Editor’s Note: Eric Shonkwiler is the New River Gorge Writer-in-Residence for 2015. He has spent the past three months living at Lafayette Flats where he has been writing a new novel. The Residency ends this week and Eric will be leaving Fayetteville in pursuit of his next adventure. This is his final post on this blog.
Time has flown. I’ve been scratching my head the last couple weeks, trying to figure out where exactly it all went. Did I do all that much? Did I see all that much? What do I have to show for the three months I’ve spent here in Fayetteville?
Three hundred and fifty pages is the answer to that question. That’s a book. It’s a messy one, and it’s not quite finished (I’m afraid it’ll push 400 pages by then), but it’s a powerful amount of words. Had I not come here, had Lafayette Flats not opened up their doors to have me here as their Writer-in-Residence, I’d be lucky to have any of those pages written. I’d have been out in the world, trying to find a way to keep myself indoors. Instead (and here I look around myself, at what’s been my home: my bed, my couch, my art, my desk) that’s all been taken care of. I got to work, thanks to this residency. My real work. Not the work that feeds me—as much as I wish writing did right now—but the work that nourishes me, and hopefully will someday nourish others.
I can go on and on about the people I’ve met here, the great food and drink there is to be had in Fayetteville, the New River Gorge, the trails, the history. There are all those things, too. But that can be found covered by others already. There’s Yelp for that, and Google. This is for the people who may follow me, and be lucky enough to come here in the future: Fayetteville is the perfect writing environment. The town is quiet during winter. It’s relaxed. The flat you’ll stay in is great for working, and there’s a café and a bar minutes away by foot. There is no source of inspiration that isn’t immediately available to you, whether it be natural, historical, or potable. If you get the chance, take it. Come here.
I’ve had a wonderful time. I’m an enormous leg-up on this book, and I couldn’t have done it without the generosity of Shawn and Amy, the folks behind Lafayette Flats. Nor could I have done it without the people and establishments of Fayetteville. You all were so kind to take a stranger like me in. You listened to me, and let me listen. You bought my book, and bought me drinks. You made me feel at home.
Thank you all, very much. I’ll come back, someday.