Thoughts about a Writing Retreat

I have just returned home, tired but happy, after teaching a Writing for Young People class at the 5th Annual Mining the Story Writing Retreat at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point. The final part of the experience, for me, is to reflect on the retreat. What were some of my favorite moments?

      • Spending time talking and thinking about stories, in particular ones for young people, energizes me. Workshops were lively and thoughtful thanks to my lovely students. It’s nourishing for the soul to do something you love. I recommend it.
      • Sharing your story with strangers can be hard. Our writing is personal and we can feel vulnerable when we offer it up for comment and critique. But there is also a wonderful moment in a workshop when we break through that ‘stranger barrier’ to becoming ‘writers-in-arms’. I was thrilled when, at the end of the weekend, arrangements were afoot in my class for a new student critique group to be birthed.
      • Wisconsinites, I have learned, are fiercely knowledgable and passionate about their home State. A student gave me some locally foraged mushrooms (Morel, Yellow Oyster, and Pheasant Back) along with some cooking tips. (They were absolutely delicious, by the way). Stories often centered around a love of the Driftless Area. Isn’t that a romantic, wistful name? In fact, it refers to a local geological phenomenon. Parts of southern Wisconsin escaped the flattening glaciers of the last Ice Age and the land has retained its forested ridges, river valleys, waterfalls.
      • Mineral Point was once a mining town, worked by Cornish miners. As a Brit, I had a sense of coming ‘home’ as I recognized the influence of Cornish architecture in the downtown area. There was also a sense of coming home as the town, rather like Cornwall, has a strong artistic community.
      • When I gave my presentation for the Literary Citizenship panel, I talked about SCBWI. If you are interested in writing kidlit, I wholeheartedly recommend joining this wonderful organization. It was instrumental in helping me find my writing ‘pack’ over here in America.
      • I was made so welcome by the other faculty, by the students, by the Shake Rag Alley Center staff. A special thanks to the Executive Director, Sara Lomasz Flesch, and the Retreat Artistic Director, Patricia Ann McNair.
      • Learning something new and valuable makes my heart sing. I did not just teach; I also attended various classes.
        • Eric May taught me about considering my ‘opposite’ in creating a fictional character.
        • Shawn Shiflett reminded me of the power of the unconscious, of harnessing the gifts it gives us in our dreams, when storytelling.
        • Sheree L. Greer gave empowering tips for us to take charge of our revision process.
        • Christine Maul Rice reminded us of the dilemmas faced by editors in her role as founder of Hypertext Magazine.
        • Philip Hartigan taught us about the craft of book-making.
        • Patty McNair impressed on us the importance of a writing community. She closed the retreat by aptly quoting the African proverb:“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”


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