USA | 2004
Maile Meloy is the author of the novel Liars and Saints and the story collection Half in Love . Her stories have been published in The New Yorker , The Paris Review , and other American magazines. She has won the PEN/Malamud Award, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was born and raised in Helena, Montana, and now lives in Los Angeles.
I’m writing in gratitude for my time at Santa Maddalena. Your invitation came at a time when I was frustrated and uncertain about what I was working on, and unwillingly distracted by everything else. Going away, which I had never thought I needed, suddenly seemed like a thing to try.
I’m so glad I did. I was able to work through a draft of the frustrating novel slowly, and see the things I had rushed through at home. I had the white room, with your ancestors on the walls and with the door out into the garden. I worked there in the morning, then went out before lunch, up toward the mountains where there was still snow. In the afternoons, if no one had come to visit, I worked more, or read, or threw the ball for the dogs, or went walking with the other writers. I had wondered if I would be able to fill the time, but that was never a problem. I had brought way too many books to read; there are so many good ones on your shelves.
In my last week, I moved into Grisha’s studio—the studio with the most amazing view, which still seems to have Grisha’s presence so much in it.
The other writers, Jon and Maarten and Denis, were a wonderful surprise, both in themselves and in their books. I can’t imagine how I would have met them any other way, and I felt lucky to be there with them.
One of the many good things about Santa Maddalena is that it isn’t institutional in any way: it’s a house, where life goes on and friends come to visit. There’s time to work, but you’re also in Italy and you aren’t isolated from it. It’s such a rare and wonderful thing. I loved your friends, and now consider some of them my own.
So thank you for your great generosity, and for your company, your stories, your red cape (since I hadn’t believed it would be cold), and your friendship. We are all very much in your debt, and I hope Santa Maddalena will be there for other writers for a long time.