I spent a perfect two weeks on this perfectly hatched island among a whole shoal of pine furry islands. There were seals, raccoons fishing for mussels, lobstermen going by in the fog, seaweed red and ochre. And then the sun would come out, every now and again, and the sea would switch blue as a blueberry. The beauty of this place is astounding. The strawberries are small and flavorful. The lobster is the best I’ve ever tasted. The eggs are tiny and in several shades of white and brown. I miss it terribly as I write this, miss the bonfires and hiking through the mossy interior of the island, miss chatting with my fellow artists. It was a happy mixture of camping and writing colony. I worked very well with a clear brain and intense concentration, edited an entire manuscript of 450 pages, departed swigging a last bottle and singing pirate ditties. This has been the most generous writers’ center I have visited and I’m grateful to Steve for his kindness and for the fact that he keeps this place wild and devoid of that sanitary, academic, uptight atmosphere of so many of these centers.
Kiran Desai, novelist, The Inheritance of Loss, winner of the Man Booker Prize
There is no place or time on Earth like the weeks of quiet isolation on Norton Island. The island is your silent partner in creating: enough company to keep from going crazy, but no interruptions in work or inspiration.
Joe Haldeman, novelist, The Forever War, winner of the Hugo & Nebula awards
Writers and painters scurrying to their studios in the thick woods summoned by the terrors of their creative work, like deer threatened by the bears—the awesome experience continues to inspire me even a month later, on the mainland, to scurry into my studio humbly. And the seals, lounging on the other end of the island, on the rocks, like bald fat men, they seem like an assembly of saints, without Cuban cigars, summoning me to improve my testimony, story.
Josip Novakovich, writer, April Fool’s Day
Norton Island gave me a priceless gift—the chance to work with rigor in a setting of unexpected natural beauty.
D. Nurkse, poet, A Night in Brooklyn
I can’t imagine a more creative environment than Norton Island. Every day poses a fresh and authentic encounter with nature, fellow artists, and one’s self. Long stretches of solitude are balanced with moments of raucous camaraderie. It is a place for clear thinking, and dreamy starry nights. The kind of experience I live for, and as a theatre artist, the kind of experience I hope to create.
Phil Atlakson, playwright, Leapfrog Through Space & Time
Early each day, in the serenity of my cabin, accompanied only by the whistling pines and the patient mosquitoes that had gathered on my screen, I would begin my deep wanderings into the draft of my second novel—ultimately, to my surprise, at the end of three weeks, having created and revised fifty pages. Late afternoons, to refill my tank, I would follow the downy "buoy path" to the ocean-side of the island, often accompanied by one or two of the uniformly fascinating and accomplished other residents. When I was feeling more daring I would venture out in the rowboat—once getting so wildly lost in the fog that two passing lobster fishermen, steaming along, informed me in some forgotten, briny dialect that I had drifted several islands away! Evenings, however, is when it all came together: ten or so committed artists and writers, gathering around a long teak table (and then around a campfire), shared from their work, cracked each other up, and enjoyed the most marvelous food and wine. Anything I accomplished in the solitude of my cabin owed to the gestalt of Norton Island—its devoted community, its pervasive calm, the youthfully spirited and defiant way it juts its rocky face into the ocean.
John Beckman, novelist, The Winter Zoo
Usually when I come home from a residency, the magic dissipates right away, but this time I am still getting up at 6:00 AM and drawing all morning. I’m still back there on the rocks in the fog, still wandering through the embracing trees, still scaring up bald eagles and feeling like I’m really alive As I hope you could tell from the drawings I made there, the intensity of the whole place, the savage parts of the island, the other artists’ company and work, the expanding time, and the psychological effects of being physically sequestered and bound by water, all made for an immersion in my own work that I loved.
Katherine Meyer, artist
Since coming back from Norton Island, not a day has passed that I haven’t consciously felt grateful for the opportunity and the experience. Without the slightest exaggeration, it was a godsend. As you know, I’d “never done that kind of thing before,” for a number of reasons, but one of the strongest reasons was that I feared, judging from what I’d heard of other writers residencies, that it might be a nightmare of pecking orders and inflated egos—and God, was Norton Island anything but that. The camaraderie was inspiring, and the work I accomplished was nothing short of astounding, at least to me: 120 pages of good new manuscript in three weeks. Lord love a duck. It was heaven, no kidding, and I’ll be eternally thankful. Stupidly, I packed shorts and t-shirts (it gets chilly in July, doesn’t it?) and ended up buying sweatshirts and jeans at that thrift shop in town—but even that was cool: 50-cents a pop? I’m still wearing that junk, my lucky clothes.
Tom DeHaven, novelist, It's Superman!
Nearly a month has passed since the boat carrying me away from Norton Island left the dock, and I still return to the place every day in my mind. When the quotidian threatens to pull me under and the shores of the Free Republic of Norton Island seem unbearably distant, the small vase of sea heather on my desk reminds me of how fortunate I am to have been a citizen of that happy place, and it is gratitude that buoys my soul. Now, surely, is the time to say it: thank you, thank you, thank you.
Christina Askounis, novelist, The Dream of the Stone
The landscape has enchanted me, and so has Jonesport.
Jane Culp, landscape artist
It was a spectacular, life-changing, magnificent and magical summer on Norton Island. I shall never forget it, and I thank you for the opportunity to stay and work and meet such amazing inspirational people.
Jamie Callan, novelist, Just Too Cool
Life at a writers’/artists’ colony is surely always good. Freedom from the chores of normal life, interesting company, immersion in the work: don’t these pay off for almost anyone? But my time on Norton Island was beyond good. The head-slapping beauty of the place, the small challenges of life there, the genuine isolation, the richly human atmosphere established by Steve Dunn and the staff, the kinds of people who would choose a stay in this kind of place: these all lifted the experience into a higher level of intensity. I walked, gawked, I did dishes, I laughed a lot, I learned things from the other residents and from the island’s silence, and yes, I wrote my brains out. I say go there if you get the chance. Take wool socks. And expect great things.
Jeanne Larsen, novelist, critic, Manchu Palaces
The Norton Island experience proved an adventure and an opportunity to appreciate nature, accomplish a sizable amount of work, and make new friends. In two weeks, I wrote one hundred, inspired pages of my novel, participated in many stimulating conversations at wonderful dinners. I hiked, rode in boats, explored other islands, marveled at early morning mists and evening sunsets, saw seals, ate lobsters, drank wine around the bonfire, shared stories with other writers and artists. For two weeks, I lost my weariness, my artistic frustrations, mundane responsibilities, and most importantly, my cynicism. I came back to “civilization” renewed.
Frances Sherwood, novelist, The Night of Sorrows