What is The Pilgrim Project?

This blog celebrates the 40th anniversary of the publication of Hollins University alumna Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer-Prize winning personal narrative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. To honor this seminal work, Hollins’ theater department began a collaborative creative project that will culminate in the first adaptation of Dillard’s book for the stage. Performances will run April 11-19, 2014 at Hollins University. For tickets and information, http://www.hollins.edu/theatre. The department then decided to extend the goals of the Pilgrim Project to a larger audience–we now invite anyone who is interested in the work and its legacy to engage with the novel in another creative way.

So how does it work?

You can choose a sentence from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek–any sentence that has not yet been chosen!–and use it to form a new work stemming from Dillard’s non-fiction. Including the first sentence from the book, your new, original work should be 12 sentences in total. It can be prose, poetry, a combination of the two, nonfiction, fiction, memoir, any medium you choose. There are examples in the next post from students and faculty at Hollins University to look at for inspiration, but remember that every sentence except the one from Pilgrim should be your original creative work.

After you have finished writing your piece, submit it to the email pilgrimproject@hollins.edu and check back for it to appear on the blog! All submissions will be posted  upon receipt; however, offensive material will not be considered.  If you would like for your submission to include author’s name, age, and city and state, please specify. Anonymous submissions are also welcome. The blog will be open to submissions for a month.

Now it’s time to see what you can do with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek! Welcome to The Pilgrim Project!



This is the way…

This is the way the world is, altar and cup, lit by fire from a star that has only begun to die.

And so I try to think of your eyes, how they are like the upper reaches of a spawning stream. I try to think of your eyes now when I look back at the night that the summer was ending and it was all power lines and beer cans and city creeks, and the streets ate everything, when we rode our bikes over the bridge and then he, my boyfriend, swerved and decided to jump, how every fabric that clothed him ripped away when I held him back, how it tore, and I don’t know by what force I countered the thrust of his overthrow. I try to think of your eyes–how they are like trout leaping and flashing–when I remember the man who stopped to help me drag him from the bridge, saying to him “Jesus loves you, we all get a second chance,” just before he robbed me (twenty dollars) and then tried to rape me. I was holding the world back, then, from the edge. The weight of it was distinct. I put my hands up as if to surrender but instead of bending said instead, “please don’t,” and in the naked asking something jumped from my fingertips and crackled beneath his skin, and he left us there. For fourteen days there were flash floods in my lungs. Let’s call it what it is: something more than free fall, something less than God. I’ve done what I could. I’ve called it done and good, and now I think of your eyes. That place I want to swim to, the lightly rippling place, the calm in the eddy, outside of the current.

You climb a gre…

You climb a great ladder; you pour grease all over a growing longleaf pine.

Thither through the trees, you erect a totem pole and around it sing the story of the sins of your fathers. When the peyote gets you well, you see where you went wrong. Walking on the reservation at night, the casino lights blink all the way to out here at the edge. In the jail, you play your wooden flute. Hither come and hook your flesh to this cottonwood tree, and stare into the sun. The eath accepts your prayers no matter how impure. Geronimo drove a car. You fast for seven days, burning sweet grass and sage, and finally giving thanks and thanks and thanks, open the can of sardines by candlelight. You play your zither our of tune, and just for your own pleasure. When the whales pass by off shore, breaching, you draw lines in the sand and chant until the sun falls down. Sometimes when the god is within you still feel hungry.

We have not yet…

We have not yet encountered any god who is as merciful as a man who flicks a beetle over on its feet.

The butcher bird with its eyes on the rhinoceros beetle thinks otherwise. Many men think otherwise, that man could be merciful at all. Sometimes God’s mercy milks your Jersey and then curdles you a cup, filtered and cold, but what the hell. The robber fly munches the Japanese beetle. The tiger shrike pierces the scarab beetle and then, to dismember the abdomen, grasps and whacks it against the branch. Always predator eats the more easily seen beetle lacking the brown gene. Likewise, predator eats the more tipsy beetle lacking the balance gene. Last night, for instance, the black-throated blue warbler burped from our coupling an octagonal egg. From which a bubble hatched in the shape of a wangdoodle beetle. It was in the stars, flicking. That we were always made of others and less than wise, sure, less than even stars are wise.