Finding My Voice Up Where the Air is Clear

by Eric Nishimoto

Eric Nishimoto is the 2013 Mayborn Biography Fellow, who just recently returned from his writer-in-residency at Stone Feather Ridge, the home of acclaimed biographer James McGrath Morris and his wife Patty. Here are a few of Eric’s thoughts after two and a half weeks of writing in paradise.

Click here for more information about the Mayborn Biography Fellowship.

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Certain terms are much overused. “Hero” is one. “Life changing” is another. Except in my case. Because I’m writing about genuine heroes. And I was privileged to write about them, unencumbered and mentored, for two and a half weeks in just about the most perfect place for any writer, thanks to the Mayborn biography fellowship. So the time was indeed life changing.

James McGrath Morris and Patty Morris live in a phenomenally beautiful home tucked into the Tesuque Pueblo’s idyllic and picturesque hills north of Santa Fe. And each year the Morrises generously open their amazing guest house to the current Mayborn biography fellow. So I sat in my gorgeous casita gazing out at the amazing scenic views while I wrote, researched, reorganized several times, thought and wrote some more. And each evening, as a reward for my day’s work, I dined on gourmet meals prepared by Jamie while chatting with both Jamie and Patty, from whom I learned much about books from the combined wisdom and insight of a great writing coach and a critical reader. I could also go for invigorating walks, howl at the moon if I wanted to, and learn much about the writing craft from both Jamie and the local community of accomplished authors. Capping off the fellowship was my first public reading, at my farewell soiree, to an audience of thirty wonderfully supportive writers, artists and other fascinating people.

Eric's reading at his farewell soiree.

Eric’s reading at his farewell soiree.

So what does it really mean to be a Mayborn biography fellow? For me, it meant having the opportunity to immerse myself in the story so that I completely revised my book outline twice, finally honing in on a previously elusive approach that captures the feel and emotional impact worthy of such a story, thanks to inspiring alone time along with extraordinarily valuable daily feedback and input. And first and second drafts of six out of fourteen chapters, several of which I was able to audition and receive feedback from multiple perspectives via my public reading audience. Beyond that, it meant that I was given my best chance to realize a dream and develop the confidence that I could actually accomplish what I considered almost impossible only weeks, even days, before.  Up in those hills I began to find the writer I hoped I could be, and the book for which I prayed. And for that I will be always grateful to George Getschow, the Mayborn, and Jamie and Patty Morris. This experience will be one that I will hold on to, tightly, forever.

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