Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, March 7, 2015


    Two writing retreats in a row! That's what I call bliss. Much as I love my family, it can be a real challenge finding writing time with a day job and three kids (4 if you count my husband). So, it's important to feed your muse once in awhile. 

    Last week, I was at a SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) writing retreat at Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach, California. It's a lovely Zen Buddhist meditation and conference center surrounded by groves of Eucalyptus trees. The rooms are basic (bed, chair, desk, lamp) but very clean and comfortable with floor to ceiling glass sliders that open out onto the lush grounds. Once in awhile, a deer might wander by. The Green Gulch Farm retreats occur about twice a year and ever since I discovered it 5 or 6 years ago, I've been coming  to every one. It's a magical environment for writing and delicious vegetarian food, much of it grown on site, is prepared and served in a community dining room. It's a great place to write and commiserate with fellow writers. In the evenings, we can share our writing in informal critique groups if we wish.

The octagonal-shaped guest house
at Green Gulch Farm

The atrium/living room with wood
fireplace where writers gather
for social exchanges (and a break
from writing)
The writing desk

Writing area in bedroom with glass sliders
that provide ample light and open out
onto the lush grounds

Simple but comfortable

   This week, a few writing friends and I have rented a small cabin in Gualala on the beautiful Mendocino County coast, right on the bluff of the Pacific Ocean. If this view doesn't inspire one to write, I don't know what will!

The deck of Serenisea, Cabin 5, our little writing cabin
   At Green Gulch, I was able to dive into revisions on a picture book project and plug away at my middle grade novel. This weekend, I hope to make more progress on the same.
   Here are five reasons why every writer should go on the occasional writing retreat:

1) It's amazing how a chunk of uninterrupted time can spur your productiveness
2) Only other writers truly understand what you're going through (Truly. The angst, the self-doubts, the disheartening rejections, the feeling of beating your head against a metaphorical brick wall), so it's nice to have like-minded souls to commiserate with.
3) Most writing retreats offer informal critique groups or, at the very least, an opportunity to get feedback on your work from fellow writers, whether in a group setting or merely exchanging comments and notes with another writer with whom you've connected.
4) Writers, in general, tend to be a very supportive, encouraging group. Unless you're very lucky, we've all started at zero, submitting, facing rejections, re-submitting and hoping that our little manuscript will claw its way out of the rubble and find the light of publication. I was almost ready to give up on my middle-grade novel, or at least abandon it temporarily, but with the encouragement of my fellow writers at Green Gulch, I got re-inspired and have broken through the writer's block and begun to work on this novel again (at least for the time being.)
5) Sometimes, there's nothing like being in a different surrounding to inspire your muse, especially if that surrounding is as serene as Green Gulch or as bucolic as the Pacific Ocean.

  Here are a few good places to look for writing retreats:
1) Retreats for Writers
2) The Writer's Retreat
3) The Elizabeth Ayers' Center for Creative Writing
4) The 12 Best Writing Fellowships and Retreats in the US
5) Green Gulch retreat for children's writers - check back here in July for registration for the September Green Gulch retreat.

   Happy Writing, everyone!

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