Susan Palmer

After spending three weeks in the Faber Residency I am telling my most creative colleagues they must apply. It is a wonderful space to retreat from all the bustle and distraction of everyday life and focus on your own ideas and on writing. The setup is perfect – a pleasant, elegant hotel room with a big desk and an amazing view of the volcanic mountains, sometimes half covered in must, sometimes sunny. Any obstacles to your writing are internal, no one else but yourself to blame – so that was very interesting!

The first night I arrived and had supper with Victor and Tiina I found they all had interesting views on religion. Victor spoke of his fascinating travels in India visiting mosques to collect Arabic books, Tiina told a story about one of her theatrical productions in which a Finnish Lutheran priest (we would say minister or pastor in North America) had married several gay couples, thereby legalizing their union, although the Lutheran Church of Finland did not recognize gay weddings, and how her friend had put himself in medieval stocks while waiting for the church council’s discipline. I also met Paul and swopped stories with him about religion in Africa. Later, Adam showed up who is writing a book on unconventional spiritual leaders in American history – one of my favorite topics. More scholars arrived with different backgrounds so the conversation at supper was something to look forward to after working all day. (I liked the food too, lots of choice and skillfully cooked.) Breakfast was always exciting because Victor would be reading the Catalonian newspapers in the lobby and give us a breakdown on the latest news about the “illegal” referendum that was coming up – that took place my last day win Spain when I was in Barcelona!

When you need a break, you can climb a volcano or go to the Olot museums and see the paintings of the brothers Marian and Joaquim Vayreda – beautiful landscapes and portraits of the late 18th century with the surprising influence of the Pre-Raphaelites.

The creators of the Faber Residency program are amazing people. Francesc Serés is a very charming and funny coordinator, very helpful and concerned about our wellbeing, and drove us around on several expeditions to see the local villages and volcanoes. Gavina Freixa is a dynamic woman who helped me navigate an English/French lecture at a high school to 14-year-old boys who spoke Catalan – which somehow turned into a harp lesson.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the city of Olot and to Francesc, Gavina and Pau for facilitating this marvellous and enriching learning experience.