Go ahead and Google ‘writing retreats’. (No, seriously–do it.) Over thirteen million hits. How was I ever going to figure out which retreat fit my writing needs? Which retreat wasn’t going to break the bank? Which one wasn’t too prescriptive? Last July my roomie at the Boston AWA facilitator training suggested I try one of Jen Louden’s Taos Writer’s Retreat. She had attended at a time of great change in her life and had nothing but positive things to say about her time writing with Jen in Taos. How serendipitous! I was also going through a great time of change in my life … so I trusted Kathy’s suggestion, and hit the “apply now” button before I could change my mind.
Because here’s the deal. I’m a fairly reserved person. I tend to warm up slowly, especially in a group. Butterflies and all that … at least initially. So why the heck did I sign up for a retreat that was comprised of ‘Small Group Check-in’ and ‘Evening Council’ according to the sample schedule online? (Honestly, by June I was a little panicked.) The truth is, I might be reserved, but that doesn’t mean I’m a loner, nor do I dislike sharing once I settle in. And another truth is that I needed some event to mark my retreating from my professional life (I retired from 25 years of teaching high school in May) so that I could move forward into another life. It was get-out-of-my-comfort-zone time*.
So off to Taos I flew for what I called my Transition Trip. And what a beautiful transition it was!
Everyone probably has a friend like Jen Louden. She’s that one who is funny and doesn’t have a whole lot of inhibitions. She’s the one who is genuine and warm and at times a little crazy. The one who is hard-working and smart. She’s that friend who is your biggest cheerleader. She’s the one who has no problem having a heart-to-heart, but at the same time will respect your privacy.
Our retreat days were full–and as productive as each participant wanted them to be, beginning with writing prompts in the morning that gentled us into two or more hours of time to work on our projects. After lunch there was a class on a specific topic: plot, structure, dialog. Yoga closed our work day–teacher Genevieve of Shree Yoga in Taos shared a lovely Anusara practice that was accessible to most levels of experience. Evening Council was a time of book discussion, guided sharing (*gasp*) and reflection, along with a loving kindness meditation.
So what about the women, my fellow retreaters?
They are remarkable. Accomplished and driven. Open-hearted. Supportive. Progressive. There was no drama, no exclusion. Women as women are meant to be. Our professional talents ranged widely: we were a social worker, therapist, university instructor, energy worker, realtor, visual artist. But what connected us all was our drive to write. Each retreat Jen hosts a guest teacher, and this week’s was journalist and writing teacher Lisa Jones, author of Broken. (Which, of course, I have ordered!) Lisa’s class was rigorous–and gave me new insight into plot development.
The retreat was held at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, which could be a post in itself. Suffice it to say, the setting was beautiful–and, in my mind at least, teeming with Story Sprites. And the food. Oh, my heart, the food …
My retreat didn’t end as fortuitously as it began. I received a midnight text that my flight out the next day had been cancelled and I needed to find another one–at 1 AM. The best connection was one that left Santa Fe at 6:30 that morning (maybe you see where this is going) and it was easily a 90 minute drive to the airport. In the dark. On roads I’d only traveled once before. So my time at the Taos Writing Retreat ended with me sneaking out as quietly as I could at 3 AM and missing our closing circle. I texted Jen. I texted my small group. And the picture they posted on Facebook sums up the spirit of the week beautifully.
I’ll be back.
* Mind you, I didn’t totally abandon my comfort zone. Something about morning dance and all at 7 AM. Just. couldn’t. do. it. At least not this time!