Scribes searching for a refuge in which to work have come from all over the world to Casa Libre en la Solana, according to co-owner and poet Ann Fine. She and her fiction-writing partner, Kristen Nelson, founded and manage the cozy adobe complex at 228 N. Fourth Ave. There are five private suites with high-speed Internet and other amenities, a pool, a spa and a library to help wordsmiths and scholars focus their creative energies. The nonprofit Casa Libre also serves as a venue for community meetings, parties and writing classes that are open to the public. At least three workshops start within the next two months. Find out about the writers who teach them and more online, or call 325-9145.
Do writers come for a little bit of Southwestern flavor?
It's the Southwestern-type thing. It's the fact that we're new, and a lot of famous writers want to go hide out, so they find this new place. Also, (at) most writers' residencies, you have to get an application, apply, send in your work--you know, all that stuff. And this is more like a hotel. You call, and if there's an opening, you get it.
Do writers have to prove who they are?
Not really. We have a form that you have to fill out explaining your intention about how you want to use the space while you're here. ... When I was getting my MFA, and I was also the assistant dean of graduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, I had a spring break week to work on my graduate thesis. I wanted to go away. I was calling everywhere. This was in the Northeast; it's literary land. You would think that somewhere, they would put up writers in a literary environment. I couldn't find a place that you didn't have to send an application, your work or pay half. ... You can go to a bed-and-breakfast anywhere, but is it going to be the environment that kind of supports what you're doing, where there are people all around you who understand there are people in that place who are working on a novel, or a book of poetry, or a journal, an essay, a story or research--whatever? They need their peace and quiet, but they also want to come out at night, drink a glass of wine and talk about their work. (It's) an extension of our home, but you also have your private space.
There must be some interesting conversations at night.
Oh yeah. That's our favorite part. That's kind of what we're living off of, and why we wanted to do it, too--to surround ourselves with our tribe and people who are talking politics, or talking about literary things and aesthetics. Stuff like that. And (they're) arguing about things sometimes, just getting flat-out drunk other times. (They're) sitting in the spa all night, giggling and laughing, talking about bullshit, you know, about nothing. So, it's really exciting. We meet all these wonderful, interesting people from all over, who bring the gifts of themselves, keeping us alive psychically and intellectually. It's hard work for just that payoff, because really, there is no other in terms of financial. It pretty much pays for itself, and that's it. I work for free.
How are you supporting yourselves?
Well, Kristen still works at the university. We're living very poorly, basically, to do this. Our goal eventually, because we're in the grant-writing process right now, is to get more donations and to get more funding--donations from the community and support like that to keep Casa Libre going. I don't know how long I can do this without a paycheck. But we knew it was going to be a sacrifice.
I read that you haven't been able to do a lot of writing yourselves, because you've been maintaining this place where, ironically, people come to write. Is that still the case?
No, it's not still the case. And luckily, because of this place, I've met some local poets my age who have become very supportive. Kristen and I said to each other, "We can't do this anymore. We have got to write, too." ... So, we've taken Tuesday and Thursday nights for ourselves and said, "From now on, wherever we go, we're writing." We have several friends that provide their houses and spaces away from here, actually, for us to go and write, because I can't write here. It's my job, and I'm too in the hostess frame of mind all the time. I can't really leave my responsibility mode to disappear in my writing, which I really like to do. Luckily, the writing community here is pretty intense, and there are a lot of young people who are doing some exciting stuff right here in Tucson.