For a long time my dream has been to complete a novel and see it in print. I’ve been writing since I was a child and have started so many stories. This time, I am determined to finish the novel. In November of 2014, I wrote 50,000 words of the novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Then came December and the chaos of Christmas-time. Very little writing was accomplished during that time. Then there were distractions like the video games I love, catching up on all of my television shows, friends, family, dogs, and time passed with so little writing.
Back in December my aunt sent me a link to a contest for three nights at a writing retreat. I entered the contest with no expectations. But I’ve been searching for a retreat for a long time and I was intrigued by what I read on their site and on the blogs of other writers who had been there before. On December 25, I received the email saying that I had won! I responded quickly and soon booked my stay.
For the week of March 23 through March 27, I was at When Words Count Retreat in Vermont. The retreat exceeded my expectations.
The building itself is a big old farmhouse, in a very rural area, and surrounded by the Green Mountains. It’s so beautiful. Even with the snow still on the ground and on the peaks, it was breathtaking. I’m a flat-lander from Illinois so a visit to mountains was quite special. Inside the house, the rooms are all perfectly decorated to create a haven for creative energy. Each bedroom is uniquely decorated to invoke classic writers. I had the Emily Dickinson Room and was very comfortable there with my views of the landscape all around and a comfortable desk at which to write. Each room is unique and made up to be comfortable.
Everyone I met was very welcoming and kind. Steve Eisner, the CEO and our writing coach for the week, was instrumental in improving my writing. Each night we met together for hash sessions where each of us read a piece of what we’re working on and received feedback from Steve and from our fellow writers. I am very pleased with the progress I was able to make and have the foundations to continue so that I can finish my novel. Thanks to the wonderful group of people I met, I have the confidence to press on. My belief in my ability is stronger than ever. I also have a new group of friends, fellow writers. I will always cherish the memories of this experience.
I can’t leave out the food. Chef Aaron is an incredible chef. Each day he produced food like I have never eaten before. When Chef Aaron wasn’t present for breakfast or lunch, Kirk was there to make sure our stomachs were full so that we could continue our work. They were both very accommodating and friendly throughout my stay. I definitely recommend having the full meal plan because there aren’t any restaurants terribly close by and, once you arrive, you won’t want to leave. Also, you won’t want to miss out on a single amazing meal.
This experience was incredible. The place as a calm about it and, while I was there, the distractions of the outside world hardly intruded at all. I watched no television and I didn’t miss it. I played no video games at all either. The week was spent mainly writing and with my fellow writers. But in between, I found time to relax and read as well. Never forget to feed your mind by reading what you love. It’s another activity that I’ve done precious little of until this trip.
This experience was life-changing for me. There was such a feeling of acceptance and support here. My only sadness was when it was time to say goodbye. But that is tempered by knowing I have made friends that will last and learned so much. I also plan to return. It’s unlikely I can go more than once a year but a yearly retreat could be enough to recharge my batteries, so to speak. Every part of this journey was valuable to me, even traveling alone by car from Illinois to Vermont. The sense of independence was so liberating. I feel like I’ve grown in many ways this week. I can’t wait to see what comes next.