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Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing retreat with Linda Rief, La Sapinière, Val-David, QC

I just spent the most incredible week with a talented group of writers who just happen to be educators and we were nurtured all week long by Linda Rief, an extraordinary communicator. 

I was nervous when I arrived on Sunday afternoon.  I knew no one. I wondered if I would last the whole week. I wondered if OCD would flare up like a bad rash.  Mind over matter. Here and now. Sit and smile.

John and Lorraine Ryan greeted me in the lobby and made me feel right at home.  I was a little intimidated when I saw that some people already knew each other and others were coming back for the second time, although I decided that that meant this week could be very promising. 

The two friends from English schoolboards who had recommended this workshop said that I'd just love Linda Rief.  Well, fall in love I did.  I met Linda and many others at dinner Sunday night and after get-to-know you conversations, I thought that maybe this would turn out ok.

As soon as we started Monday morning, I knew that I had come to the right place.  Linda made us feel safe and she energized our writing with quickwrites. I learned how to conference with others. I hate to admit it, but no one had shown me how, or maybe I'm old enough now to start forgetting things like that. No, I'm pretty sure there was a hole in my training there.

We shared our writing and consequently ourselves, our beliefs, our feelings.  Sometimes we were darn close to being naked while keeping all of our clothes on. 

I finally found my tribe: people who love books and writing and ideas, subtlety, light and dark, humour and pathos, beauty and scabs,  just as much as I do.

How enriching it was to share our writing with each other, to chat when we ran into each other in the village or in the wifi living room in the evenings, or laughing and singing together before bedtime, knowing full well that many of us would continue to write or draw long into the night.

I felt connected to many people, feeling almost as if I had known them my whole life.  By the end of the week, some of these new friends started to look as familiar as my old friends. I wish the world was geographically a little bit smaller.

When I came home, Jacques made a reference about me going to summer camp.  I've never been to summer camp but I told him that this was the best summer camp ever.

So I'm back to real life. A week and a half left to summer break.  I've got so many ideas swirling around my head about how to adapt all of this to my classroom. I've got a whole bunch of writing, some finished pieces, loads of drafts and ideas, suggested books in my Chapter's and Amazon shopping carts, and a promise to myself to make room every day to write, whether it be my novel writing (mid-life chick-lit and kids' lit), short stories, journal writing, songwriting, and now poems.

Greatest surprise? Almost everything I wrote this week came out as poetry, sometimes edgy poetry.  Where did that come from? I could never have predicted it. It felt good, though.Really good.

I had recently purchased a book about discovering poetry (reading and writing) by Frances Mayes. Yup! The Under the Tuscan Sun author, but I hadn't really gotten into it.  I'll probably go back to it now. 

 Oh and I won the choice of a book.  I was so excited, I hope I didn't squeal. I chose Leaving a Trace, on keeping a Journal (The art of transforming a life into stories)  by Alexandra Johnson. I had brought an almost empty journal with me this week. The only thing I had written in it were a couple of ideas about writing about different episodes of my life. I'd jotted down a couple of skinny ideas about 2 years ago. I wasn't sure who would be interested, but now, that no longer feels like a pertinent question.  I loved hearing well-crafted stories  from other people this week. Maybe, I will write stories about my life. Maybe what matters is writing them in an authentic voice and making sure that the writing is tight.

But, I wonder how authors of memoir type books like The Glass Castle, Lullabies for Little Criminals, Angela's Ashes, well, how do they do it without re-damaging themselves? How can I revisit a place and time that took everything I had to espace? How do I find my way back to now if I write about then?

These thoughts are what I "have taken away" from my week.

Thank you, Linda. Thank you John and Lorraine. Thank you to all of my fellow writers.
 Until next time.


  1. Love it! I think you've captured the essence and spirit of our experiecne perfectly!

  2. Thank you for the comment. I look forward to reading you again.