I recently had the opportunity to attend my first writer’s retreat. I have been to writers conferences which I’ve found helpful and invigorating, but a retreat looked to me like a time go get away and spend large chunks of time working on a manuscript. At home, I struggle terribly with interruptions, some imposed by others, some self-imposed. It is one reason my book took so long to complete. At 74 I feel that the years before me to write are few. It is too late to be a Michener.
There are at least four books yet that I would like to write. I have devised a plan to start a new book every six months with the hope that, if I work every day, I will be able to complete one before I launch another. A retreat felt like the perfect opportunity to get started on my second book. My publisher alerted me to a retreat being planned by another Beavers Pond writer, Elaine Koyama. She named the experience Retreat2Write. It was to take place in her cabin on a lake less than two hours away. I signed up. It took place the weekend of October 5.
First, let me say, the retreat did provide time to write. But this was just the first of the gifts of Retreat2Write. I will list these gifts as I discovered them.
The first gift was Elaine Koyama herself. I was taken by surprise by such a warm, open, down-to-earth woman. She showed me to my room and chatted happily about the guests who would be arriving in the next hour or two. She told me about herself. She is a writer in the work she does, she told me, but now she wanted to write about her story of a small town girl from Montana that made it big as a woman in the corporate world. Like me, she had a plan and this retreat was as much for her as for the attendees. But her self-talk was short. She launched quickly into asking questions about my writing. She wanted to know all about my book and about what I was planning to do next. She had many suggestions about marketing my book – good ones. I was soon to learn that marketing is her field of expertise and through the weekend, she was not hesitant to share her gift with the writers. This was the gift that I least expected and one that I desperately needed.
The second gift of the weekend were the writers who attended. There were only five of us. (Another was unable to come at the last minute). Such a diverse group and Elaine moved us quickly into a place where we could be open and trusting of one another. We were diverse in age with me being the oldster and Andy, Elaine’s nephew being the youngest. We were diverse in ethnicity with Elaine and her nephew, Andy, being Japanese and Sonya Native American, Linda and I each Polish and German. We were diverse as writers as well. Two memoirs, a fiction, a book on recovery and a screen play. What amazed me is the level of insight each brought out of their medium that shined a unique light for the other writers in their work.
The third gift was to me personally. Andy, an actor by trade, offered to perform one chapter of my book, The Memorial of Jesus. The chapters are monologues, friends of Jesus sharing intimate memories of him after his death. The story I chose was a character whom Jesus confronted with the truth of how he had harmed his brother. It was an emotional piece and it was an amazing experience for me as the writer to see it performed.
Elaine plans to repeat Retreat2Write in the future. I will keep my writing friends and readers attune.