Readin', Writin', and Retreatin'
Myra Ann Rutledge
Don’t you just hate that daily life and routine always seem to get in the way of the things you’d really love to do, like writing? How many times have you said to yourself, “If only I could get away for a few days and do nothing except work on my novel (or poetry or memoir or blog or play or essay)! No cooking, no laundry, no dirty dishes, no yard work. Just writing. That’s it!” And with a heavy sigh, you add, “It would be heavenly!”
Me, too. I’ve said those things many times, so when the notice went up late last year announcing a Winter Writers Retreat in early January, I was ready. I was even more psyched to see that it was happening in the next county up from my home in New Castle, near the part of Delaware County where I grew up. Of course, then it became an issue of “Will the weather cooperate? It’s the first weekend in January for chrissake! Those back roads are going to be a bear if it snows.” This thought was quickly followed by an “Oooooh! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get snowed in for an extra day or two of even more writing?!?” So I signed up.
The weather was cold and the country roads were indeed snow-packed, but there were no problems getting to and from the Oakwood Retreat Center near Selma. The weekend was simply amazing! I was so taken by the experience that when the Spring Writers Retreat was announced for the first weekend in May at the same venue, I was one of the first to sign up.
What a treat to spend 48 hours in the company of fellow writers of every genre! I live in what I call the hinterlands, away from the city and without easy access to the IWC and the camaraderie that can be found there, so, for me, that was the most satisfying aspects of the weekend. The creativity was so contagious, and hearing works in various states of progress allowed each of us to understand that we all face the same issues and monsters when we write. Beyond the fellowship, there were large blocks of time and plenty of quiet places in our housing, in the main building, and around the farm itself for writing and for inspiration. Needless to say, we were able to enjoy the outdoor areas much more in warm, sunny May than we did in zero-degree January. Andy Black and Alicia Rasley, the IWC facilitators, were available for private consultation, and there were a few scheduled events; even at these, attendance was not mandatory. We were strongly encouraged to attend the Saturday night post-dinner reading and sharing of samples of our work, and every one of us did. In so many ways, this was one of the most valuable times of the weekend. Listening to poetry, memoirs, fiction, and plays in various stages of development allowed us to offer and to receive constructive suggestions and to see what works and what doesn’t. This is the sort of reinvigoration and inspiration that every writer craves.
I simply must sing the praises here of the Oakwood Retreat Center. Located on 35 acres just north of Prairie Creek Reservoir near Muncie, it is quiet and relaxing and decidedly rural. The staff (most of whom live on site) are accommodating, and the facilities are very well-kept and lovely. Housing for the weekend was most comfortable and pleasant, and the food was absolutely delicious. They have committed to using locally-produced food grown in a sustainable environment as much as is feasible, and they provide organic produce from their own garden in season. We’re talking very tasty food; there are vegetarian and vegan options, but the kitchen staff is happy to please the carnivores among us as well. . They are, likewise, not adverse to those who wish to imbibe moderately in fermented beverages, and thus a nice glass of wine or beer or a wee nip of Scotch could be enjoyed before dinner or as a nightcap with no disapproval.
Am I ready for the next Writers Retreat? You bet! When is it and how soon can I sign up? Anyone who is still wondering if this is for them should consider this: imagine a day of nothing but writing followed by a delightful dinner and glass of wine followed by a give-and-take sharing of awesome work followed by a quiet stroll down a farm lane under a starlit sky where you can actually see the stars far from the lights of the city followed by a restful sleep populated only be sweet dreams. Sound good? It is!
Watch the IWC website for the Fall Retreat Dates
To Be Announced ASAP