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I applied to the Rhode Island Writers Colony feeling somewhat battered and embittered by publishing/writing. My first book had come out in 2010 and I had finished a second book, but my first agent had left the business, and my publisher had passed on my new work. I had begun researching the business of writing and was realizing how important information sharing and community are to a writer’s survival.

I started a blog for writers and began applying to writers’ residencies in the hopes of connecting with other scribes in the struggle. I had met the co-founder of the Rhode Island Writers Colony Brook Stephenson several years ago and we were Facebook friends so when I saw his posting about the colony, I decided to apply. It really boosted my confidence to be accepted.

The two weeks I spent in Rhode Island challenged me to raise my game and be vulnerable. The writers Brook and John brought together are top caliber talents and humans with hearts as unwavering as their voices. It was terrifying to share embryonic work with them, but being in their company and receiving their thoughtful, constructive feedback elevated me. Sharing my thoughts and work with them challenged me to think more deeply.

All of this growing was happening against a backdrop of acute racial distress in the country. While we were at the Colony, nine churchgoers were gunned down at a Bible study, and a white woman president of an NAACP chapter who had darkened her skin, donned fake hair, and paraded a black man as her father for years was exposed for pretending to be black. Our house in Providence, with its porch swing and ivy climbing up its facade, was an oasis of thought and expression about these news stories and the tangents they inspired.

No topic was off limits. We talked race, sex, sexuality, gender, creative frustrations, and music, sharing our favorite songs as we cooked for each other and gave thanks before eating together. I left the Colony with so much to consider and reconsider. I also left with a community that wants to see me win, and that I want to soar too. The whole experience was a turning point for me, the beginning of remembering that writing is more than business.
~Nana Ekua Brew Hammond, 2015 Writer-in-Residence