The Value of a Writing Retreat

A few weeks ago I took a four-day writing retreat with the members of my monthly writing critique group. Last year we’d decided to try a retreat, and loved it so much that we did it again this year.

We booked a 6-bedroom cabin at a retreat center in a nearby town, and spent four days just writing. Yes, we did other things, too – went for walks or a swim, got together for meals and a movie every evening, and chatted here and there about our writing projects. We all get along really well, and even though we’re all writing different things in different genres, we enjoy talking about writing and even helping one another with brainstorming ideas.

A scenic view near our writing cabin.

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A Writing Weekend Getaway

This past weekend I treated myself to a mini writer’s retreat. I rented a little cabin through Airbnb (free plug here for the Airbnb site and this cabin in particular). While there’s nothing particularly stressful about my home life, I just wanted to get away for a couple of days, and give myself an excuse to not get distracted by the hundreds of little things that can pop up when you’re sitting at home trying to write.

This little cottage was perfect: cozy and rustic but still had all the amenities (air conditioning and wi-fi being the most important), easy to find but not in the middle of town. Being surrounded by nature is relaxing and inspiring for me. It was refreshing to wake up to a rooster crowing, and take an afternoon stroll down the road and be greeted by a horse at his pasture fence. Even though nothing I’m writing on right now features farmlands or roosters, this sort of environment pus my mind and spirit at ease and therefore lets the creativity rise to the surface.

Here are a few take-aways from my writing weekend:

  • Two nights is not long enough. Next time I decide to take a writer’s retreat (whether by myself, or with a group), it needs to be longer.
  • I didn’t feel guilty about being anti-social. Actually, I spent several hours chatting with my wonderful host (who is also a writer) and had a lovely time. A writer needs to be a keen observer of people, which is hard to do if you’re a hermit. But for just a couple of days it was nice to not put on makeup and not leave the house except to sit in the garden and write.
  • I really need to live in the country, preferably near the mountains. While I don’t want to live so remote that it takes an hour to get to the nearest grocery story, it’s nice to drive down a two-lane road and not see a traffic light—or a traffic jam—for a few miles.

So now I’m back to my regular life, driving through the bustling city and wearing makeup and looking presentable. But I came away from this weekend feeling refreshed, inspired, and with several writing tasks checked off my to-do list. The trip was well worth it and I hope to do it again soon!

My view of the garden when I sat outside to write

My view of the garden when I sat outside to write

Live Forever

Last month I submitted a short vignette to a writing contest. This contest was put on by the Iceland Writers Retreat, and the grand prize was a free ticket to the conference in April. I did not win (*sob*) but I’m glad I participated, and I send all congratulations to the winner. (You can read the entries by the winner and the two runners up here – which I encourage you to do, after reading my post here, of course).

The rules were simple – write 500 words inspired by an image of the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. I won’t put their image in my blog post, of course, but I will give you a similar image that I took when I was in Reykjavik a couple of years ago (too long ago! I need to go back!)

Anyway, here’s my little piece, and a lovely picture of Harpa to go with it. Enjoy!


Live Forever

“If anyone is suicidal, they should come here,” he says to me.

“What?” I turn from the view of the bay and stare at him. “You are so insensitive.” It’s been a few years since my cousin died, but still…

“I am not. I mean, my God – just look.” He waves his hand at the vista before us.

A fierce wind is blowing, turning the water into a basalt gray; mere moments ago it had been a rosy yellow like the sky. I know it’s a fierce wind because I see the boats jumping on the water, but we’re safe inside this concert hall of glass. No, it’s more like crystal. Great blocks of manmade crystal, all glass-smooth, put together like a giant puzzle. Stairs, walls, ceilings – you can see through everything. It’s half mathematical wonder, half art masterpiece.

“We may be a hundred feet up, but it’s not like anyone could get through this,” I say finally, laying a hand against one of the clear cubes of the wall. “And I didn’t see any balconies on this place.”

He looks at me. “Now who’s being insensitive?”

“You brought it up.” The sky is turning white with clouds. I’m glad I wore my thicker boots today – by the time we leave, it might be snowing.


“So, you just…oh, never mind. You’re a jerk sometimes, that’s all.”

I expect him to get huffy – or maybe just laugh off my insult, which is more annoying than when he gets huffy. But instead, he does neither.

My hand is still pressed against the cold glass wall, and he suddenly covers my hand with his. “I’m not being a jerk,” he says quietly. “Don’t you see it?”

I look at him. “See what?” I ask.

“This. Everything.” He grips my hand. “Stop being so pragmatic for just a minute. Stop thinking about how we’re probably going to get caught in a snowstorm, or how much our coffees cost earlier, or how a jumper could actually get outside this building so they could fall to their death in the water.”

He’s never talked like tHarpahis before. His face is strangely bright in the gray light coming through the glass. I want to ask him what he’s talking about, but suddenly I don’t know what to say.

“If anyone is suicidal, they should come here,” he says into my silence. “The water, the sky, the mountains, the light… There’s too much beauty, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. There’s no way you could end it all here, no way you’d want to anymore.”

The snow starts, tiny crystal flakes dancing just past our fingertips. The overcast grayness has suddenly brightened into joyful white light. Now I understand him.

“If anyone came here wanting to die,” I whisper, “they’d realize that they could live forever. And that it would be beautiful.”