A wonderful time was had by all when Priscilla, one of my writing group buddies, hosted a long weekend in her lovely family home in Vermont. What a treat! Our merry band of writers artfully combined work and play for a relaxing yet energizing getaway that gave us all a boost. We ate great food, visited an apple orchard and covered bridge, hiked to a pond and a spectacular hidden waterfall. We also read and discussed Madame Bovary, and spent several absorbing hours exploring rhythm in writing.
In thinking about what made this weekend so inspiring and successful, one of the things that instantly springs to mind is the lovely setting we were fortunate to enjoy. But in addition to locale, there are a couple of other ingredients that made for a very rewarding writers’ retreat:
We combined fun and focus: We spent plenty of time relaxing and enjoying the countryside and each other in addition to focusing on improving our craft. This balance added a lot!
We all pitched in for meals: This made our lunch and dinners wonderfully enjoyable and easygoing. We all contributed soups, pesto-and-pasta, wine, desserts, and breakfast — and dined royally! Meals were a pleasure and fueled our focus.
We pre-planned several activities: One member of our group volunteered to organize a session on rhythm and writing, which proved to be fascinating! In advance of the retreat, David, who planned and led this exercise, asked us all to read and rate a wide range of writing selections for their rhythmic qualities. We sent him our ratings and one of the highlights of our weekend was our lively exploration of different types of rhythm and their impact on craft. We also all read Madame Bovary and spent one evening analyzing it from a craft perspective. These two craft-related sessions formed the core of our retreat — and gave us a different focus from the critiquing we usually engage in.
While organizing an off-site weekend may not be an option, hopefully some of these approaches can be adapted for a “home-grown” retreat. With a dose of creativity, cooking, and commitment, you and a few writing buddies can plan a local mini-retreat that can be very refreshing and valuable, just as ours proved to be. Write on!