For the last five days I’ve been in Long Island — not the ritzy part in the Hamptons, which I understand in on the south fork, but the north fork, where the regular people live. I’m here with a handful of dear friends, all writers, whom I met at a writers’ residency in 2008. For some reason we all hit it off. It didn’t take long before we were calling each other our “spouses,” even though some of us are married. We’ve become a family. In the last three years, we’ve stayed in close touch and never pass up an opportunity to spend time together. Two years ago, Sarah came up with the idea of renting a house together and did all the legwork to make it happen. I had a conflict that year and couldn’t join in the fun, but when Sarah raised the idea last March of renting the house again, I was the first to say, “I’m in.”
The nice thing about going away with a bunch of writers is that we actually spend our days writing. We’re treating this time as a residency. We wake up, make our breakfast, coffee or tea, then retire to our separate rooms where we work for hours. We usually stop in the late afternoon to go to the gym or for a swim. We cook dinner together and talk for a while, then go back to our rooms to read or write until bedtime.
As comfortable and open as we are with each other, we’re still a private bunch when it comes to our work. Every one here is working on “a thing.” It’s common to hear someone say, “I’m struggling with this thing,” or “I’ve got to get back to my thing.” No one wants give their work a name yet, as though identifying it as a novel, short story or personal essay prematurely would be like taking a souffle out of the over before it’s done. Ask one of us what we’re working on and we’ll give you a blank stare, as though you’ve suddenly lapsed into a foreign language. The only one who is willing to say for sure what he’s up to is Rick, and that’s because he’s a poet.