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Q&A with Abeer Hoque on Artist Residencies

Queens writer Abeer Hoque was featured in Issue #11 of Newtown Literary, and in 2019, she led a memoir-writing workshop for us in partnership with Lewis Latimer House Museum as part of our Writing on Race and Immigration series. This fall, she will lead a free online 2-day workshop for Queens writers on creating compelling artist statements and applying to grants and residencies, to be held Saturday, September 19th and 26th. RSVP here to secure your spot in those classes. Below, she shares a bit about her own experiences with artist residencies. More information on where to order Abeer's books, including her 2017 memoir Olive Witch (Harper360), can be found on her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How did you first learn that residencies (funded or not) were an option available to writers? Were you surprised to discover them?

I learned about residencies when I was in an MFA program in the early aughts. I was pivoting from 10 years in the business world, and so everything about the writing life was a beautiful confusing mystery to me. The idea that you could get funding (paid so to speak) to spend time in a beautiful pastoral place, and work on a creative project was astonishing.

What was your first (or best) residency experience like?

I have attended 4 residencies, 2 summer conferences, and won a variety of fellowships and grants. Each has been a distinct experience, and came with its own brilliant community of scholars and artists. The residencies in particular (Millay, Albee, VCCA, Saltonstall) were a gift to my writing and photography practice, both in the time I could dedicate to reading and making, and in the multi-talented people I met while there. And of course it didn’t hurt that art residencies are set in wild and wonderful places surrounded by trees and silence (sometimes mountains, sometimes seas).

How have residencies or grants/fellowships helped to broaden or strengthen your ties to the literary community (or your work)?

For every single residency I’ve done, I have been able to keep in touch with at least one and often more people I was in residency with. Some have become dear friends over the years, and even the ones I only hear from or about occasionally, I’m always thrilled to see what they’re up to. The residencies where I met musicians and composers were particularly special, but I find conversations with artists of all kinds so important to my sense of creativity and inspiration. I also sometimes link my writing to the space where I worked on it, and so some residencies are indelibly part of a draft.

What kind of advice would you share with BIPOC artists searching for funding or interested in attending a residency, who may not know anyone in their families or networks who’ve ever done such a thing?

The idea of a free art residency is lovely and I’ve found them hyper productive spaces, away from my usual schedules, and in communion with nature and other artists. But in practice, it’s often quite difficult to make it happen. One might still have to pay rent, not be able to take enough (or any!) time off from a job, have family or childcare responsibilities, and so on. So it’s quite a privileged few who even get to consider these, let alone attend. If it is something that can be arranged, I would LOVE to see more BIPOC artists in residencies as my experiences of the communities were largely Whitethere was only one residency I did that had another POC, and that was also the largest residency I did (with 25 people there at a time). There are challenges for sure, but I would love to support more diverse communities (and stories) in residencies out there.

Thanks, Abeer! If you're interested in signing up for our 2-day workshop led by Abeer, please be sure to RSVP.

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