“It is every artist’s secret …”

I loved this line from the end of Willa Cather’s novel The Song of the Lark. It’s about a singer, in fact a friend of mine summed up the novel perfectly. She called it: The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. In the book someone asks one of the main character’s singing teachers what the secret is to her great voice.

“It is every artist’s secret … passion. That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe.”

I feel so supremely lucky that I’m going to get to do a book about Blackwell’s Island. It’s just the kind of subject I can immerse myself in. I want to say that the process of digging in and finding the stories is like feeding a hunger but that’s not quite it, but that kind of captures it. I have to make myself stop working at night and go to bed when I am working on a book like this.

I’ve been running around doing errands so I can relax and celebrate my good news today. One nice side effect of the cold weather I’ve found, is steam. It’s so comforting. The inside of the laundromat was wonderfully foggy and warm (see the picture below). I felt so cosy sitting in there reading while all the machines around me rumbled.

But swimming last night was especially lovely. There was only three of us left during the last half hour so we all got a lane to ourselves. It felt so luxurious and serene, going back and forth and back and forth at exactly the pace I wanted. The water was heated to the most absolutely perfect temperature, the room was cloudy and enveloping, almost tropical. I wish I could have gotten a picture, or a movie of that.

A fog inside the laundry, New York City

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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