For Writer, Piedmont’s Lillian E. Smith Center an Ideal Place to ‘Be Alone With Your Thoughts and Work’
On a recent chilly morning, under a canopy of vibrant fall foliage, Marilynn Richtarik stepped onto the porch of her cabin at Piedmont University’s Lillian E. Smith Center, taking a short, but welcome break from researching her next book.
“I like it here,” she said. “I’ve been able to get away and really focus.”
Lillian E. Smith was a social activist and author of Strange Fruit, the best-selling novel about an interracial relationship that takes place in Georgia in the 1920s. Smith studied at Piedmont University. The university now owns and operates the Lillian E. Smith Center in Clayton, Georgia.
Located on more than 100 acres where Smith lived and worked, the Lillian E. Smith Center is both an educational facility and a retreat for artists, writers, scientists, and others committed to continuing her work.
The Center is comprised of four structures once used by the Laurel Falls Camp, which Smith and her lifelong partner Paula Snelling operated from 1925 to 1948. Today, these buildings are used for field trips, independent studies, and workshops, among other activities. The grounds serve as a living laboratory for intellectual exploration.
Richtarik, an English professor at Georgia State University, learned of the Center through a conference, as well as by driving through the area.
The Center, she thought, would be an ideal place to disconnect from day-to-day life and work on her book about literature and peace process in Northern Ireland titled Getting to Good Friday. Richtarik hopes to publish the book in 2023.
“It’s a beautiful, secluded place where you can be alone with your thoughts and your work,” she said.
Her weeklong stay cost Richtarik $175. When she wasn’t researching or writing, she cooked, explored the grounds, and learned more about Smith, whom she described as a “pioneering Civil Rights advocate.” Richtarik also enjoyed the company of her friend, a curator for the Smithsonian, who also stayed at the Center for several days.
“It’s been wonderful to be able to concentrate my energies on my work,” she said.
The Center offers residencies for individuals seeking an environment to pursue professional achievements and is expanding programming for area middle and high school educators. In addition, Piedmont is planning a one-week camp for underrepresented high school students at the Center.
Learn more about the Center at Lillian E. Smith Center | Piedmont University.