Awed by my first-ever writing retreat

Oct 29, 2013

I’d never before been to a writing retreat. That changed this past week when I packed my bag of books and scribblers and headed up to Strawberry Creek Lodge, 80 kilometers southwest of Edmonton. It was to be five days of undivided focus, and my expectations were mixed. Sure, there would be blessed peace and quiet; no internet meant a longed-for escape from emails, Facebook, bad news or news of any stripe. But what if retreats worked for some and not others? What if I found myself alone in a room, sans power bars or gadgets, the words knocked right out of me? 

Two days in I realized just how scattered I’d allowed my thinking to become. It’s as if time and space opened up. I felt less numb. With nothing but a view of the misty woods to distract me, I seemed to be breathing differently. Asking different questions of my work. Taking bolder risks on the page. I still fidgeted and fussed at my desk, and had plenty of false starts and wrong turns, but the struggle seemed braver, and nobler, somehow. 

Perhaps, in part, it was because that struggle was shared. I found so much comfort in being surrounded by other writers. Two of us ducked out for a walk together every afternoon. These were no leisurely strolls. We marched at a good clip through gravel and fields, past curious cows and black and white farm dogs, babbling non-stop about pacing and point-of-view and who we’d read and what we’d learned from these authors. Then back to our rooms until the whole household, all eleven of us, were called to the table by Brenda’s clanging cow bell. We gathered for hearty, home-cooked meals and lively, intimate conservations about writing and life and silly nonsense too. 

I have no idea if the pages written in my little room will find their way into my next novel. But it hardly seems the point now. I do know that Strawberry Creek was the right place, with the right people, and it ended too soon. I’m already looking through my calendar, planning my next retreat like it’s a priceless vacation and I’m an old pro. 

To learn more about Strawberry Creek Writing Retreats, check with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

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