Writing Retreats…Wink, Wink


My husband smiles politely when I say I’m going on a writing retreat, as if there were air quotes around it. “’Writing retreat’?” he says. “Sure. Have fun.” He’s truly supportive of my writing career. But like many other people, he thinks writing retreats are a euphemism for shopping, partying, or sleeping in a hammock near the river at our land in northern Wisconsin (okay, I admit I have thought about the last one). But that’s not what a writing retreat is to me.

Almost always, my writing retreats are with my dear friend and writing colleague, Ann. She and I select a destination and travel to meet each other somewhere between western Nebraska and Minneapolis. We may choose a professionally developed retreat, such as the Loon Song program in northern Minnesota, for example. Most often, we’ve held our own writing retreats in places like Des Moines and Sioux Falls (not exactly party destinations). She's even driven to the river in Wisconsin in the summertime (that's her writing there in the photo).  

The itinerary wherever we stay usually goes like this: get up, read and write, eat lunch, read and write, do something fun (e.g., talk about reading or writing, review and analyze books we’ve read, research at museums or rare library collections, see a play, or hear an author like Natalie Goldberg speak), eat dinner (possibly with wine…okay, definitely with wine), and perhaps read or write just before lights-out.

We rarely share our work that we’ve produced that day, although we might discuss our process or the questions we’re encountering. At some point, we also brainstorm our next retreat and choose a writing conference or workshop to attend.

Our writing retreats are productive, fill-the-well experiences. They’re quiet times, thoughtful times. We rarely take pictures (photos of people reading and writing usually aren’t that interesting). Perhaps that’s why my husband winks when I say I’m going on a writing retreat. He thinks: no photos = no evidence. But the evidence is on paper – and, for me, soon to be bound in hardcovers: John Deere, That’s Who! and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words.

Maybe some writers do “writing retreats.” For Ann and I, ours are Writing Retreats. And I can’t wait for the next one!

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