When fiction writer and teacher Allison Landa heard that PLAYA had begun posting on the Edge Effects blog, she emailed us immediately. She’d loved her time at PLAYA in 2013, for many of the reasons other residents have blogged about and some they have not (yet). She’s said that she’s the “Tony Soprano of words: a writing gunslinger”–someone who fires smart and sharp. We agree! She lives in Berkeley, where she says she has shared McGee’s Farm with Adam Sandler. “If that sounds absurd to you,” she writes, “imagine how I feel.” We can only imagine, and we appreciate Allison’s talent, wit, and this sparkling gem about the PLAYA experience.
Allison, what led you to PLAYA?
I’d heard great things about PLAYA while at another artists’ residency. It was something along the lines of have you heard about this place that’s, like, totally off the grid in eastern Oregon? At the time, I thought, sounds lonely. [Editor’s note: PLAYA is no longer totally off the grid, but the unplugged experience is easy to achieve here.]
I had no idea what an amazing time I would have at PLAYA. When I applied, it was somewhat on a lark. But when I got in, I knew I wanted to go. Something was drawing me northward from Berkeley, California, and I needed to hop into my little 2000 VW Beetle and follow its call.
Did you come to work on a specific project? If so, did you make progress on it?
“The Memoir.” (See below, last question.)
How do you think the land- and waterscapes here affected your work?
I would love to say that the natural world affected my work. And certainly, the playa itself, the brush, the sunsets – they all made it into the material, but did they affect my work? That’s a whole different story. What did affect my work were the jaunts I took to Paisley, to the Pioneer Saloon where I would order chili regardless of the time of day and watch Food Network while playing with my manuscript. That, reader, affected my writing.
Describe your typical day at PLAYA.
My typical day at PLAYA involved getting up super early, earlier than I ever did before. Something about the place itself inspired this: early rising, early-ish bedtimes, introspection. I was an addict. I was hooked.
What were some highlights for you?
I went for walks. I read. I napped. I jaunted to Paisley. And yes, oh yes. I wrote. I wrote as if I was damn possessed.
My last night at PLAYA, we sat around an outside fire pit and my colleague Jamie Houghton said to me: “You always call it The Project. It’s The Memoir.”
From then on, it was. Thank you, Jamie. Thank you, PLAYA.
Edge effects in ecological science are the “influences of border communities upon each other” (Brittanica.com). PLAYA alumni, friends, guests, and neighbors are invited to submit blog posts that explore the diverse influences experienced here or because of time spent with us—whether the effects are among disciplines, environments, relationships, or communities. Email PLAYA’s Executive Director to join this conversation.