A group of women, led by founders Barbara Phillips and Susan Glisson, have founded a new writing sanctuary for women creatives in the charming and arts-loving community of Water Valley, Mississippi.
Having experienced the power and potential of a writing sanctuary, namely the incredible writing residencies offered by Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes Station, California, the founders of The Blue House returned home to the South inspired to create a writers’ retreat for women creatives. Their personal search for such spaces encouraged them that others, too, need and deserve such places of quiet and contemplation and rest in order to bring forth what theologian Howard Thurman said, “makes you come alive, because what makes you come alive is what the world needs.”
Though both founders are based in Oxford, Mississippi, they were drawn to Water Valley, just twenty miles south of the college town of the University of Mississippi. As they wrote in their application to locate their dream in the Blue House, “We’ve watched the incredible transformation that local community leaders are cultivating in Water Valley and appreciate the opportunity of becoming a part of that unfolding story. It is in direct contrast to the ‘build at any cost’ condo-ification of Oxford and the insistent catering to temporary residents whose only investments in the community seem to be monetary and which undergird a prosperity that is concentrated in and benefits largely a small subset of Oxford. The local businesses both established and new in Water Valley are grounded right there, welcoming of anyone but offering a communal life that lifts up art and well-being, local healthy food, and entrepreneurship that contributes to the common good.” It is those elements of an inclusive, equitable, and joyful community quality of life that animated our choosing Water Valley as the site to invite others to join us, to dream, to create, and to come away renewed, purposeful, and inspired.
In 1968, the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote Käthe Kollwitz, her tribute to the eponymous German artist, whose most known works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Rukeyser noted the unfinished promises of feminism and the protests for full human rights for women, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
The founders and board of the Blue House Writing Retreat hope for women to “split open” the world for economic and racial justice, peace, and human rights through cultural activities, education, media training, the arts, nonviolent protests, and public events. The Blue House is our offering of a place to cultivate such work, needed now more than ever in a world in pain and in need of fulfilled promises and hope.
The Blue House Writing Refuge officially launched with two writing workshops, on Saturday, May 20, with Sarah Frances Hardy, a children’s book author and illustrator, with a session called, “So You Have an Idea for a Children’s Book. Now What?” and workshop on Saturday, May 27, with Grisham Writer-In-Residence Deesha Philyaw, on “Playing with Form in Fiction.” Details and required registration for workshops can be found at the organization’s website, www.bluehousewatervalley.org.