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by Hedgebrook Guest

I’d be willing to bet the ranch there isn’t one writer out there who hasn’t yearned for more time alone to write. Sometimes we think we have silence. It is so uncivil to notice or complain about those small sounds of another person in the house, the water running in the kitchen sink, soft music a couple of rooms away, a cough or sneeze. Even the air moves in a different way when there is someone else in your living space.

There are days that the silence holds an unbelievable amount of racket no matter how long I sit unmoving. The amount of silence I relish is something another person may find intolerable. The partner brushes fingertips across the panels of the closed door, to whisper, “You’re so quiet in there. Are you okay?”

I applied to Hedgebrook, a writing retreat for women on an island in Puget Sound, in search of that solitude. This place of author bliss, imagined just for women writers, has six little cedar cottages spaced privately throughout the woods. After spending the day alone with our writing project we all troop down to the farmhouse with our Red Riding Hood baskets and a flashlight. The Hedgebrook chef prepares for us a superb and organic meal. Replete, we retire to the lounge where we may read from our pearls of words to each other and gently comment on our sister’s works. I stayed a month and have never felt so pampered as a woman and honored as a writer. This gift of silence and sisterhood of the book, became my benchmark.

Franci McMahon Cartoon

Artist: Franci McMahon

In an effort to recapture some of this productive time alone, I encouraged my lover of over twenty years to spend time with her friends. Ones with whom she shared other interests. My long weekends were like excursions into writing nirvana.

All of this brought our relationship into focus. We faced the fact that our lives had very separate and different joys and needs and took the plunge into divorce. Or what passes for it in the queer world.

Sometimes I listen to my border collie Mollie, breathe. She’s a quiet breather. On her breath rides the peace I seek. She shares my home and brings me solitude. I have never been a chatter on the telephone and have become grumpy about phone calls that reach beyond “Meet me at six…”

I’ve managed to scare everyone off calling me on the phone. I think I was too effective in that endeavor. I feel like I have one of those emergency only phones. I do write, but it is amazing how little of the twenty-four hour day that consumes.

White_Horse_WinterTwo and a half years into my self-chosen silence I have solitude. I am learning how solitude can also be intermittent loneliness. Yet out of that productive alone time has come White Horse in Winter, due out from Bold Strokes Books in September. The next novel is shaping into a satisfying whole story. I know I will hit my stride, but I stumble where large cracks have opened in the dry earth. My feet are finding the ground, avoiding the rocks, or, that which I like even better, picking up the rocks and examining the grain of feldspar, red iron oxide and the conglomerate of sand. Then I want to see if they can fly.

 

 About the Author:

Franci_McMahonFranci McMahon mines her years of riding and breeding horses to write novels of suspense for even those unlucky enough to be born without the horse gene. Rounding out her life as a writer, she has a previous novel, many works in anthologies, stories for children and adults in national magazines, a poetry prize, and an enriching stay at Hedgebrook.

Born in Oregon to the offspring of homesteading families, Franci spent much of her early life in Washington state.
Beyond horses, Franci’s life is filled with classical music, cooking, knitting, reading complex novels with a story, dancing close to a warm woman, and sitting in silence, often at Quaker meeting. These are some of her deepest pleasures. She divides her time between Montana and Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

This piece originally appeared on the Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog, and can be found here.

 


 

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About Hedgebrook Guest

2 Comments

  • Karen S. Gault
    11:11 AM - 10 June, 2015

    Enjoyed this reflection about a writer’s life. Working to find my way into the solitude that will allow me to meet the characters of the novel I want to write. Applied to Hedgebrook 2 years ago and will apply again this year. Perhaps soon my time will come. In the meantime, it’s such a pleasure to read personal essays such as yours.

    • Franci McMahon
      8:35 AM - 13 July, 2015

      Thanks for your comment Karen. Keep applying until you’re successful because each time you learn something about yourself. And it is so worth it. This year I’m applying for an Alumnae return.

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