Monday, October 6, 2008

September's Writing Partner Retreat

Pictured above are the women who attended the inaugural Writing Partner Retreat for Women last month at my summer home on Trout Lake in northern New York. About to take a break from writing for a paddle on the lake, and modeling straw hats from the camp's collection, are (l to r) Fern Hill, Melanie Gold, me, Linda Glaser, and Amy Krause.

Just look at the mirror surface of that lake! Mother Nature blessed us with just the right weather for this event. 

Thursday: Fern, Melanie and Amy, driving together from Pennsylvania, arrived late afternoon in bright 70-degree weather. With the same mirrored surface pictured above, the lake showed off a perfect duplicate of the scenery it has to offer. Once everyone had found her room and unpacked we went for a walk to stretch out legs cramped from the 6-hour drive. I served dinner, then afterward we sat in the living room in front of a fire, drinking Sangria and getting to know one another better by sharing the nature of our current projects and our expectations of our writing time at the lake.

Friday: It poured all morning and I couldn't have been happier—what better excuse to stay in and write? After a breakfast of yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit, we met again in the living room to jump start our brains with a writing prompt. Rather than share right away, we kept the momentum going and wordlessly segued into our own writing projects. Linda arrived at noon, just as we were clearing the front porch of rockers and turning it into a studio by carpeting it with exercise mats. Amy, a yoga instructor, lead us in a series of stretches that simultaneously felt loving and empowering. 

It stopped raining during our smorgasbord lunch so afterward we took advantage of the opportunity to get out on the glassy lake pictured above in a canoe, a kayak, and two "Wee Lassies" (lightweight one-woman canoes). While on our paddle we saw a bald eagle take off from a dead tree with prey in its talons! We got back to shore without anyone tipping over and returned to our individual writing projects. After I served dinner we re-convened in front of the fire to share readings we had brought along with us.

Saturday: The morning schedule was the same as Friday's, with breakfast, prompts, individual writing, lunch, more individual writing. Stretches of time to write: that was the dream that pulled us together for this retreat and the reward for devoting ourselves to it. While Melanie was on an editing deadline and had to work, the rest of us met late that afternoon for a 3-mile hike to the bluffs of neighboring Cedar Lake. The loons had stayed out of sight during the retreat, but we heard that recognizable, mournful cry while hiking through the woods. The view from the bluffs was stellar: rocky, wooded cliffs, a blue sky thick with white clouds above us, dark blue water more than a hundred feet beneath us. We sat without speaking, listening to the insects and birds. The only sign of man was a canoe, tiny from our perspective, trolling soundlessly across the lake surface below. 

We had dinner when we returned. That evening in front of the fire, a bowl of hot buttered popcorn in hand, we reveled in one another's creativity by sharing the writing that resulted from our two morning prompts. (And I want to go on record, ladies: I did not intend to add a political charge to my sci-fi romance by naming my character "Algor," but subconscious thought can often lead us in unexpected directions. I haven't laughed that hard in ages!)

Sunday: Yoga before breakfast this day, with our final writing time after. I served apple cinnamon pancakes with New York State maple syrup for lunch, then participants packed up to head home.

I want to thank Fern, Melanie, Linda and Amy for being my guinea pigs—their presence and their feedback helped me fine-tune my retreat concept. I had such a great time getting to know them better through their interests, observations, and writing styles that I hope to continue to host retreats at the lake each May and September. If you're interested in furthering your writing by retreating from everyday chaos to an idyllic location where you can commune with nature, your inner voice, and other women writers, e-mail me and I'll send you a pdf brochure when the next retreat is scheduled.


Anonymous said...

Kathryn, you captured the beauty of the retreat for all of us. It was a great opportunity to get to know some wonderful women, and to recharge my writing batteries in beautiful surroundings. Your "camp" is my ideal writing home: water, sky, plenty of trees and places to explore where you see no evidence of humans, and a cozy, quiet place to write safe from telephones and Internet. Thanks so much for hosting us!

Fern J. Hill said...

I had a wonderful time, Kathryn. You said it all in your blog. Your spot on Trout Lake is idyllic and was enjoyed tremendously. Your "camp" is beautiful and a delight to live and work in. I envy your week-long trips up there to write in quiet solitude. I would strongly encourage anyone wanting to escape the day-to-day hastle and concentrate on their writing to take up Kathryn's invitation and attend one of her retreats. Although I am not one for writing prompts, I did come away with a new scene for my next book that had the group interested during our Saturday night reading. I'd go again in a heartbeat. Thanks for the opportunity, Kathryn. Hope to do it again next year.
Fern J. Hill

Author of Charley's Choice: The Life
and Times of Charley Parkhurst a
fictional biography about a well-respected,
one-eyed stagecoach driver during the
California gold rush era who, upon death,
was found to be a woman.

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Amy said...


This was a spectacular opportunity for me personally. It got me out of a 2 year block with the particular story that I had been working on.

I found the prompts very helpful in getting my creative juices flowing and the feedback from the others priceless.

I would recommend this retreat to any writer or person who is inspired by nature! I will remember that weekend forever.

Melanie Gold said...

The Johnny-come-lately is following up here to affirm everyone else's comments. The retreat was a wonderful experience for someone who doesn't "do" writing retreats. I appreciated the flexibility to work on my deadline while also beginning work on a project I otherwise would have shelved at home. And I had fun writing about my husband's fictitious Thanksgiving invitation to Raymond the Amish Comic!