Weymouth Week Fulfills a Writer's Fond Fantasy
I don’t know which North Carolinian has driven the greatest distance to be a Weymouth writer-in-residence. But I’m pretty sure my trip was the shortest: half a block.
Ever since we moved to Southern Pines, we have been so grateful to have landed in the beautiful, funky, arty, friendly neighborhood of Weymouth Heights. Our house happens to sit just a couple of stones’ throws away from the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, former home of author James Boyd.
Weymouth, a community treasure, has many historic ties to The Pilot. Both Boyd and his widow, Katharine, served as publishers of the paper. The late Sam Ragan, who held that job between Katharine and current Publisher David Woronoff, led in the rescue of the lovely old place and its conversion to an arts center. My wife, Brenda, even worked there for a couple of years, and I later served on the board. We’ve spent many happy hours at Weymouth events.
But I’ve always harbored a secret jealousy of the members of that loose corps of ink-stained wretches and would-be Pulitzer-winning poets, novelists and playwrights who over the years have enjoyed the privilege of coming to Weymouth and immersing themselves in writing projects during a week of blessed seclusion.
I have been personally acquainted with participants in the program over the years — talented wordsmiths like June Guralnick, of Apex, and Kurt Corriher, of China Grove. I have listened many times as writers-in-residence rhapsodized about how the experience of getting away from it all and taking advantage of Weymouth’s legendary hospitality can get the words flowing.
I sometimes fantasized about finding a similar retreat in a remote location for which I could legitimately apply. This feeling intensified this summer because of a half-completed manuscript that I desperately wanted to work on.
Then, at a recent dinner, I broached this subject with our friend Hope Price, who happens to hold the Weymouth administrative job Brenda once had. To my surprise, she professed to see nothing particularly strange about the idea of my applying for a residency.
I did just that — after ascertaining that I wouldn’t be bumping an out-of-town writer. (The labyrinthine old house can accommodate four writers in its upstairs bedrooms — five in a pinch — and it’s not always fully booked.)
So it was that I found myself, at the beginning of the week before last, loading my car and heading off for my sabbatical week — though my destination was so near that Brenda (who not-so-secretly welcomed a week’s vacation from me) could have heard my horn if I had honked on arrival.
It worked out great. Contrary to expectations, I hung in there for all seven nights — though if I’d spent the whole week without leaving the premises, as some purists do, I surely would have gone stir crazy. Instead, I rose early and put in a solid morning of writing before slipping out most afternoons to hold down my half-time Pilot job. Brenda and I fudged by meeting for dinner a couple of times.
The Boyds had a long tradition of welcoming writers to Weymouth. One was Paul Green, after whom my comfortable room was named. The one next door honored Thomas Wolfe — who, legend says, used to blow into town on the midnight train from Asheville, walk up the hill and let himself into Weymouth, where the family would find him crashed on the couch the next morning.
Though Tom wasn’t there, I enjoyed getting acquainted with my three fellow residents: Ann Ehringhaus, of Ocracoke, Amey Miller, of Chapel Hill, and Michael Potts, of Fayetteville. Though a couple of us did report hearing an odd thumping one night, none of encountered any of Weymouth’s storied literary ghosts.
I got a gratifying lot of work done. In between, it was great to experience bits and pieces of daily life at Weymouth: laughter from some noontime gathering in the great room below; intriguing cooking smells wafting up from party preparations in the kitchen; personable Property Manager Alex Klalo performing repair chores; a lovely bride-to-be posing for photos on the lawn below; numerous dog-walkers and joggers; a carriage horse getting a training workout; the sight of two whitetail does and two half-grown fawns stepping delicately out of the woods at dusk.
“This unique place, where distractions of everyday life are held at bay and creative juices can blossom without interruption, is why writers continue to cherish their time at Weymouth,” says a bit of promotional material.
I can’t speak for the others, but I’ll always cherish mine. Thanks, Weymouth.
Steve Bouser is opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at email@example.com.
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