I met Ivory Madison in October 2004 when I was a new mom with a colicky preemie. Before the baby came, I nourished fantasies of spinning out novels while she slept. Afterward, I learned to use naptime to shower or try to pick up or wash the endless loads of laundry. Ivory saved my sanity with her Red Room Writers Society.
Once a week, I left my daughter with her father and drove across San Francisco through the early winter darkness to a mansion on the edge of Alamo Square. There, Ivory welcomed writers with hors d’oeuvres and a selection of teas. She made the lovely place feel special.
After a brief check-in, we writers settled in around a long wooden conference table and wrote. It was heavenly. For a couple hours a week, I was a grown-up with a mission, with a headful of words ready to spill through my fingers onto a screen. I managed to draft an essay a week. That book became Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.
See, having the date to write was huge. I knew the quiet time was coming — and I’d paid for it — so I stole time at home to prepare for it. I gathered my research. I pulled together my photos. I got myself mentally organized so that when the Red Room evening rolled around, I was ready.
Even better than the weekly Writers Society meetings were the monthly writing marathons. We met for a lavish continental breakfast, provided by the mansion, wrote for several glorious hours, then Ivory ran out to fetch lunch from Arlequin. The writers would chat during the lunchbreak, then it was back to work for a few more hours.
Those longer stretches were paradise. I used them to edit the last couple issues of Morbid Curiosity magazine, to write book proposals, to copyedit my novel, to put together a chapbook. Sometimes I even challenged myself to write an essay an hour. Having hours at a time was the best kind of luxury.
Ivory helped me remember what it was that I wanted to do with my life. She gave me the space and time to do it. For that, I will always be grateful.