Jostled by the Amtrak, I was heading home from the Adirondacks. It was the first time I offered one of these long writing weekends, I called my biz partner Kelly, “This is what I was put on this earth to do. I have found my purpose. It went so well.”
Yes, of course, I’ve felt this way, at other times, as a parent, writer, and teacher. But this calling — to be a writing workshop leader (facilitator? guru?) was different. I immediately felt gratification and somehow I knew by doing it, I’d changed the world for good. This was needed then.
It is needed now. Especially with the world of late. The news never seems good. For a few days next weekend, I’m looking forward to ditching my social media habit and my daily gnawing worry for the state of the union.
I need to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I need to figure out who I am and what I think and how I feel. I need to express and share this vision — small or large. About relationships or about the nation. About my peace with the past or my intentions for the future. About tuning in to the present moment — the sound of a loon calling or the lake splashing against the dock.
There are spots still available. You are most welcome to join. Especially if, like me, you need time away to get your head, your heart, or your life together.
Another writer and I were walking in search of cappuccino just on the edge of town, when this middle-aged blonde woman walked towards me. She pointed to me and began to sing, “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.” And I sang along.
Yes, we two strangers sang the Mister Roger’s song to each other one recent sunny afternoon in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Is this what goes down in small towns? Apparently, on my writing retreats that kind of thing happens.
What else happened?
walks on country roads
painting little boxes
arts and crafts in the gazebo
time to read and write and reflect
I’m really grateful to Carla, April, Don, and the crew at Olmsted Center, so that, a few weeks back, several intrepid writers and I could set sail on this maiden voyage to write the story of their lives.
I have to admit I was disappointed with the turnout. Only a handful of writers attended the Hudson Valley weekend. And more would have been better. We wrote about love, work, money, and family. And I don’t think the cost kept people away — it was a good deal — the weekend cost $295 for 2 nights, 6 meals and a bunch of fun writing and art workshops.
In any case, I’m not even putting a price on the experience of having some stranger sing to me on the sidewalk. As usual, the most magical and fun moments happen when you get off script and get off campus. There’s a lesson here — get out of your comfort zone to find fun.
In the writing workshops, the writers found the thread of meaning in seemingly random life events. Every one said they’d love to do the weekend again. But I’m in a bit of a dilemma because the center needs to have a minimum of 10 participants next time. I’m not sure I can do that. I am also having trouble finding a May or June date. I’d like June 13 to 15, but that’s Father’s Day. Would writers want to get away on Father’s Day weekend?
Bootcamp4writers is a dream of mine, but I have to be honest. Putting on the weekends takes a lot of work and I’m not sure for my small margin of profit, whether it’s worth it. I took a loss of a couple hundred dollars at this Hudson Valley retreat and I don’t want to do that again. (In addition to the retreat center, I pay for yoga, insurance and supplies, as well as my own transport and PR.)
I love getting out of the city and having a chance to reflect on my life.
Like the city writers on the weekend, I get to taste a bit of country life in the Hudson Valley. For example, there was a couple of ladies sitting outside a church, passing out candy corn and juice. How nice is that!
The workshop ended with time to map the hills and valleys of their lives through big and small life experiences from their spiritual lives.
We laughed, we cried, we made new friends. We want to do it again, But I’m just trying to figure out whether we can.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or visit the website at bootcamp4writers.com
Here are some pictures I shot from the weekend. See? Looks like fun, right?
Kathryn Cramer, one of the workshop leaders called our writing weekend, “an unqualified success.” And George Davis, another leader, made this awesome video:
As you can see, we wrote, we ate, we talked, we wrote, we did yoga, we walked, we ate, and we wrote a little more.
On the last day of the weekend we started writing with a prompt that began, “I weathered the storm when I…”
I weathered the storm of hosting my first writing weekend. Turns out the hardest part was not the weekend, but getting home again.
It took me a couple of days to get back to New York City from the Adirondacks due to the storm known as Sandy. My Amtrak was cancelled and I relied on friends to give me lifts along the way. (I began writing this post yesterday from a comfy Holiday Inn, half-way home in Albany. I admit I enjoyed my enforced solitude, a menage a moi!)
During the storm, my fam and I stayed in constant digital contact. On the Upper West Side, we never lost electricity. But there is no replacement for real life hugging. And real life writing. And real life family.
I’m totally grateful to the family and friends (and small businesses) who helped make the writing weekend happen. While holed up in the Albany hotel yesterday, I wrote a letter to the editor thanking everyone (I hope!) who had a part.
To the editor:
In this political season, there has been a lot of talk about which political party helps small businesses the most.
After my first foray as a small business owner hosting a writing weekend in Westport, New York, I believe that no party helps a small business as much as the party of other small businesses.
Thanks to the Westport, Wadhams and Essex small business communities who fed the bodies, minds and spirits of a dozen
The writing workshop teachers, storytellers George Davis of Essex, Kathryn Cramer of Dragon Press Bookstore in Westport, Ted Cornell at Crooked Brook Studio in Westport and Joanna Parson of Letter Perfect in New York led the writers to hone the art and craft of writing stories from real life.
Thanks to artistic director Shami McCormick of the Depot Theatre and to teacher Shoshi Satloff for their support and to the entire Jones family for the setting of Skenewood, a magical place for a writing weekend.
This memoir writing weekend was my maiden voyage as a small business owner. I felt lucky to set sail and discover land in Westport, New York. Because of the work of small businesses, artists and teachers in Westport’s midst, the writers at Skenewood had a meaningful and fun time at our first Adirondack Memoir Retreat.
Mary Beth Coudal
My biggest thanks go to the noble writers who attended the weekend, willing to depart on a voyage in uncharted territories.
The art of memoir requires risk, as does the art of making a writing weekend happen.
My business coach, the awesome Mandy Gresh, was the first to call this writing weekend “my maiden voyage.” I like that.
Turns out the journey through the woods and into the writing weekend was not as fearful a journey as it could’ve been. (Though the weather in New York City was more treacherous.)
We’re tentatively planning another Adirondack weekend retreat for Artists and Writers: Talking about Setting from May 16 to 19, 2013.
Stay tuned to our website at Boot Camp For Writers for updates on writing workshops and weekends in Portland, OR and New York, NY. Which reminds me of two last thank you’s.