by Andy Black

Last fall at an Indiana Writers Center (IWC) faculty meeting, one of the faculty members suggested that the IWC sponsor a Writers Retreat. I thought this idea was outstanding.   I had been teaching playwriting for the IWC for several months, and had (unfortunately) not been doing as much of my own writing as I would have liked. I figured that if I participated in a writers retreat, I could help other writers in my predicament (and get some much needed writing of my own accomplished).

I followed up with Alicia Rasley (the faculty member whose idea it was), and she and I began plotting. We picked an early January date.   This proposal was mine; I was thinking that “getting a fresh start on the new year” would be a good theme. I did not consider the fact that early January is a dangerous time to have a retreat in a remote location like Selma, Indiana; the weather is likely to be uncooperative. No one else pointed out this flaw in my plan.

We put together a simple agenda to combine both free time for writing (which I planned to take advantage of) and structured time for group activities (learning sessions and critique).

We were thrilled when ten members signed up for the first-ever retreat. Two of my playwriting students signed up, along with other writers of every stripe: poets, fiction writers, memoir writers, and writers who had several areas of specialty.

Jan White, one of my own students (and a good friend) and I drove to the Oakwood Retreat Center in Selma together, enjoying the ride and the time together. The weather cooperated. It was cold, but not icy or snowy, so we had no climatic impediments to our creative activity.

The opening evening unfolded in fits and starts. We had planned an activity, but not been specific about exactly when it would happen, so we had a series of successive introductions as various writers appeared, left for their rooms, came back and were joined by new writers. After an initial discussion of goals for the weekend, we headed for respective spaces: some to write, others to receive coaching from Alicia on brainstorming a new idea.

Saturday morning was set aside for writing, and all enjoyed the comfort of the great big hall where we wrote in comfortable silence, drawing inspiration from the industriousness of our colleagues. The afternoon session on “voice” was well attended, and everyone agreed that the group critique session on Saturday night was a highlight. Three short plays were read, we heard several poems, a personal essay and fiction pieces. All pieces but the plays were read by the writer, and the critique primarily focused on what was working about the writing, with an idea or two for ways to improve.   A true feeling of community developed out of that session.  

Sunday morning was devoted to a little more writing, and some discussion about progress toward goals. A satisfied exhale was collectively released as we packed our overnight bags and returned to our respective homes (I with 30 pages complete on a new work I had been plotting for months).

The center was cozy and warm, the food was delicious in an organic non-aggressive way, and we connected with ourselves and other creative colleagues, now friends. Who could ask for more?

We immediately began planning our next retreat, and were thrilled when we read through our evaluations. Such comments as:

I was able to unplug from my life and really focus on my writing. I made significant progress on my project that without uninterrupted time, might not have been accomplished. Networking with fellow writers at meals was a nice bonus. I feel inspired and look forward to attending another one.

made us think we were on the right track.

One participant said:

The best money I have ever spent. What a delight to spend a weekend with fellow writers in a beautiful setting. The creative energy was truly astounding and highly contagious.

That is the kind of thing you want to hear from participants.

 Our next retreat will take place the first weekend of May. May 1-3. Look on the IWC website for information, and consider signing up!   We have made some decisions on some upgrades already, and look forward to convening with another creative group of individuals for a great time back in Selma, Indiana. And this time, no, we are not concerned about the weather!

Click here to register:

Written by Indiana Writers Center — January 24, 2015

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