Although the park offers solitude, the program required a public presentation so that artists could share their work with park visitors. Setting up in the amphitheater at the visitor’s center, Maynard led a workshop with visitors that let them stretch their creative juices during a writing exercise inspired by the nature in the park.
During his workshop—titled “How to Take Pictures like a Nature Writer”—Maynard encouraged participants to put their phones and cameras down in order to observe their surroundings more deeply and be more selective when it came to taking photos. After basking in the environment around them, participants then wrote a caption for a picture they intentionally took.
“This was a new exercise that I was able to develop in the park,” Maynard explained. “There was a lot of good feedback, and I’m still getting notes and photos from some of the attendees. I think it would be a great exercise to continue to use in my classes.”
Gearing up to teach a full course load in the fall, including creative writing, fiction writing, and journalism, Maynard found the time to complete another residency, this time in the Black Rock Desert.
Getting Inspired by the Black Rock
Friends of the Black Rock High Rock has been working with the Bureau of Land Management since 2014 to host an artist-in-residence program to promote awareness of the arts through exceptional places within National Conservation Lands. This experience gives artists the opportunity to learn about the value of preserving public lands in the Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area while engaging and informing others.
While here to continue writing, Maynard’s experience in the Black Rock Desert was less about solitude and more focused on getting to know the people working and living there. Stationed in Gerlach, a town famous for being the gateway to Burning Man, Maynard worked with employees and volunteers of Friends of the Black Rock High Rock who knew the area completely. In an environment as rough and remote as the desert, their guidance and help was vital.
“During this residency, someone was with me every day to take me out into the desert and explore different areas,” Maynard said. “There were so many places that I never even knew existed, so it was amazing exploring with people who knew those places well.”
After exploring the desert during the day, Maynard got to know town locals at night. With its proximity to Burning Man, Gerlach hosts both long-time locals and visitors just passing through. As a writer who enjoys creating stories that are character driven, the eclectic mix of people was the perfect inspiration for new work.
“I’d be out in the desert doing nature nonfiction writing during the day, and at night I’d be in the town bars meeting all these new people,” Maynard said. “I’d only been up there five or six days, and I was getting invited to a woman’s 90th birthday at the community center.”