Why Chase Hill?

       I’ve always thought that giving place-names to virtual entities seemed a little silly—and you might be wondering, as I would be, what “Chase Hill” has to do with a distance writing school.  Yet when it was time to find a name for the school, what came to mind most strongly was the unusual environment in which I grew up.

       When I was young, my mother, my two brothers and I moved into an old and extremely drafty house on a small dirt road in Kennebunkport, Maine.    The little town has changed so much that the one I remember no longer exists, but the house is still there—in fact, it’s an art gallery now, open to visitors throughout most of the year.   It’s been fixed up, of course: fresh paint, new flooring, hopefully a more functional furnace.  The house had been built in the 1800’s for one fortunate but since forgotten Captain Chase, who could view the details of the nearby harbor from the upstairs windows of his rambling, hill-top home.   The name of the road?   Chase Hill, of course.

       Shortly after we settled in, my mother’s spirited appreciation for the arts and humanities (especially poetry and philosophy) began drawing a number of the town’s hungrier-minded inhabitants to the house on Chase Hill.   New friends of all ages, many in their teens, soon filled our home most afternoons and evenings: it became a house of many voices, many ideas, and many arts.   What was most unusual about all this was that the people who visited the house on Chase Hill could trust that their ideas, their questions, and their intellectual or artistic endeavors–whatever they might be–would be genuinely welcome there.  For many, this level of acceptance and appreciation was a new, inspiring experience, as was the atmosphere of intellectual and artistic vitality that they themselves were helping to create.

       Although most of us hadn’t yet realized it, in many ways the house functioned like a very loose school for the arts and humanities, with my mother’s generous and ebullient spirit as our guide.   Despite my training, my many years in universities and my degrees, it was that spirit and those years at Chase Hill which most deeply influenced the teacher I became:  at the Chase Hill School, the old principles of genuine welcoming and appreciation are as strong as ever.  While the primary goal of our programs is to teach students to write exceptionally well, inherent in that goal lies a subtler one: to provide a space where students can fearlessly develop their own ideas, their own styles of thinking, and their unique voices as writers–and where they can trust that their expression of such things will be appreciated.   So the name “Chase Hill” denotes not so much a literal place as an ethos, an atmosphere of intellectual activity and invitation, where creative minds and their developing ideas find both support and guidance.

      Finally, and oddly enough, even the two words (chase, hill), and the strange imperative they form, seem appropriate here, as well:  like the runner, the writer is aware that there is always another, and yet another hill to climb in the often-stumbling process of getting every word right.  But the writer who is lucky enough to know the joy of writing doesn’t dread such hills–she chases them.   To experience writing with such joy, tenacity and courage is to experience what it really means to be “a writer”—ultimately, this is our greatest wish for every Chase Hill student.