The naming of writing centers

There are a lot of questions that will need to be answered before Madroño Ranch: A Center for Writing and the Environment becomes a reality. Among the more unexpectedly troubling was, what to call the dang thing?

Heather decided fairly early on that she didn’t want to use the word “retreat,” since it implied withdrawal and isolation, and we hoped that our program would in fact interact with and benefit the local community in some as-yet-undetermined fashion. She also decided she didn’t want to use the word “sustainability,” because it smacked of trendiness, even though sustainability is one of the things we hope the center will be all about.

We tried to think of a name that might convey something of our hopes and expectations for the place. One early candidate was the Companis Center, from the Latin source (meaning “with bread”) of the English word companion; another was the Tavola Center, tavola being the Italian word for table; a third was the Nexus Center, since we hoped it would be a place where different ways of thinking would come together, but we concluded that all of those sounded too much like office buildings.

Ultimately, we decided that the most sensible and easiest thing to do would be to stick with the name by which we already knew the place—Madroño Ranch—and add a “subtitle” that would (we hoped) explain what it was intended to be. (And yes, that is a photo of one of our madrone trees at the beginning of this post.)

So far, so good. Except that when we sat down and tried to come up with that subtitle, we found ourselves stuck again. It turns out that the naming of writing centers, to paraphrase T. S. Eliot, is a difficult matter. All sorts of possibilities, most of them silly, suggested themselves—for example, Madroño Ranch: Next Door to Utopia (a reference to the fact that our closest neighbor is Kinky Friedman’s utterly wonderful Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch) and my personal favorite, Madroño Ranch: A Center for Writin’ and Wranglin’. We finally settled on Madroño Ranch: A Center for Writing and the Environment as the simplest and clearest alternative. Now doesn’t that sound like the kind of place at which you brilliant literary types would like to come spend some time?

What we’re reading
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Martin: David Maughan, On Foot from Coast to Coast: The North of England Way

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2 Responses to The naming of writing centers

  1. amamgets says:

    You have been on a naming odyssey, yes? Since I just left Middlebury (and the boy – sob), I'm thinking of a SWestern take on the old Bread Loaf: Masa Tamale Writer's Retreat? Or possibly Tortilla Enchilada.

    But seriously, I would love to visit the Madrono Ranch, Center for Writing and the Environment. Especially with two of the kindest people I know as the hosts. :-)

  2. PATRICIA says:

    I eagerly await all the developments at Madrona Ranch. Vaya con Dios!
    Patricia Morrison

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