn’t planned on marriage or children or jobs as a Visiting Scholar, an office manager, a motivational speaker, a free-lance writer, a part-time farmer or a full-time mom. It’s also true that I was clueless about motherhood; I had no idea how demanding it would be, especially with three children born within three years of each other.
Those years of young children are a blur of activity and sleep deprivation. I do remember great frustration at not being able to recapture that languid summer of writing all morning. I’d try to recapture it by waking early, but just as often wrote grocery lists as scenes. Nevertheless, I managed to draft a couple more novels and a memoir, and to write non-fiction for hire. It never seemed like enough.
Now that my children are grown (the youngest graduates from college next week), I can see that if nothing else, I kept my writing fire alive, feeding it with a few hours here, a few days there, and sometimes just pounding out a story in the midst of family life. I did what I had to, and I did what I could. And I kept before me my ideal: a chance to sustain a fictional world in the solitude of uninterrupted
mornings in a landscape I still adore.
For me, place matters, and Vermont is my place; I’ve lived here more than half my life. And even though my life has taken unexpected and unplanned
twists and turns, I’ve persisted as a writer. I’ve been a writer nearly all my life, and I still hope to be a writer when I grow up – if I ever do.
To my amazement and delight, I’m learning that it’s possible to make my writing dreams come true. For me, it’s been a matter of place, patience and persistence.
What will it take for you to make your writing dreams come true?
Deborah Lee Luskin has three novels set in Vermont: Into the Wilderness is published, Elegy for a Girl is with her agent, and Ellen is in the works. She lives, gardens, hikes, and writes in southern Vermont.