By Adilah Barnes
I am always excited when a new writer arrives at
my Writer’s Well retreat in Georgia!
My guests offer diversity of ethnicity, age, or
genre of writing. Writers have included those working on memoirs, one-woman
plays, screenplays, academic nonfiction books, and one was even completing
a children’s pictorial book based on her mother.
I already have a sense of each writer prior to
arrival because we have initially spoken at length by telephone and each
has completed an application that I review. The application includes both
vital information, as well as snapshots of their genre of writing, writing
habits, challenges, strengths, target readers, and ultimate aspirations. It
is important that we both feel my retreat is going to be a match for them,
especially since I offer an intimate environment designed for
self-motivated female writers.
After each writer has settled in, we start out by
sitting down to set his or her goals for their stay—be it a few days, a
week, or even a month. In this orientation, writers define for themselves
in very specific terms how they plan to achieve their goals in measurable
objectives. (i.e., what they will be working on, how many hours per day, a
work schedule, etc.)
This year I began to include daily sensory
exercises to jumpstart the writing process. The exercise is especially
enjoyed by those who need a tangible start each day with a clearly defined
beginning, middle, and end. The exercise is only one page so the writers
will not become distracted from the writing they have come to explore for
their stay. Interestingly enough, some writers have actually incorporated
their daily writing exercises into their projects, particularly if they are
working on memoirs and autobiographies.
Writers are encouraged to have a balanced
experience by eating a healthy Continental breakfast, which is included.
They are invited to take breaks to ride one of the bicycles, walk the
property that spans 1.8 acres of land, walk around the subdivision
neighborhood, and to allow time away from the computer in some way to
refresh, reflect, and release.
I am one who enjoys and appreciates beauty and to
that end, I provide such simple pleasures as flowers, candles, and incense
in their studios. The aromatherapy fragrances throughout The Writer’s Well
strongly activate the sense of smell.
Since my guests tend to be self-directed, our time
together over occasional meals allows for time to socialize, process the
work, and take a much-needed break from the solitary work of a writer.
The Writer’s’ Well also offers The Serenity Room.
This open space with soft pillows and a sound system allows the writer to
use this room as she chooses. Some have used the space for yoga, exercise,
meditation, singing, and dancing. Some simply sit on a pillow and gaze out
the bay windows as they inhale the beauty of the maple, oak, and Georgia
pine trees that face them. One sang her heart out whenever she was alone at
Ritualistically, the final night before leaving,
the writers, caretaker, and I go into The Serenity Room and dance to music.
Many are feeling torn about leaving and this allows us a moment of gaiety.
We have even danced to upbeat soul music that includes James Brown!
The stay ends with an entry in The Writer’s Well’s
guest book. It is such a treasure to have recorded entries from women from
around the United States and as far away as Ghana and Puerto Rico. I often
see my guests thumbing through the pages reading the entries of others
permanently left behind before they leave their own mark. I also relish
reading afterward how the experience has influenced each guest.
I am always humbled that for a short time, The
Writer’s Well has been a part of a writer’s creative journey!
You can reach Adilah
Barnes by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.writersretreat.com (Georgia