NEW YEAR-ROUND RETREATS OPEN IN TENNESSEE
AND IN VIRGINIA, United States
We are proud to announce the opening of two new
residential retreats in Pulaski, Tennessee and Hartfield,
Pulaski, Tennessee: The Writers’ Retreat at HillHouse farm is
an elegant and spacious farm house on thirty-four acres located 90 minutes south
of Nashville outside the town of Pulaski. Retreat
operators and full-time writers Ron Heacock and Karen Walasek offer full
service to their guests including writing support, two private rooms with
fireplace, three custom made gourmet meals, and access to the farm’s trails
and grounds. You will find more about them and their retreat in the article
Karen Walasek is the
author of three fiction novels and several non-fiction essays and animal
stories. Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers
throughout the US and Canada. She
has done writing workshops such as “how to write a love letter” at seminars
and writers conferences for the last 20 years. She is currently attending Goddard College for her MFA in creative
writing. Ron Heacock is
currently working on his second novel, a young adult story about pirates
For more information or to secure your private
studio, please contact Ron or Karen at email@example.com or visit their Web site at HillHouse Farm Retreat, Pulaski, Tennessee.
Hartfield, Viginia: The Lake House
Writers Retreat in Hartfield,
directly on Healy’s Mill Pond in an area of rich farmland and small towns, a
place to relax, renew your spirit and refresh your brain! The retreat
features 3 rooms and cozy common area with lake views; writers have access to
a full kitchen or residents may take advantage of the Concierge service pertaining
to delivering full meals to the retreat. This option allows writers maximum
time to focus on their projects, and keeps hunger from interrupting their
train of thoughts.
Charlyne A. Meinhard is a management consultant with
20+ years experience. She is Adjunct Professor at
of Richmond. She is author of two business books, a
frequent speaker and workshop leader. She is an experienced coach for
presentation skills, developing training workshops, writing strategic plans
and business proposals.
For more information or to secure your private
studio, please contact Charlyne
at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
their Web site at The Lake House Writers’ Retreat, Hartfield, Virginia.
HILLHOUSE MENTORING: AN ORGANIC AND RESPECTFUL APPROACH TO
WORKING WITH WORDS
By Karen Walasek
When I was in third grade I read every horse book
I could get my hands on. Yes, I was one of “those girls” who would later
join the horseless horse club in seventh grade and win a horse judging
contest based on pictures of animals long before I had ever had the
opportunity to sit in a saddle and have a living, breathing, grass-eating hoofed
creature taking its first steps below me. Whoah!
I remember my implicit faith in words was so
powerful that it surprised me to discover that reading thousands of words
in books (which had faithfully escorted me into another dimension where I
could ride into the sunset) did not immediately translate into muscle
memory, and would not, therefore, keep me in the saddle and off the dusty
I have always been a writer. Even when I only
thought of myself as “merely a reader” (of girly horsey books no less) I
was a writer-in-progress. It takes a certain innate trust in the
imagination; an almost irrational belief in the transformational power of
words, to be a creative writer. I currently live in a place (both
physically and metaphorically) where everyone knows that the act of writing
is sacred. Writing offers us the lessons of the blank page. It is a magical
undertaking where performing a most intimately personal activity unfolds
universal truth. By writing, we become both the student and the teacher.
So why is it, we are always so eager to take a red
pen and shred a piece of work and the psyche of the writer (no matter how
hardened they claim to be) before we have even given the work the justice
of reading it through to the last page? How is it we’ve become so impatient
with ourselves as writers that we’ve forgotten why we create in the first
The organic gentle approach to mentoring at
HillHouse is a very different process than most workshop/line-editing, left
brain/right brain creative encounters. We read the whole manuscript (story,
poems, or script) and discuss the big picture long before anyone even
thinks about the nitty-gritty of line edits. Mentoring becomes the elusive
bridge between the open-door/closed-door processes of creation. This allows
a writer to gently discover the structure from within a piece of work. The
best words for the job surface like top cream, and we discover we have the
patience to stick with the project for as long as it needs it. Mentoring
helps a writer hone the effort into an act of deep expression which both
humbles the creator of that expression; and in turn, the work becomes that
which the outside world can easily understand. In other words, the writing
evolves into the best that it can be, and the artist shines brighter
because of the process. Organic mentoring leaves a writer feeling nurtured,
satisfied, and ready for the next step. If a writer ever feels defeated, we
have missed the mark. Our job is to naturally inspire the creative process
for any individual who becomes our guest.
Karen Walasek is an MFA, Creative Writing,
candidate at Goddard
College with graduate
work in Interdisciplinary Art. A home-school pioneer, who fostered three
highly creative humans into adulthood incorporating natural self discovery
(long before home-schooling became a household word) Karen has been sharing
the secrets of gentle nurturing for most of her adult life. She holds a BA
in creative writing (also from Goddard) and has facilitated creativity
workshops throughout the US
HillHouse Writers Retreat was co-founded in 2005 with husband
writer/musician, Ron Heacock. Nestled in the Southern hills of Giles County, Tennessee,
HillHouse Farm specializes in providing custom gourmet sustainable meals.
Guests have often claimed a HillHouse dish or dessert to be the best they
have ever eaten.
As a summer special, free mentoring will be
offered to writers who reserve their stay for any 2010 date that is booked before
August 15th.To find out more on this innovative mentoring
approach, contact Karen@hillhousewriters.com or
visit HillHouse Farm Retreat, Pulaski, Tennessee and
book your stay.
WISDOM IN KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE
By Charlyne A. Meinhard
“Now, THAT’S a good idea!” I said out loud as I park in front of my
house this morning.
“Those little trees that grew from acorns that
fell in that juniper grove have been there so long I bet some of them have
strong roots by now,” I muttered disgustedly. Time to go cut them off as
usual. But, wait! Trees… Roots…
I’ve had enough failed attempts at gardening to
stay away from anything fancy. This time, though, I’m motivated to find
transplants for The Lake House Writers’ Retreat. Clean
out the junipers AND get trees to plant in The Lake House
yard. I feel positively powerful
for thinking of this brilliant idea!
pm by the time I head back outside.
“Where are you going in this heat now?” my husband
demands from the living room sofa. “It’s 90
degrees now, and its going up to 100!”
He’s addicted to the Weather Channel so I never lack for the latest
I’m ready for his challenge.
“Out front for just a bit. I’m doing an experiment to see if the
ground is damp enough to let go of the roots of those little trees among
the junipers. If I can get some with
roots, I can use them at The Lake House and save some money!”
We did have a little rain yesterday, so this is
plausible enough to pass his test.
And I clinched him with the “save some money” point.
“I’ll be back in soon.” I’m out the door before he
can object further.
not easy, I won’t do it, I tell myself.
I carry my electrolyte drink, my cloth gloves, and
a bent metal hoe—the only garden utensil not already moved to The Lake
Outside, I look up. Thank goodness this part of
the yard is still shady. The sun hasn’t gotten around here yet. This
had better be quick.
I tug at the first little oak tree. The leaves strip off in my gloves, and
the naked stalk springs back like a wire.
Go figure, I think
again… again…. These are pesky little trees. When I can’t grip them, I break them off
at the groundline, or at least low enough for the
junipers to cover up.
I see a little maple! That
would be some nice shade at The Lake
House. Let’s get to the roots of this! I dig with my hands, hoping the dirt
won’t come through the cotton gloves and ruin the manicure I gave myself
these roots go far down. Oh,
wait. Those are more juniper
branches. How far down do they
go? Try the hoe. Nope--no use. Back to fingers, and I
dig and pull. Yes! Got it!
Salty sweat rolls down my forehead and stings my eyes. Sunglasses
would just be in the way, I think, squinting and congratulating myself
on my wisdom for not wearing them.
I spot a cedar. Oh, yeah! I can find a great
place for that in The Lake
House yard. This
should be easy—I’ll just P-U-L-L-L-L.
No? C’mon hoe. This is just
dirt--you can do it! If only I had
my trowel ….
I pick up a stick and scrape a deeper tunnel in
the dirt around the cedar. I am NOT going to let these roots defeat
me. This is worth working for. This is just how women dug up things in
the early days. If they could do it,
so can I! IF I HAVE TO STAY HERE ALL
I straighten up to stretch my back, wipe my
pounding face on my arm, and survey twenty feet of junipers still
ahead. If I had a heart attack right here, who would know? I wonder. I glance at the cedar tree in front of
me, and notice, for the first time, that the next “tree” has three
leaves. And the next, the
next……nestled throughout the rest of the juniper grove!
“Leaves of three, let it be,” my friend just
quoted to me last week. Whenever I
ask for gardening tips, Dorothy laments her ongoing problems with
proliferating poison ivy.
can’t get all that poison ivy out today, I despair, and, y’know what? I’m not making very good progress on
getting up these seedlings by their roots!
Then it hit me—there is a difference between
Persistence and Fool-Hardiness! The Wisdom is, the saying goes, in knowing
I decide that my mission here in the junipers is
Fool-Hardiness. I have tools, but
not the right ones. I have time, but
the sun is shortening this rapidly.
I have motivation, but without preparation I cannot overcome all the
obstacles to follow through to get results.
a good plan today. But I am NOT DEFEATED. Next time, I’ll be prepared. Besides, this will make a great story for
Just like gardening, writers need:
--the preparation, and
--the knowledge to overcome the
Writing can be lonely, hard,
frustrating. But writing can also be
freeing, creative, and joyous! Isn’t
that what connects with our readers? I believe that no matter what genre we
are writing, our readers most desire to be transported, regenerated, inspired. They learn from our mistakes, or our
characters’, as well as from the wisdom of our experience. I’ve learned
that my writing gets the best results—flowing from my motivation and moving
others—when tools, time, and preparation meet to overcome the many
obstacles that can stop our writing.
That’s why I’m opening The Lake
House Writers’ Retreat to other speakers, writers, and workshops. I want to share an inspiring place with
the right tools useful for writers, but without the distractions that
become obstacles to writers. I’m glad to be part of the network of The
Writers’ Retreat. I hope to meet you this fall.
You can contact Charlyne with questions about The
Lake House at 804-382-5054 or Charlyne@NextLevelForYou.com and visit our retreat at The Lake House Writers’ Retreat, Hartfield, Virginia.
WHY I AM A RETREAT OPERATOR
By Julia Shipley
Picture this: I am 25 years old, and I am living
in a monastery of Passionist nuns, because they need a gardener and I need
a distraction-free place to write. Every morning, before picking up my
trowel and buckets, I write and revise poems. Then all day long I plant,
water, weed, and harvest vegetables for the Sisters and about 10 other
families that live nearby. I am always tired. There are smudge marks from
my dirty fingers in my journal. I have no social life, but, I tell myself,
I am making progress as a writer. Except for the lack of companions, and
the absence of nearby cultural events, I think this arrangement of having a
simple room in which to write, near woods and fields, is ideal. Besides,
where else could I find a situation like this?
Ever since that summer I spent raising potatoes
for the nuns and poems for myself, I’ve hungered for that proverbial room
with a view, in a lovely setting with no interruptions. I’ve tried motel
rooms, bed and breakfasts, and libraries; I rented a stall in a horse barn
two years while working on my MFA. And here’s my verdict: a space apart
from the unceasing cries and demands of the little (and big) things in life
that want unending attention is damn hard to come by.
I knew when I bought this place, that before and
after I finished chores (though, actually, chores are never done), I could sit down in this serene house to concentrate
on writing. Now I spend all the spring and summer days trucking my
wheelbarrow out to the fields, tending to vegetables, chickens, cows. Then
I tend to my poems, essays, and articles in the early mornings and long
The final line of one of my favorite novels, Fugitive
Pieces by Anne Michaels, reads: “I see I must give what I most need.”
Thanks to the guidance Micheline
Cote, the founder of the Writer’s Retreat, I began
hosting writers in the summer of 2008.
Writer’s Retreat in Craftsbury,
Vermont is exactly what I
want in a retreat: rural, but not scarily remote (there’s cappuccino and
the New York Times available nearby). Quiet and serene, but if I want a
sense of culture and camaraderie there’s a live music venue in walking
distance, and theatres, art galleries, and a farmer’s market nearby. And
also a balance of secular and sacred: one can hear the sound of a passing
tractor and the dreamy flute song of the hermit thrush.
With more charm than the austere monastic room I
once used, this sweet efficiency apartment, attached to my 1840’s farm
house makes a great space for writers in search of solitude, a reprieve
from their busy lives.
Over the past three years, I’ve hosted poets,
novelists, memoirists, historians, doctoral candidates, food writers,
screenwriters, and reporters who came to stay for anywhere from a week to
many months. One of the recent guests wrote, “How often in a life does one
find exactly what is needed? I did. The words flowed. My spirit
My father always says, “A joy shared is doubled.”
I am a retreat operator because it feels wonderful to offer writers exactly
what I need as well: a quiet place where we can roll up our sleeves and get
down to work in our own creative gardens: writing.
To reach Julia Shipley at The Writer’s Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont, send an e-mail to email@example.com
ON APPROACHING A BOOK AS A
By Adilah Barnes
Back in the mid-1990’s I co-founded the Los Angeles reading
group, Circle of Sisters: A Reading Circle.
Over the years, this eclectic group of spirited women
have committed to read countless books of different genres: from
full-bodied memoirs to fluffy romance books, and back around the corner
again to embrace genres richly steeped in mystery and history.
Some books have been outstanding page turner
choices. However, whether a brilliant read or not, the group critiques the
book thoroughly over dinner. I especially enjoy a read that evokes
different responses from the women - and even an occasional heated and
As a reader, I begin my books by reading the
outside covers and proceed page by page from the beginning of the book. I
thought most people read this way until I became an author and began to
receive feedback on how readers stayed with my book.
amazed to learn there are a myriad of ways in which readers may choose to
approach a book.
Some say they begin a book traditionally from the
opening page, while others open the book randomly and land where they fall.
If pulled in, they may then go back to the beginning and read the book in
Still other readers eye the table of contents and
choose chapters that most appeal to their literary pallet. They may flip
flop around until they decide to go back and start again chronologically,
thus allowing the book to build chapter by chapter.
the most horrifying discovery I made in speaking with a reader was that she
actually began my book by reading the last chapter first!
I have come to learn early on in the first few
pages whether the writer is going to transport me. If not, I generally push
ahead forward anyway, hoping for the best and determined to get through to
the end. Conversely, as I snuggle up to a good read, I welcome the author
to guide me. I love unexpected
twists and turns and I always want a good book to continue. Sadly, though,
I release a good read as I slowly savor the last page. The trick of a good writer is to leave the reader wanting more.
the most difficult element for some writers is finding the right ending.
I have read a number of books that held me until I
got to the last page. I feel cheated when an ending just does not fit, and the book ends
abruptly. It almost seems the writer surrendered at the end, and just
wanted to get the book done!
writers, we must pay as close attention to page one as we do to the very
last page of our writing.
One element that contributes to holding me as a
reader is the writer’s attention to detail. For example, I recently read
the book Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie. My senses were totally activated
as I smelled, tasted, heard, felt and saw all the images that were so
craftily placed in front of me. Set during the Nigerian Biafran War of
1967-70, some images were pungent and distasteful, yet some were absolutely
beautiful. All were as the author intended.
writer understood the pay-off of detail in her writing.
I always go back to the subject of the senses
because it is in this reservoir that we can tap into and deepen our choices
of language and imagery. The more we can unlock our own inner senses, the more we can hold our readers page by
page. It is not enough to describe an object by its name. The reader wants
to know colors, texture, weight and size given in descriptions.
The reader wants to see and feel.
A useful exercise is to consciously choose times
were we use all of our five senses: really
seeing what surrounds us, really
hearing the sounds that invade our space – tasting, touching and smelling
our environment. Much can also be discovered by taking a sacred walk alone
inhaling nature, passing a restaurant with aromas begging to be identified,
or by listening to others speaking in conversation as we pass them, trying
to make sense of a phrase we may have just heard.
reflections can fuel our writing.
Let us keep stripping away the veneer of the
obvious to find greater detail in our writing that titillate
the question: “Have I conveyed all
that needs to be said?”
For more information, contact Adilah Barnes at The Writers’ Retreat in Sharpsburg, Georgia.
By Lynne Anderson, Ph.D.
The Panther Orchard Writers’ Retreat will be
hosting a writers’ workshop September 10-12 entitled Writing Biographies: The Art of Making Historical Characters Come
Alive. Author and presenter will be Dr. Marla Miller, professor of
history at the University
of Massachusetts Amherst.
In 2009 she was awarded the Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship from the C.V. Starr Center
for the Study of the American Experience. She is author of the newly
published Betsy Ross and the Making of America (2010), the
first scholarly biography of the legendary (but dreadfully misunderstood) Philadelphia
craftswoman believed responsible for our nation’s first “stars and
I recently had a chance to interview Marla about
her work as a biographer. Below are selected questions and answers. To
learn more, consider attending the workshop in historic Hopkinton, Rhode Island.
You are a historian; what prompted you to write
I never intended to be a biographer, but almost all of my projects have
been biographical. My first work
emerged from an encounter with a powerful source, the diary of a
never-married woman in early America who used the pages of
her journal to work out the pain and ostracism she felt as a “spinster” in
a society that had no role for women outside marriage and family. After writing in a biographical mode
about her life, I turned to the question of how she supported herself.
Dickinson was a gownmaker, so my research led to a study of women in the
needle trades. The book that
resulted (“The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution”,
UMass Press, 2006) examines three ways that women worked in clothing
production—as gownmakers, tailors, and tailoresses—each through the eyes of
a single practitioner. The project seemed to lend itself naturally to a
Your first book length biography is Betsy Ross and the Making of America.
Why did you choose to write a biography on this American icon?
Eye” opened with a discussion of the mythology that surrounds early
American women and their work. In popular historical imagination the
colonial “goodwife” cooked, cleaned, dipped candles, made soap, spun yarn,
wove it into cloth, and then sewed it into clothing. Of course no individual could do all that
work for her entire family by herself, then or now. In reality, women
participated in economic relationships just as complex then as they are
today. The notion that they didn’t
reflects a wistfulness for an imaginary time before women “went to
work,” a notion that is problematic because it implies women who work for
wages now are somehow deviating from the historical norm, that there was a
golden age when they didn’t.
culture perpetuates these myths, and of course Betsy Ross—a self-employed
upholsterer recast in the legend as a simple “seamstress”—is a big part of
the mythology surrounding our American heritage. But when I looked into the
historical literature, I was dismayed to find that there was no scholarly
literature on the woman’s actual life.
As a historian passionate about gender and artisanry in early America,
I feel lucky to have been the first one to write about the historical Betsy
In reading your biography on Betsy Ross I was
astonished to learn how central she and her extended family were to many key events of the American Revolution? Did this
make it easier or harder to write her story? Why?
easier, to be sure! It was exciting
to see her just a handshake away from so many key figures, and to be able
to place her in the proximity of so many important events. And it helps the
whole story make sense – it’s no wonder that she would be caught up in the
rebellion given her circle of contacts. And her connections as an
upholsterer make it plausible that she had a role in designing and
manufacturing some of the first flags for the American cause.
As you point out in the book, there are conflicting
stories surrounding Betsy’s life. Perhaps this is true for many people who
become the focus of someone’s efforts to write a biography. How does a
biographer sort out fact from fiction?
I’d like to say that there’s some real litmus test
that can be applied, but in truth a lot of it is instinct. To be sure, it
is not a house of cards where “might haves” and “could haves” become
“probably dids”—but after ten or twenty years in the archives, one starts
to develop a feel for the period. You get a sense for things that seem more
or less likely given what else you know about the many people and contexts
involved. In the same way that years in the field enable a curator to
distinguish an original Rembrandt from a copy, historians develop a feel
for the lives and times of their subjects - and that helps.
For more information on the Writing Biographies workshop with Dr. Marla Miller (September
10-12, 2010) or to reach Lynne
Anderson, owner of the Panther Orchard Writing Retreat in
Hopkinton, Rhode Island, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Writers' Retreat ---- www.WritersRetreat.com ---- email@example.com
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