Posts tagged writer in residence
Joya: AiR / writer / Rick Maddocks / Canada


"After stepping off the bus at Velez-Rubio, I was yanking my too-heavy backpack out of the luggage hold when I heard a stranger say, in a polite English voice, “Are you Rick?” I smiled and turned around to find a young man with wide-eyed look. He introduced himself as Stephen and said he was just leaving Joya and was getting on the very bus out of which I’d just stepped. He had what can be best described as “that Joya look”—relaxed, open, expanded even. Steve told me that our host Simon was across the street for me at a café, where he was waiting for me with another artist. But first Stephen and I found ourselves a conversation—about how I was happily returning to Joya and about what he’d been working on during his stay, how he’d departed from his usual art practice and had begun working with the amazing landscape at the residency-- all while the bus was taking on passengers and just about to close the doors. Stephen’s last words to me before he jumped on the bus: “I envy you”.



The rugged beauty of the circular valley that holds Joya in its palm. Simon’s and Donna’s warmth, insight and generosity of spirit. The white earth that is rich with rumours and dreams. Wonderful, hearty dinners with our hosts and fellow artists. The Syrian pines glowing green under sun and cloud. The beautiful minimalist design of the repurposed cortijada at Los Gázquez. The smell of fresh rosemary in the valley. Enlightening and inspiring artist talks, in which surprise is usually a key ingredient. The rustic second studio space outside the living quarters, a perfect place in which to map out ideas for a novel, write a bunch more scenes and ideas and even write some trumpet and string parts for another project. The shimmer of goat bells drifting across the valley. A gigantic yellow moon slowly climbing over the hill at midnight, filling Los Gázquez with light. Getting spoiled with delicious breakfasts by a French-Tunisian-American cookbook author. A sky exploding with stars on clear nights. The walks down the barrancos and up the mountain and the (thankfully) vain searches for wild boar. The psychic and physical space I was gifted so I could follow the vision, wherever it roamed.



Getting up at dawn (one of my great achievements at Joya), I stepped outside with my still-too-heavy backpack and saw the valley below filling to the brim with pillows of cloud. It was silent but for the slow, hushed preparations for the day echoing from the house. As Donna drove us out of Joya’s valley to Velez Rubio, from where we’d go on to our respective destinations, I looked back to see the great cloud spill over the side of the lower valley and drift through the trees surrounding the cortijada. The sun was coming up over the mountain to the east and the world was, in some indefinable way, expanding". 


Rick Maddox

You can see Rick Maddocks performing here in Country of Madmen by Sun Belt, from the album/book Cabalcor: An Extracted History (OffSeason Records/Anvil Press).

SUN BELT is a musical experiment reaching into other arts.

Cabalcor publication by Sunbelt





Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Dipika Mukherjee / India-Malaysia-USA

“I didn’t quite know what to expect from a Joya residency; the description sounded so different from the usual residencies that I went along for the adventure. But the landscape and walking paths surrounding Cortijada Los Gázquez are truly magical…the very second day I wrote out a poem which had been marinating in my head for a month. The day after that — after watching a resident present a very different kind of performance photography — I wrote a short story in a single sitting in a fit of inspiration. Simon and Donna and the twins, along with Max the dog, Fufu the goat, and all seven cats, provide the relaxed chaos of a happy home where artists of all nationalities can forge symbiotic friendships which last beyond a single residency. A truly remarkable experience.”

Dipika Mukherjee

–Shambala Junction, (Novel) 2016. Winner of the 4th Virginia Prize for Fiction.

–Ode to Broken Things, (Novel)  2016. Longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

–Rules of Desire. (Short Stories) 2015.

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Renée Wilson / Canada

Of Awe and Minor Despair

‘The journey to Joya: AiR was a compliment to my current projects in ways I only experienced once my time with Simon and Donna was over. This is to say, like all things beautiful and rare, only its absence can its true worth be felt.

And absence describes Joya: AiR egregiously well. There is an absence of all the distractions we seek to escape from, as artists trapped in the mundane. The absence of noise, of clutter, of unwanted human contact. There is no water to be wasted, and hardly any shade to take for granted. In removing all I sought to shed myself of, I found my heart and mind stripped to their bare, dry innards. Excuses and distractions dried up in much the same way the sun pulled up water from the arid ground on which I stood for a week. I was left with nothing except wide, wide space.

Joya: AiR is filled with seemingly quiet space. The people around me, busy at work with creative projects of their own, created within Joya: AiR an air of manifestation; unconsciously, sitting or walking anywhere, you know something is being made. Passion for making and creating burns at Joya: AiR. It’s in the kitchen and the art studio, in the bedrooms and the gardens. It’s on the hilltops where we sit to talk and watch sunsets, and growing slowly in the hulls of almond seeds on trees stretching upward and onward over sprawling hillsides. Even the solitude breeds something new; connection. I met the most inspiring people during my stay, and heard stories from which I’m branded. I’m bringing home the scent of rosemary and dirt, and memories of lovingly crafted meals and conversations. I carry with me new blossoms of things which grew in the spaces emptied by the Spanish sun and strong mountain winds.

From  Joya: AiR, I sought an absence of all things which held me back from creating, and found myself drowning in everything newly growing inside. All I needed was wide space to soak up the sun, and grow.

I thank Sam and Katie, Fionnuala and Dayna and Diane, for sharing freely with me all they were willing to give in our quiet, providential conversations. Simon and Donna, there’s more adoration and respect in my heart for you than I could ever hope to aptly express. «Je ne suis rien, je le sais, mais je compose mon rien avec un petit morceau de tout.» – Victor Hugo

As I grow, you are all strong branches of this tree I’m slowly becoming.”

Renée Wilson

Joya: AiR / writer in Residence / HD Motyl / USA

'This morning, I sliced a banana into a bowl, covered it with yogurt, stirred it as I sat on my couch, with a cup of coffee nearby, and sunlight pouring through the windows looking out to my garden.  All of this, together, reminded me of Joya, and my mornings there, with virtually the same food.  The sunshine there was filtered through Iberian skies and clouds of course, and that sun beat down on land much rockier and more sparse than the earth in my backyard, but it was the morning writing, the steaming coffee, the competing flavors on my tongue that brought me back to Las Gázquez . . .

Joya.  Jewel.  A rocky jewel in the mountains of Almería.  Turn one way, and the land climbs to the sky; turn the other way, and the rocky soil tumbles to a valley that, for me, was often an inspiration for meditation, a kind of of visual respite from the computer screen I stared at as I wrote, and a reminder of where I was, what a gift I was given to be here, and a jewel this place was.

I had given myself a goal to write two film scripts while at Las Gázquez—two short film scripts with similar settings, related themes, and very different circumstances.  I achieved that goal—I finished both scripts—and I was thrilled for that, and proud of myself, because I can allow myself to be distracted, to be lured to concentrate on something unrelated, usually inconsequential.  The fulfillment of the goal, in and of itself, is good, but in this case, it was what was fulfilled in terms of the content, how the stories grew, changed, became intertwined, then unraveled from each other, only to grab onto one another again.  It was how the characters spoke—to themselves, to each other, to me—and how they changed genders, professions, how their relationships morphed from one thing to another . . . and how the autobiographical nature of the stories and the characters grew fainter as those characters themselves became independent of me, telling their own stories, and living their own lives on the page.  I put them on my narrative springboard but the water they dove into was their own—is their own—and the stories are a part of their biographies.

All of this might have happened—hopefully, would have happened—even without being at Joya, but Joya, the jewel, hastened the process tremendously.  Allowed me to live in isolation (almost) with the characters, with their words and their thoughts, so we became better acquainted much more quickly.  And they became feistier, and sexier, and more caring, and, in the end, more human.  Whether taking a walk around a mountain and coming upon crumbling buildings, or sitting quietly with a bowl of yogurt at a window watching snow falling, or sitting on the crest of a hill gazing down into a distant valley, the characters were with me—sitting quietly or babbling like fools—and the solitude, the attitude of Las Gázquez gave me the space to tell the stories of Charlie, and Vinnie, and Matt.  For that I, and they, are grateful’.


HD Motyl

HD Motyl has been transitioning from a documentary media maker to a narrative media maker. He has been a Producer/Writer/Director in the Documentary world of Chicago, creating work for both the educational and home video markets, then for TV (National Geographic, The History Channel). These video were historical documentaries, children’s documentaries and scientific documentaries. When he turned to teaching full-time, he produced a feature-length documentary (using grant money) called American Rodeo: A Cowboy Christmas, that looked at the behind-the-scenes lives and work of professional rodeo cowboys. (This film is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.)

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Peggy Markel / USA

JOYA : arte + ecología / AiR / writers residency


‘Blossoms were barely evident on the gnarly trees as we dropped down the hill into Cortijada Los Gázquez. Springtime was upon us in late February, quite normal for southern Spain, but it hadn’t quite fluffed out the trees at this altitude of the Sierra Maria. This is almond growing territory, an adaptable crop for the dry limestone soil.

14 k of clay packed road through national forest brought us up to a whitewashed Cortijada, 5 houses in one, with a roofline of traditional half-moon terracotta pipe tiles piled one over the other. Smoke billowed from the chimney. I knew it would be warm inside, but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like living totally off the grid. A wind turbine became a familiar whooshing sound and the photovoltaic solar panels moved like a sunflower with the sun. I have lived without electricity before, using candlelight and lanterns, but this would be the first time living in a place that generates its own juice. Cortijada Los Gázquez sits calmly in the open on 50 acres, commanding the surrounding wilderness with quiet renown. After four months of dreaming about it, I had at last arrived at Joya: arte + ecología, an ecological retreat for artists in the wilds of Andalucía.

I settled into my room with warm radiant heat under my feet and opened my window to get a scent and a sense of my view. I can see the movement of the landscape and how it undulates with feminine earth curves the colour of fair skin. Lines of almond trees edge the fields and hillside terraces giving it friendly definition. I look forward to waking up each morning to watch for the almost inevitable slow motion explosion of frilly pink blossoms on the branches. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for writing.

I crafted a business in 1992 called Culinary Adventures, which began in Tuscany cooking with local chefs and food artisans. I loved it; the travel suited me so I stretched it to other regions in Italy, Sicily, Spain, Morocco and India.  After 25 years of handholding every trip, I was dripping with images and wanted to start writing about the extraordinary people that I have met along the way, especially the hidden artisans. I write my own website and newsletter content and the occasional magazine article, but I hadn’t stopped long enough to go deeper. Every time I tried to write a proper proposal, it lacked depth. A cookbook would only skim the cream off the top. I wanted to go as deep as possible. Memoir, I realized, would require a full stop and a deeper dive. I needed time to contemplate and digest my memories. I began writing short stories about the characters I have met and needed time to develop them and to refine my voice. I applied to Joya and was accepted to my first residency for writers.


These last 10 days have been merciful. I had just arrived from the bustle of India and this was the perfect antidote. Dropping into the warm, forgiving, atmosphere has been a balm. It takes time for the world to stop spinning and when it does, there is a noticeable lightness of being, as if someone has opened a door and let the long lost light and fresh air circulate. Even breathing is easier. I found the time that I needed to edit working stories and slowly, I started to recognise my own voice. We have to get really quiet to hear it, as if it doesn’t really want to talk. Some experiences are hard to articulate, because they do not exist in the realm of words. This was the most surprising discovery. The voice that I have been listening for is practically inaudible. I found it. It’s there, awake, intelligent and knowing, but so far it prefers to be silent. I accept this like a secret offering. I will have to get quieter to get to know her. She may be saying, “find a way to interpret my language”. This is what the trees said to the Navajos.

When I first arrived there were a handful of other artists here. I was overwhelmed at first at how fortunate I felt to be in the company of young people who have chosen to delve into the practice of fine art. I climbed the nearby sunrise mountain with three artists from three different countries; Norway, Canada and the UK. Long Gao had collected found objects like glass shards and wanted to make an installation on the top of the mountain in the shape of a griffin vulture shadow. It was intriguing enough to get me all the way up to the top, stretching my body and physical boundaries more that I thought I could, but I did it. I considered it a metaphor for what I wanted to do with my writing. Go beyond self-imposed boundaries.

Along the way, we had lessons in natural navigation from the primo expert in the world, Tristan Gooley, who was here to contemplate his next moves.

Marie Skeie shared her big view of the relationship between ecology and politics.

I was exhilarated. Filmmaker Hanley Zheng tutored me in film editing. My perspective blew open and for the first time in a long time, I could see out of my box.

It was like there was a certain yeast in the air, to use a food analogy. Bakers build up a yeasty environment that bread responds to.  Cured meats, cheeses, wine, anything that’s fermented needs the air to be thick as thieves with supportive enzymes. This is what Joya felt like to me, an environment rich in invisible creative muses.

Evenings were delightful with owners, Simon and Donna. They have built this place as a labour of love. Both are brilliant artists themselves with a down to earth mix of wit and English sensibility. We didn’t lack for anything and feasted practically every night on Donna’s delicious food and stimulating conversations. Presentations of artists work were given nightly. Simon kept things lively at the table and gave spot on feedback of constructive support.

The table has a way of bringing everyone together. It’s a platform. All you have to do is show up to be fed in so many ways. You get to know each other, which relaxes any creative process. Warmth in every way loosens the grip of rigidity. We had become a community in just a few short days. I’m convinced it had to do with being held so beautifully in this intentional, off the grid container called Joya. I came to the well and I took a deep drink. Yet, I’m thirsty for more. The muse is in the AIR’.

Peggy Markel

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Richard Sidy / Arizona USA

‘In the state of Arizona I am involved in non-profits in rural communities with the goals to enhance awareness and solutions for the challenges of local food security, sustainable communities, and environmental education. The main organization that I work with is Gardens for Humanity. This organization was founded by artists and poets who were moved to find solutions for creating and healing communities through education, art and gardens while teaching environmental stewardship.

For many years I have felt that we are not listening to Mother Earth. We usually talk about her from the viewpoints of science, religion, economy, environmentalism, politics. It has only been the artists, poets and naturalists who have given her voice vivid and compelling beauty, clarity and urgency.

Most of my time in Arizona is spent developing and supporting programs that impact the missions of the organization I work with. My writing is mostly non-fiction or essay. Writing poetry is a luxury for me. Therefore, I looked forward to my residency at Joya as an opportunity to focus on writing poetry that gives voice to the environment and projects a connection to place. I used my time to observe and write poetry that I call  as a whole, “The Earth Speaks to Us: Word Sketches -Discovering a Sense of Place.” To me it is important to listen to the stories that a place is telling us both from the viewpoint of nature and also from the viewpoint of those who live there.

Upon learning that I would be spending a two-week residency at Joya, I was inspired to start writing “The Earth Speaks to Us” to tell the story of where I live, that is rich in Native American culture, with influences of settlers and the Spanish conquistadores. Perhaps now I will continue that and join Andalusia and Arizona places that have many common elements.

A bonus for me was that in Joya, Simon and Donna have created a working sustainable artistic community that supports the arts and the art of living sustainably. So it was extra inspiring to actually see an example of these goals in action. This felt like a perfect fit to the areas of main focus of my life activities’.


Richard Sidy

Joya: AiR / writer in residence / Deborah Joy Corey / Maine USA

Joya was the perfect place for me to complete the final edit of my novel, Settling Twice.  This exquisitely designed residency allows one the freedom and comfort to focus fully on the project at hand. There are many things to be admired about Joya, particularly the restoration of a number of ancient farmhouses into an well sited retreat, which not only honors the land’s history and landscape, but is sensitive to the environment as well. Still for me, the privacy that was afforded me was a standout and made it well worth the trip from Maine, USA. Donna and Simon Beckmann have put tremendous thought into creating spaces that not only inspire, but also comfort after a long day’s work. Their evening dinner table is lively with laughter and great discussions, and even reassurances when the need be. It was my good fortune to be here during the American Presidential Election. I say good fortune because I was escaping the drama of it back in the U.S., but also because when it turned out differently than I had hoped, there was a table of artists from many places to not only share similar heartbreaking experiences in their own countries, but they were present to teach me how to go forward and what to expect. Go Forward. If there was something inscribed over the entrance of Joya, that would be it. For this is a place of restoration that encourages the going forward of the artist’s heart, soul, and mind. And Go Forward is the call that we must all heed.

Joya: AiR/ writer in residence / Santiago Rodriguez Tarditi

Santiago is a 31-year-old Colombian-Italian journalist born to a Brazilian mother, an ethnic and intellectual mix that triggered his passion for food and travel from a young age. He has lived in six different countries and visited forty-three. “I feel blessed for having been able to meet people from different parts of the globe, understand their customs, beliefs, and cultures. It has been paramount in my vision of the world, very important in my formation as a writer and reporter”, he says.

Currently working at Fusion, a digital platform owned by Univision —the USA’s leading Hispanic network and one of the biggest media outlets in the country— Santiago previously ran Monocle’s Americas Bureau from NYC and worked at Publicaciones Semana in Bogotá.

He’s a true believer of the significance that soft power and cultural diplomacy have as key pillars in the construction of a contemporary society. As a board member at Faena Art —the cultural branch of the Faena organization in Argentina and the USA—, Santiago has been witness to the role that open and participatory art, music, dance, and literature, play in bridging gaps and building bridges within a community.

He’s visiting Joya: AiR to work on his first novel, a fictional account of modern-day relationships (particularly friendship) in the digital era. “The natural surroundings, unobstructed views, and the warmth of the house, make it a great source of inspiration”, says Santiago. “It’s almost like this particular location was destined to gather artists and thinkers — I reckon that historically it has been a meeting place for the minds. This house has a special energy; it feels as if  it’s serving its purpose”.