Writers' Residencies Wiki: Writers in the HeartlandWITH.jpg

Website: http://www.writersintheheartland.org/Home/

Location: Heartland Spa, Gilman, Illinois [map]

Setting: Rural, on an old dairy farm. There is a man-made lake with a walking path around it. The grounds are surrounded by fields. The landscape is extremely flat. While nice and pastoral, it would not be described as scenic or picturesque. Typical rural midwestern landscape.

Cost: Free room and board. Pay for own travel.

Approximate Number of Residents: 4

Writers Only or Other Arts: Writers Only

Living Accommodations: Private bedroom, shared bath. Decidedly rustic.

Workspace Accommodations: No separate studio or private workspace apart from bedroom. Common areas and outside areas can be used as workspace.

Food: Three meals a day included, prepared by spa chef. High quality, well-prepared. 1600 calories per day, but you can ask for more. 2 snacks per day. Tea, coffee, iced tea available all day. Small kitchen in writers' quarters, but mainly used by staff.

Amenities: Swimming pool, jacuzzi, exercise room, massage, bicycles, other spa facilities. Abundant towels and bathrobes provided. Wireless internet is extremely slow and available only in certain rooms of the main building. Hint: get as close to the office as you can. You'll need to get the password from the office. This can be a good thing, as it keeps you from getting distracted, but if you really need to research something it will be extremely frustrating.

What You Should Know Before You Go:
This is not a dedicated artists' retreat space. It is a commercial spa where there are other guests that are not part of the residency program.The writers are housed in a separate building from the main space, but the dining room, common rooms, exercise rooms, etc. are shared with the regular guests. Sometimes you feel a little weird, because you have to keep explaining to the other guests what you're doing there. You can take your meals back to your room if you don't want to interact with the other guests. As of 2011, the residencies consist of one week in September and one week in October which means a total of eight writers per year can participate. It's a fairly new program, so they're still figuring things out. They'd like to expand to more weeks in the future. There is a small common room in the writers' quarters, but during the workday it's used as a staff break room, so is not available to the writers. The staff of the spa is extremely nice and very accommodating. Cell phone reception is spotty.

What You Should Take With You: Bathing suit, exercise clothes. Rain gear (they have some umbrellas there). If you care about coffee, take your own. Coffee drinkers were not crazy about the coffee provided by the dining room. Also, between meals, they had to ask for a carafe to take coffee back from the main building. There is a coffee maker in the kitchen of the writers' quarters, but you might also need filters. You might also want a power strip, as the outlets in the rooms are not necessarily where you'd want them. Bring headphones or earplugs to screen out noises that emanate from the basement or maintenance workers outside.

What You Should Know While You're There: There is a noisy water heater in the basement underneath the first room on the right on the first floor. If you have that room, you might want to consider working elsewhere. Some of the desks and chairs are not very comfortable. Don't be afraid to ask for a better chair. In fact, don't be afraid to ask the staff for anything that would make your stay better. They are very accommodating.

Feedback From Those Who Have Been There: Overall a good experience. It's pretty isolated, with only a tiny town nearby, so not much temptation to go off the grounds. More thought could be put into the writing facilities--better desks & chairs, a separate writing space, some gathering space not shared by the spa staff or other guests.