Saturday, March 17, 2007

Writer's Retreat?

I've been playing around with the idea of organizing a writer's retreat. Some days I think it's just a pipe dream. Other days I take it quite seriously and think I just may pull it off. I know the perfect place for it. Last summer I attended a seminar for community college teachers at the fabulous Manucha retreat and conference center. The mug I have from there says it all: "Sacred Space, Purposeful Work."
You can get the details over on the hot link, but I can't help but gush a bit about the wonder of the place. It is a 100 acre sanctuary operated by the Presbyterian church as a non-profit gathering place for all sorts of groups (from private individuals who want some quiet reflection time to family reunions, work groups looking for "team building" or a place for strategic planning. Basically it is available for whoever has the good fortune to discover this sweet little gem!)
The food is WONDERFUL, served family style. The accommodations are simple but comfortable. (Some rooms sleep anywhere from 4 to 8 in bunkbeds and others are private). There is space for people coming together to share / work / process together and space to be alone to think, read, write, pray, reflect. It's nestled in the lovely Columbia Gorge just minutes away from fabulous hiking trails with mindblowing waterfalls.
Cost would depend on the number of people involved - they charge by the building, not by the person. (Lindsey house which holds up to 20 people goes for $240 per night - meals extra; If that were split between even just six or eight people it would be quite reasonable.) OR - if I were to open this up to a wider group, I'd find some well known speakers to come present some of the workshops and I'd promote the event through the writing departments of all the local colleges. If that were the case I'd charge a registration fee to cover the expense of the bigger buildings and speaking fees, etc. I'm not sure which dynamic I would prefer - a quiet get away with a few friends who enjoy writing or some structured workshop open to strangers. They both have their advantages & disadvantages.
I've got several different scenarios rattling around in my head...but this is one of them:
DAY ONE: (THURSDAY) People begin to gather, arriving whenever suits them. We get checked in - meet each other, have time to decompress and explore.
4:30 - 6:00 PM WELCOME SOCIAL - ice breakers and coordination of what the weekend will entail, checking for any special needs, etc. etc.
6:00 - 7:30 PM GROUP DINNER
7:30 - 9:30 EVENING KEYNOTE - maybe get a well known writer from Portland or Seattle to come address the group - perhaps include a panel of writers with different sorts of experience to talk about what writing has like for them.
9:30 QUIET TIME for those who are ready to hit the sack. But informal chat time into the wee hours of the night for those who care to continue in conversations.
7:00 - 9:00 AM Buffet BREAKFAST
People get moving at their own pace. ALL workshops and breakout sessions are optional. If ya wanna lay around and do NOTHING that's ok. If you want to meet with others to talk about the craft of writing - that works to. VERY flexible throughout the weekend.
9:00 - 9:50 AM Session 1 - BOOK EXCHANGE
Recognizing the relationship between reading and writing - everyone is encouraged to bring 2-3 books they are willing to give up. They go on a table for others to consider. Whoever brings a book is welcome to take a book.
Then - we have a SEPARATE table where there are big sheets of paper for generating lists. Each person can list 2-3 books they recommend; different sheets will be for different genres. We have a group discussion where everyone gets a chance to talk a little bit about the books they are recommending and why those have been meaningful to them... A full list of all the books will be generated and made available for everyone to take home.
10:05 - 10:50 Session 2 - The PROCESS of WRITING
Hands on / interactive workshop to generate some new ideas about writing.
11:00 - 1:00 FREE TIME
LUNCH ON YOUR OWN - carpools into town for those who so desire or fix something from vittles you bring.
For those interested, there will be Board Games / Puzzles / Walks / Naps / Geocaching
Anyone who wants to get some input on a writing project will have brought multiple copies of the piece which will be passed out ahead of time. During this session people will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of one another's work. Clear guidelines will be set down for giving feedback in a way that is honest & authentic yet supportive. This is not a place to go fishing for compliments. If you don't want to hear what people really think - skip this. But it's also not a place for bashing people. It's a place for writers to come together with the willingness to be a bit vulnerable with other writers to get and give feedback about the craft.
1:45-3:00 PM GOING PRO
A structured workshop dealing with the details of selling what you write. How / when / if to get a literary agent. Tips on how to submit work to various types of audiences. Dealing with (and LEARNING FROM) the rejection slips. Everything that has to do with the commercial aspects of writing
The flip side of the earlier session - this has to do with writing for yourself, writing for your own family or for generations to come. Will deal with how to write your own life story, some issues and ideas about journaling, etc.
5:00 - 6:00 PM FREE TIME
6:00 - 7:30 PM GROUP DINNER
7:30-9:30 PM AFTER DINNER JAM - anyone who has musical inclinations bring your instruments. Those of us who have extras will share. Doesn't matter if you have any real skill or training - this is about feeling the passion of making music from your soul for the pure joy of it.
9:30 into the wee hours??? Again, Quiet time for those who want to sleep but potential for small groups to gather for further sharing of ideas
7:00 - 9:00 AM BREAKFAST
9:00 - 10:15 AM Session 1 - Open for Suggestion
I've come up with four or five different things for this one and not sure if I like any of them. So I'm open to ideas. Afterall - right now this whole plan is VERY tentative, I'm not even sure if I'm actually going to do this at all... So I'll open this up to see what sort of workshop other people might be intrested in. Ideas??
Wrap up session to give people an opportunity to identify what they have gained or most valued from the weekend. Some challenges for how to keep the momentum going when we all go back to our regular lives.
12:00 - 1:00
LUNCH / Check out
We all make our grand exodus to return to the world - having made some new friends, reflected on the craft of writing and maybe learned some new tips we can use.
Yeah, sometimes it feels like just another pleasant fantasy. Other times...I think it might actually be worth shaping this into something for real. I dunno. I know I COULD pull this off. I may kick the ideas around with some others and see if they wanna play...
I'm open to suggestion from my blogger buddies. Does this sound too structured? What would you change?


Molly Sabourin said...

I think this looks amazing. It is rare that I get to interact with other writers, gaining valuable insights and suggestions. I certainly hope it goes beyond the dream stage, I think you could gather alot of interested participants! I would definitely go out of my way to attend.

Belladonna said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Molly! Would you care to team with me on the planning or simply be notified when it's all in place?

Any particular dates that would be better or to definitely avoid to make this work for you? I want to go ahead and make reservations at the retreat center so I can begin moving forward with the plans.

Marie said...

What a beautiful spot. Is it anywhere near the Vista House? Or the reconstructed Stonehenge?

In a world free of time and space I would be there for sure. I'm hoarding both my money and my vacation days in hopes that I can go on a grand adventure this year, hopefully overseas. But I hope you'll keep posting details on the blog in case I have a course change.

For what it's worth, I would have trouble concentrating on workshops (however interesting) held in such a pretty place. I'd probably just stare out the window and wonder when the bell was going to ring. ;)

Jaquandor said...

This sounds dreamy indeed. If you ever get it going, I'd hope you'd give a few years' lead time, since I'm on the opposite side of the country! I love the "low pressure" angle you suggest; one reason I avoid writing workshops is that, in Stephen King's words, they force one to write "with the office door open".

(I'm surprised you didn't schedule a pie fight, though....)

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