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Casa Libre en la Solana

Casa Libre en la Solana

By Ann Fine

Casa Libre en la Solana is the first year-round writer's residency center in the Southwest. Located in the downtown arts district in Tucson, Arizona, Casa Libre serves writers from across the country and around the world. Casa Libre is a non-profit organization supported by grants and donations that features 5 fully furnished writing suites, a library conference room and facilities for readings, book release receptions and classes, and several private courtyards. The buildings are over 100 year old adobe structures with all the style and character of a traditional Mexican compound. Along with hosting writers residencies, Casa Libre hosts several readings series, workshops for writers, and group residencies. Several local non-profits utilize Casa's library for their board meetings on a regular basis, and Casa regularly hosts many visiting writers for local literary groups such as The University of Arizona Poetry Center, POG, Chax Press, Kore Press, and the Tucson Poetry Festival. Casa's web site, www.casalibre.org, provides information about our facilities and programs.

Casa Libre was founded in 2003 by Kristen Nelson and Ann Fine, two young writers who got the idea when they met in undergraduate school at the University of Tampa in Florida. When they graduated in 2000, the two were still kicking the idea around, but it wasn't until after 9/11, when they lived and worked in New York, that they decided to get serious and begin searching for a building in Tucson. In 2003 they relocated to Tucson and found the building on 4th Avenue, in the heart of the arts district downtown. That year they incorporated as a non-profit and found an umbrella organization to operate under while they worked to fulfill the requirements of the IRS to earn their non-profit status. In 2004 they moved into the property and began extensive restorations and planning. They worked hard for the first year before they started offering the suites to writers. With the help of many many volunteers and the support of the community, Ann and Kristen were able to present Casa Libre as a writing center in May of 2005.

In the summer of 2006 Casa Libre finally earned its non-profit status from the IRS and was finally able to begin awarding self-directed residencies to individual writers who applied and were “qualified” for a residency. For Ann and Kristen and the board of directors of Casa Libre, “qualified” means—a writer who will productively use the writing suite to write, is serious about their work, and whose past experience and writing sample displays evidence of this. It has been important to the staff and board from the beginning that Casa Libre's residencies are made available to a wide range of writers at every level of career development. We host MFA students, academics who are working on dissertations or scholarly papers, poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, self-published writers, free-lance writers, or talented writers who have never been published.

In 1912, Harriet Monroe, the founder of Poetry Magazine, famously wrote: “The Open Door will be the policy of this magazine&3151;may the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free from entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.” We can't stay whether or not this policy still holds true at Poetry Magazine; but for the founders of Casa Libre, this policy will hold true for our residency applicants. Casa Libre en la Solana roughly translates from the Spanish: “Free house in the sun(room)”. We have no other agenda than to support the serious work of writers and local writing groups by giving them the free room to create.

The atmosphere at Casa Libre is kitschy, homey, casual, and down to earth. Since each suite is outfitted with high-speed Wi-fi, and the same for the entire property, writers can bring their laptops and work anywhere on the property. Our residents are here to write and connect with other writers as they choose. That's why there is not a schedule of classes or events and we call it a self-directed residency. There are plenty of stimulating reading series and other activities for writers in Tucson to feed our residents' hunger for camaraderie; all one has to do is ask Kristen or Ann, and they'll give you times, directions and information you need. The directors are 24/7 hands on caretakers, and make themselves available to residents as proper hosts, and always respect the residents' right to privacy. Some residents hole up and never surface the entire duration of their residency, and some like to emerge in the evening to sit out in the courtyards and share cocktails and visit. Often residents slip out and roam the neighborhood galleries, cafes, bars, restaurants, and museums which are in convenient walking distance from Casa's front door. Just outside the city there is some of the most beautiful desert landscape in the world, which many residents take days off from writing to explore.

We encourage everyone, “famous” or not, to apply for a residency. We are not ageist, sexist, worried about your religious preferences, how well-known or well published you are, or whether or not you move on wheels or foot. While we do care about craft and seriousness, we are not here to judge your aesthetic. We will welcome and treat each visiting writer with respect. All we hope for are folks who desire to have private space to get the work they dream of doing done.

For application deadlines and open enrollment schedules, please visit www.casalibre.org for more information.