I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: more than anything, a writer needs time to work. Writers’ residencies are one of the best ways to clear your desk of unwelcome distractions and claim some mental space and energy for work.
So, this past spring, I was thrilled to open my inbox to find that I’d been accepted to the Tilting Artist in Residence Program. Run by Arts & Minds Canada, it offers artists the use of either the Jennifer Keefe House (this is the one I stayed in) or the Reardon House (where a food writer was staying while I was on the island) in Tilting, Fogo Island, for between 2 and 4 weeks.
I’m now back from the two weeks I spent in Tilting, and they were among the most magical of my life. Fogo Island constitutes the eastern-most point of Canada. It’s rocky and remote, with the Atlantic swirling and crashing all round.
The island’s inhabitants include fishermen, quilters, some truly great cooks, storytellers, and a great many artists and crafters. You can buy jams made from local partridge berries or bakeapple berries. You can also get your hands on seal and rabbit meat preserved in jars, wool socks galore, hats, and cod, cod, and more cod.
Be warned: the longer you stay, the more people show up at your door with baggies full of fish that they’ve just pulled from the ocean. There are music nights at the Tilting Cup Cafe, as well as artist’s talks and documentary films at the Fogo Island Inn seen here, below.
In short, the island is brimming with life.
Over the years, I’ve traveled a great deal with my work, presenting my books and conducting research. I’ve become pretty good at solo traveling, but my trip to Fogo was different. Never have I felt so un-lonely in a place. This fact is a testament to the people of the island.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I encourage you to do so. You’ll fall in love with Fogo, as I did.
Deepest thanks to TRACS (the Tilting Cultural and Recreational Society), the Tilting Artist in Residence Program, M’Liz Keefe, Frank Keefe and everyone else who made my residency not only productive but one of the best experiences of my life.
[Photo: Julija Šukys. Top: a “stage” (fishers’ outbuiling) in Tilting, Fogo Island. Bottom: Fogo Island Inn, Joe Batt’s Arm, Fogo Island).