I’m back from my annual writer’s retreat. It’s not a formal retreat…really it’s a group of creative friends who get together once a year to eat, talk about our projects, eat some more, talk about what’s going on in our lives, eat some more, maybe exercise a little, and eat some more. Everyone should have a group like this…ours has been going for 11 years. What’s really nice is this history we have. We didn’t all know each other when we started. We were all writing for children and we were all friends of the organizer….that was the extent of our relationship. But most of us have grown pretty close since then. It’s really amazing to think about all the changes in our lives during these past 11 years…we’re not even all writing for children anymore. But we’re all involved in creative endeavors of one sort or another…and I look forward to this weekend each year.
We have a bunch of traditions…for instance, we bring snacks! And after 11 years, I think each of us tends to bring the SAME snack each year. I usually bring chocolate chip cookies. Somebody else usually brings a huge bag (the biggest bag they have!) of 3-way combination popcorn from the Iowa Popcorn Company, but that person wasn’t able to come this year, so I decided *I* would bring the huge bag of popcorn. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who had that idea. We had popcorn coming out of our ears!
Other traditions: the Friday night “ritual telling” where we go around the circle and everyone says what they’ve been doing the past year (even though we also try and keep in touch all year).
Saturday is our “work” day…we go around and talk about each person’s manuscript, current project or whatever creative endeavor the person wants to discuss. I didn’t bring a manuscript this year…instead I talked through my series proposal and everyone helped me brainstorm some of the wrinkles out. They also made me feel REALLY GOOD about my proposal…I hope the people at Albert Whitman like it as much as my retreat group did.
We also EAT. I’m not sure I’ve made that quite clear enough. The retreat is held at a “spirituality center” where they grow all kinds of herbs and vegetables…and they have a fabulous cook. So I don’t know why we feel the need to break out the popcorn and the chocolate RIGHT AFTER BREAKFAST, but there’s something about that place that’s just really conducive to eating.
We do exercise, though, too…one of our group members is a NIA dance instructor, so she usually leads us in a dance or two. I usually get up and jog in the mornings (I jogged one of the mornings this weekend…I decided to play my mandolin this morning instead). A couple of us will usually walk at some point during the weekend, too. And this year I asked the nuns if I could take their dog for a walk…which was fun. Hildy is a larger dog than my Molly…and I’m thinking very seriously about getting another dog (Molly is getting pretty old…and she’s got some health problems. She can’t walk very far anymore.) I’m thinking my next dog is going to be a golden retriever, so I wanted to see what it was like to walk a larger dog.
We also walk the labyrinth together, which, even though I’m not a religious person, feels very spiritual to me in this context and is something I always look forward to. And for the last two years I’ve played my mandolin for the group…and our Jamaican friend brews us a pot of strong tea and then reads our tea leaves (even though she claims she can’t do it). She saw a sturdy tree in my tea leaves. She said that meant life, strength, knowledge, power…I don’t remember what all else. She told me I’m very comfortable with where I am in life and that I have everything I ever wanted…which is pretty much true.
We’ll find out tomorrow what kind of creative boost I got from this weekend…we’ll see how good all the stuff we talked about for my series looks when I actually TYPE IT UP!