Harbor Light News

Book Festival author returns to town for residency and special writers workshop


Author Christina Clancy is in town working on her third novel while in residence at the Good Hart Artist Residency. Clancy will lead a Walk and Write workshop this Thursday with the Little Traverse Conservancy. (File photo)

Author Christina Clancy is in town working on her third novel while in residence at the Good Hart Artist Residency. Clancy will lead a Walk and Write workshop this Thursday with the Little Traverse Conservancy. (File photo)

Author Christina Clancy is back in town.

In 2021, Clancy was one of the guest authors in town for the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book. And now, she is back to work on a new novel while in residence at the Good Hart Artist Residency.

The Good Hart Artist Residency (GHAR) offers 10-21 day residency stays to visual artists, writers, and composers. Artists receive a stipend and are provided with a private residence and detached studio tucked into the woods a few minutes walk from the village of Good Hart. A stocked fridge, home cooked meals, and the gift of solitude are just some of the perks that allow artists to focus fully on their current projects. The mission of GHAR “is to nurture artists, writers, and composers from various backgrounds and artistic disciplines and to connect them with the local community in enriching experiences that empower people through the arts in the natural beauty of Northern Michigan.”

Clancy is currently working on a new novel.

Her most recent novel, Shoulder Season, was named a “Best Book of Summer” by Parade Magazine and has been widely praised by the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Travel & Leisure, and She Reads, to name a few.

Clancy’s first novel, The Second Home, was chosen by the American Booksellers Association as an IndieNext pick, and was one of ten “Indies Introduce” titles for summer and fall 2020. Zibby Owens selected it as a recommended summer read for Good Morning America, and it received a starred review from Booklist. Sony’s TriStar Television has optioned the novel for a series. Game of Thrones’ Nicolaj Coster-Waldau will star and executive produce.

Clancy’s essays and short stories have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Brain Child, Glimmer Train, the Minnesota Review, and many other widely distributed publications.

Clancy will lead a special writing workshop this Thursday, January 19 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. in conjunction with the residency and Little Traverse Conservancy. The Walk and Write Workshop, with Clancy and Conservancy staff will combine writing with forest bathing. Forest bathing is known to improve sleep, stress, and health. It is also a great way for writers to spark creativity, solve problems, and improve their ability to connect and write about place. The workshop will begin at the Offield Family Viewlands for a one hour winter walk. During the walk, writers will be given several writing prompts. After the walk, participants will meet at the Petoskey District Library to write and share.

Clancy was kind enough to chat briefly with us upon arriving at the residency.

EMILY MEIER: How did you first hear about the Good Hart Residency? Was it when you were here for the Book Festival?

CHRISTINA CLANCY: I heard about the residency when I was at the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book (I heard about the book festival through my pal, author Julia Claiborne Johnson). Former resident Sarah Stonich was on a panel with me about Midwestern fiction (we had a lot to say!), and she raved about the residence, the gorgeous setting, and Sue Klco’s scones. Sarah invited me to visit her in Good Hart, and I really wanted to, but I’d hit a deer on my way to the festival (hence my nickname “Deer Slayer”), so I was nervous about getting my car home in one piece.

EM: I read somewhere that you are working on a book set in California. And I’ve seen your Instagram posts of visits filled with sunshine in Palm Springs. Have these visits been in the name of research for your new book? Is this what you will be working on while you are here?

CC: I’ve been going to Palm Springs for years. I don’t know what it was about the desert that connected with me right away, but it called to me and I kept returning. During the pandemic we rented a house for a few months, knowing how brutal Wisconsin winters can be even under the best of circumstances (we live in Madison), much less in lockdown. While we were enjoying the sunshine, we made a very impulsive #coviddecision to buy a Mid Century condo in a cool area called Araby Cove, where Bob Hope and Howard Hughes used to live, and next door to Smoke Tree Ranch, Walt Disney’s old stomping grounds. It turns out, it is also a place that is filled with Michigan captains of industry. While my new book is set mostly in Palm Springs, it’s also anchored in the Midwest. I’m very interested in the contrasts between places, and in the nice idea (but more messy reality) of putting your “real life” on hold in order to escape to a warmer climate.

EM: Can you give readers a hint about this new book? And what inspired it?

CC: The new book is tentatively called The Snowbirds. It’s about wanting an easier life, what it’s like to be middle aged and thinking about retirement, and marriage. This is subject matter I can certainly relate to. The plot was inspired by a story I heard about a neighbor who went missing on a hike. As an avid hiker, I became obsessed with everything that could go wrong on the trails, and what it’s like to not know where someone you love could be.

EM: This is your third novel. What do you find is the hardest part about writing a novel? Has each book presented you with a different challenge?

CC: I truly can’t believe I’ve written two books. Now that I’m deep into the third, I have to remind myself that every book is different and presents its own challenges. I should say that this is the case if you are doing it right, because who wants to write the same kind of book with the same architecture and issues over and over again?

I’m reminded that, for me, the hardest part of writing is making decisions, from character names to the perspective the story should be told in to the tone to the handling of time. At a certain point you just have to decide and move on.

My first book, The Second Home, was a pet project. It was fun to write because it was just for me, and it was set on Cape Cod, a place I know and love. I had no idea if I’d sell it–that seemed like a pipe dream–and I gave myself a leisurely schedule to work on it. I was on a deadline with Shoulder Season, but that book was fun to write because it involved so much research into the world of Playboy bunnies in 1981—in Wisconsin! Every interesting fact I learned made me excited to keep writing. There was some urgency to the project because I felt I was writing about a fascinating, heady moment in our state’s history that I didn’t want lost to time. Between the Playboy Resort and nearby Alpine Valley amphitheater, the South Eastern corner of Wisconsin truly experienced a heyday in the 70’s. I enjoyed covering a topic that people (including myself, originally) are very judgmental about. It’s fascinating that Playboy bunnies have never been written about in literary fiction despite the ubiquity of Playboy in our culture for so many years.

EM: They say that each book teaches the writer something new about the writing process? What do you think writing this book has taught you about writing?

CC: This third book is teaching me that character is what drives my fiction. I tried to write this new book by thinking about the plot first, but then I felt like I was dragging my characters through the paces. I was so bored! Every writer approaches their work differently. For me, I have to invent characters and wait for them to start talking back to me before I know what my book is about, and where it should be headed.

EM: I saw that you made some stops on the trip here to visit some writer pals (Bonnie Jo Campbell). How was your drive and can you talk a bit about the importance/joy of having other writer friends?

CC: People always say that writing is such a lonely business, and it is. I couldn’t imagine doing this without my writer friends. I’m part of a writing group and I try to reach out, connect with, and support other authors as much as I can. This trip to Michigan, I was able to visit my friend AH Kim in Ann Arbor (A Good Family, and coming soon, Well Matched) on the way here (she gave me ‘treats for my retreat’). Ann reminded me that I should try to have fun when I write, which seems obvious but you need to hear it sometimes. In Kalamazoo, I was lucky to be invited to Bonnie Jo Campbell’s family homestead to have lunch with her and a bunch of her writer friends. She said a successful retreat isn’t coming away with a finished novel, but with a clearer idea of what my novel is really about. She also reminded me of the importance of mystery in a story—mystery that doesn’t even need to be solved.

EM: What are you hoping to accomplish during this time away in Good Hart?

CC: Although I want to know what my new novel is about, I really would also love to get more pages written (and I have a March deadline). Invention can be exciting and fun. I suppose that’s the sexy part of writing. But for me, the real joy comes in editing. I am a big fan of cutting, pasting, killing darlings, revising and rethinking. Once I get to that stage, the fun really begins.

EM: I see that you will be running a workshop while you are here in conjunction with the Little Traverse Conservancy. Can you talk a bit about that and how nature and place inform your writing?

CC: The workshop is based on a “forest bathing” excursion I went on with a bunch of other writers in Madison. Honestly, I was skeptical. Just the phrase forest bathing sounded gimmicky, especially because I love being outdoors and don’t need to call it anything. I was eating crow by the end of the experience because it’s more like an outdoor meditation on place. I never take the time to experience the woods so slowly, to really notice the tree bark and hear the wind through the pines. Nature is everywhere and we’re all influenced by it. Hopefully this will be an occasion for writers to evoke place more vividly in their work and enjoy a lovely, meditative time experiencing the Little Traverse Conservancy.

EM: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

CC: I hope readers appreciate all the hard work the residency organizers put into the Good Hart residency. The building is so comfortable and lovely and filled with the most amazing artwork and food. I am pinching myself every second. Also, the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book and the residency truly put this part of Michigan on the literary map. All my writer friends are chomping at the bit for an invitation to visit. My time here in 2021 was so special, and it wouldn’t have happened without financial support, the organizer’s hard work, and the enthusiasm of readers. It feels extra special to be a resident in a place where books matter so much, and to so many. I am deeply appreciative of everyone who makes this possible, directly and indirectly.

For more information on Christina Clancy, visit her website: www.christiclancywrites.com

And to sign up for the workshop, visit: landtrust.org/ events/

For more info on the Good Hart Artist Residency, visit: https:// goodhartartistresidency.org