Nov 29, 2009

Profile: John Clanchy

Hearty thanks to John Clanchy (pictured below in La Muse's dining room) for this week's great profile! 

1.   What do you consider most valuable about your time at La Muse? The atmosphere of the place – remote, mountainous, forested, a bit wild and yet comfortable at the same time. It is the perfect space for someone who has an artistic project and who wants both peace and solitude for their work, and when not working the company of friendly companions with like interests to talk with, share ideas, try out your work on etc.

2. Tell us, in a sentence or two, about the project you were focused on while at La Muse. In my first writing retreat (two months in spring of 2007) I completed four long stories focused thematically upon father-daughter relationships, which together with one other story written in Australia was published in 2008: Her Father’s Daughter (UQP). In my second retreat undertaken in late spring the following year, I wrote the first draft of a novel, provisionally titled The McLeay Sisters which I re-drafted back home and which is out being looked at by a publisher now.

3. What advice would you give future attendees?  It’s crucial to research La Muse before you go, to realize that when it says that it is essentially a workspace then that’s what it means (though you have lots of fun there too), and that you are disciplined enough in your own life to be able to use the time spent there well. Make sure you have a specific project to work on when you arrive, rather than hoping for ‘inspiration’ to strike once you get there. Be prepared to work hard AND to enjoy yourself – the people you’ll meet there, the beautiful forests and mountains … and French food and wine!

4. Finally, my three French words to describe La Muse? etonnante, feconde, accueillante

If you've stayed at La Muse, we'd love to feature your profile. Please contact: lamuseretreat [at] or leave your e-mail address in the comments. 

Nov 26, 2009

Thankful at (& for) La Muse

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! The best part about Thanksgiving (besides all the pie) is the encouragement to take some time & reflect on what you're grateful for. We have so much to be thankful for here at La Muse:

Autumn aromas. November has been outrageously beautiful here, and the smell of the crunchy leaves combined with the fresh, clean mountain air makes staying inside something of a challenge.

La Muse's Living Library. You know that feeling you get when you stay at a hostel or B&B and find a really good book in the lending library? One that you've been meaning to read? That feeling is possible every day thanks to the great library at La Muse. Attendees donate books that mean something to them, and the result is a room full of treasures.

Our hosts. Kerry & John epitomize graciousness and generosity and their welcoming spirit infuses the house. We look forward to toasting them on Saturday when we celebrate Thanksgiving: The Sequel! 

Nov 24, 2009

Art Bits

 [art by Mel Kadel]

It's been a bit lit-heavy around these parts, so today we thought we'd share a few art links we like:
  • Phaidon has a new art book out called My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic: Everything You Need to Know About Art, Ads, Life, God and Other Mysteries and Weren't Afraid to Ask.  Readers will get a peek into the art collector's brain as he answers questions like
    • How do you decide whether something is worth £10 or £10 million?
    • So much contemporary art looks the same to me. Am I missing something? 
    • Do you believe in it all?  A: "I am not clever enough to be a cynic, so belief is the only option available to me." 
  • lines and colors is, in the words of the indefatigable Charley Parker, a blog about "drawing, painting, illustration, comics, concept art and other visual art...if it has lines and/or colors, it's fair game." The site features loads of links, lots of ideas, and of course, a whole bunch of images to inspire. 
  • Fecal Face is focused on the San Francisco art scene. We're especially fond of the studio visits section. It's lovely to see all that art-in-progress, and the spaces where art is made.
[Alexis Mackenzie studio visit]

Nov 22, 2009

Are you reading...

the Wall Street Journal's book section? If not, we recommend you start! The WSJ has been cranking out the delights in recent weeks. Take a peek:

  • "How to Write a Great Novel"~ The work habits & quirks of a bang-up collection of novelists. The lone artist-in-residence at La Muse has politely requested that his writerly housemates not set up shop in the bathroom.  
What other books coverage should we be reading?

Profile: Eibhlís Farrell

Thanks to Eibhlís Farrell for this week's profile!

The most valuable was the peace, quietness and time to write uninterrupted. I was working on a setting of Ave Maris Stella for soprano and string quartet, a choral setting of Ave Maria and a cycle of songs of Irish poetry. It is cool in the evenings so bring a warm jumper or fleece. The best eating experience was the local nectar and ambrosia: local goat cheese, honey and figs form the garden eaten altogether. I thought the area was beautiful and loved Carcassonne---musicians feel a real connection with the troubadours of the area. I would love to do a performance in the little church.


Have you stayed at La Muse? Please get in touch: lamuseretreat [at]'d love to feature your profile!

Nov 20, 2009

"The Wakefulness of Living Things" - An Exhibition of Drawings by Dwight Cassin - Nov 28 at La Muse

Mid-November Splendor

An artist at work sketching in a field of fall(en) leaves. Can you spot him?
Bright hills of last week, now a bit more orange and brown (but no less lovely). 

Click either photo to enlarge. And please stop by next week for more scenes from Labastide Esparbairenque. 

Nov 18, 2009

Reader Survey! Prizes*!

Well, not a survey so much as a question: What kind of content would you most like to see here on La Muse's blog? When your internet-ambles bring you here, what are you hoping to find? Please let us know in the comments (or e-mail lamuseretreat [at]

[*The small print: Prizes=entries that you'd like to see. You may have already won!]

Nov 16, 2009

Profile: Dr. Tadhg Ó Dúshláine

Thanks to Dr. Tadhg Ó Dúshláine for contributing this week's profile (as well as the first new wild-card question)!

  1. What do you consider most valuable about your time at La Muse? The totality of the ambience -  location, discipline, collegiality  - all conducive to getting the job done. 
  2. Tell us, in a sentence or two, about the project you were focused on while at La Muse. Two  sojourns, two volumes of poetry produced and published. 
  3. What advice would you give future attendees? Plan, prepare, and focus on a specific project for the time involved. 
  4. What three (French!) words would you use to describe La Muse? Sanctuaire tranquille, inspirant.  
Dr. Ó Dúshláine was the first to take us up on the offer to contribute a question of his own: How about an annual 'La Muse Festival des Arts'?

How about it La Musers? Would you make the trek for a La Muse Festival des Arts? What time of year would you most like to attend such a festival?

Nov 13, 2009

More Magnetic Magic at La Muse

i want hair with enormous lather
storms heavy as knife music
your shadow skinning my arm 
beneath bitter winter light
want milk from deaths fiddle
meat from blood lake
water fallen through fingers after worship
& chocolate raw as ache
may you always live through summer
and please lie only to me

love is like sausages when you are drunk 
gorgeous and essential

they say some
pink for a girl
but to me
womans beauty
is her skin
dressed sky blue
she goddess like a vision
gowned she is in petals from eternity

Nov 12, 2009

Nov 11, 2009

The Pitch Doctor's Spicy Basmati Rice

Last night, Peter Rush (The Pitch Doctor) blew our minds with his spicy rice dish. He's graciously agreed to share the recipe here. Take it away, Peter
 Spicy Basmati Rice as told by countless generations of Indian chefs to me personally in chat rooms on the internet but finally, finely honed by The Pitch Doctor for your delectation and inner huskards beloved rice-heads and rice-headettes.
1. Ingredients enough for a LaMusein of writers, one hungry American painter or five ordinary souls

With Prodigy playing loud in background, Firestarter set for track one, max it.........
  1. 1/2 kilo or 1 lb to the rest of us of the best basmati rice you can get your mitts on, white or brown 
  2. A generous pinch or two or three of Panchoori Pann (special spice mix you can get in any good Asian/Indian shop) I get mine from Mattas in Bold Street Liverpool because my mates Daleep and Dipak run it, its cheaper there than anywhere else and it's a mainline Pool vibe but you can get yours online  
  3. Two shallots chopped finely 
  4. Nice generous thumbs of skinned ginger chopped finely 
  5. Two bulbs garlic salt crushed chopped finely (drop salt onto chopping board, lay bulb on it press down with flat of knife, crush and see the skins just drop off and the oils release) 
  6. Organic chicken stock cube or vegetable if a sandal wearer, diluted in cup of boiling water 
  7. Good olive oil say two tablespoons but you will decide your own balance here and a knob of Ghee (Indian clarified butter) if you are a buttery slippery type of affair and like some cholesterol which actually  is part of a good balanced diet, gives extra authentic flavour and a slight bulbous shape to stomach and arteries.  
  8.  Two teaspoons of Gara Masala. See 2 if you haven't a feckin clue what this great shit is Fistful of finely chopped fresh coriander split into two piles 2/3 to 1/3 
Click read more for the Rules of Cooking or click here to download a PDF of the recipe. 

Nov 10, 2009

October Book Swap

We had crepes again for this book swap along with great creme de marron that Lowell made from the chestnuts he and the other attendees found around the village. It was delicious! We're having another book swap in no time, but first, a quick recap of October's:

Lowell Brower, a writer from Seattle, started us off with Peter Orner's The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. The novel is set in Namibia and features some of the finest prose Lowell has ever encountered. For his Pacific Northwest-related donation, Lowell offered Gary Snyder's Earth House Hold, a collection of journals, essays, and poems written in the Northwestern wildnerness.

Elizabeth Ames Staudt donated a copy of Eric Puchner's  Music Through the Floor as it's one of her favorite story collections, and she hopes future guests at La Muse will love it as well. She wonders when Mr. Puchner's next book is coming out--Eric Puchner, if you're reading this, your public awaits! Elizabeth also donated Not Normal, Illinois (ed. Michael Martone). She has yet to explore the anthology, but her novel-in-progress is set in the Midwest, and she hopes the collection will remind her of home, and help affirm that the Midwest is just as lovely and complex and wondrously weird as any other region in the States.

Dwight Cassin, an artist from Chicago, pointed out that non - Midwesterners might not get the clever title. Dwight donated the Journal of Eugene Delacroix first, a book that documents Delacroix's life from 1822 to 1863. Dwight also gave the library Working by Studs Terkel because, he says, Terkel's book tells the stories of real working Chicagoans, interviewed
over forty years for NPR by Terkel. 

Sherry Christie, a writer from Maine, donated a copy of Making Your Company Human: Inspiring Others to Reach Their Potential, a book she co-authored with former CEO Le Harron. She also donated a copy One Man's Meat,  E.B. White's memoir of his time in Maine. Sherry reflected on the wild solitude of Maine and La Muse both. On this, her second visit, Sherry nearly completed a revision of her historical novel Roma Amor: A novel of Caligula's Rome while here. Read more about her book here.

Everyone read passages from their books aloud and we all left breakfast feeling filled with inspiration (and also really, really filled with John's amazing crepes).

Fridge Poems

Today, one of our many great attendees this month, Peter Rush, had the fun and inspired idea to put a load of word magnets on one of the La Muse fridges.

Hence: the new world of Fridge Poems!!! Anytime anyone puts one up there we'll take a photo of it and post it to the blog!

The one above is the inaugural Fridge Poem by Peter.

Nov 9, 2009

Profile: Tom Montgomery-Fate

  1. What do you consider most valuable about your time at La Muse?  The focused time to write in a lovely setting with wonderful artist-comrades.  John and Kerry are wonderful hosts, and being artists/writers themselves, they know how to create an environment where both creativity and generosity can flourish.    
  2. Tell us, in a sentence or two, about the project you were focused on while at La Muse.   I was working on a nature memoir, for which I’ve since received a book contract (Beacon Press). 
  3. What advice would you give future attendees?  Get to know the town and the building and the garden and the little river and the mountain.  You don’t have to go anywhere.  I didn’t have a car and seldom left, but was very happy—even in February.  
  4. Describe the best meal you ate while at La Muse.  We had a short story writer chef who was a wonderful cook—Robert.  He prepared many, many wonderful meals

Thank you for contributing your profile, Tom! And hearty congratulations on the book contract. 

If you've stayed at La Muse and would like to be profiled, please e-mail: lamuseretreat [at] We'd love to feature you! Check back next Monday for the third in our profile series.

Nov 7, 2009

La Muse in the Guardian!

La Muse was featured in a recent Guardian travel article!  We were recommended for arty types on a budget.

Stephanie Cross writes, "And then there's La Muse Inn, whose idyllic Languedoc location alone is enough to get you rhapsodising. In parts dating back to 12th century, the Inn is built of local stone and chestnut wood; bedrooms have original fireplaces, Caunes marble windowsills and terracotta tile floors."

We're rhapsodizing even on this rainy November evening. In fact, we're about to get a fire started in the woodstove in the library, brew a fresh pot of coffee, and tuck in for a night of writing. Thanks to the Guardian for including us in this great lineup. Read more about La Muse (and some other amazing opportunities) here and while you're at it, check out their stellar books coverage.

Nov 6, 2009

Photo Friday: Evening walk

[photo by Lowell Brower/click photo to enlarge]
November is here and the night sky is stunning.

The Winewhisperer

So, we got inspired to go on a wine "degustation" last week with Gardenia and Dwight. (I only got around to posting this today, even though we went there weeks ago.)

I had given Gardenia the book Languedoc Wines asking her to chose some of the most interesting winemakers, that is, characters in the region, especially around the great wine region of AOC Minervois La Livinière (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) .

She chose Paul Durand's place in Siran. His wine, "Paul Louis Eugene," is named after himself, his father, Louis, and his grandfather, Eugene, both of whom were winemakers before him.

Paul was asleep in his wine cave on a make shift bed when we arrived and very kindly allowed us to taste his wine even though he was obviously sleep deprived. The reason he was in the cave was because he "listens" to his wines, checking on them every couple of hours after the vendange, to catch them at just the right fermentation.

That's Paul below. Gardenia and Dwight "stole" the photos when Paul wasn't looking, as he doesn't like any type of publicity. (Try finding a website, or anything else about him online!) He especially doesn't like journalists because they "don't tell the truth." When I showed him the Languedoc book and the author photo on the back of it he said that proved his very point. He'd never met the guy and here he had written a whole section on Paul's wines.

It was a fun trip and Paul's wine's are amazing!

Nov 2, 2009

New Feature: Profiles!

We're excited to launch a new regular feature on the blog: profiles! We'll profile a current/past La Muse attendee each week. If you've been to La Muse and would like to be profiled, please e-mail: lamuseretreat [at] Big thanks to visual artist Julie Baugnet for kicking off the series!

1) What do you consider most valuable about your time at La Muse? 
The quiet lifestyle and the time available to do work intensely.

2) Tell us, in a sentence or two, about the project you were focused on while at La Muse. 
I was able to work on my painted artists’ books and create work for my gallery exhibit in Minneapolis, Mn. The days unfolded like a dream and this was my most productive studio time in my life.

3)What advice would you give future attendees?
Be attentive to the inspirations of the village and keep a strong focus on your project.

Check out Julie's answers to our 'wild card' questions!