Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 29, 2009

Writing Retreat

Yesterday was gorgeous on Lake Champlain. I drove up via the scenic route, which included lots of mountains and a stop at Northshire Bookstore, where I did a quick invigorating browse and got iced coffee and the Tom Sawyer sandwich (roast turkey on seven grain bread) for the road.

Once at Valcour Conference Center, close enough to Canada to see signs written in French, after greetings, I settled in with my laptop. Then there was wine on the porch, talking about the massive hopes of what we hoped to accomplish over two days: Was forty pages possible? Confronting an event remembered from decades back? Figuring out how to plot a mystery? Finishing a revision, or at least a chapter? Why not? Dinner, more laugher, then more writing in a main room that is both elegant and cozy.

–Did you have a productive evening? Erin bostonerin asked.
–Um, something got done.
–You were tearing up some pages pretty definitively.
–Well, yeah, I can rip pages with some confidence.

But I did move things from the very messy stage of thought that my handwriting reflects to a slightly tidier and firmer stage.

This morning began with yoga, from a teacher who said she really just started to read last year. (“What got you started?” I had to ask. Marley and Me.) She put about half of our group through sun salutations and down dogs, then said, “Go. You’re really just going to write all day? Really? Write? All day?”

Before bundling up to write on the porch, someone told me about having a proposal due next week for a novel that didn’t have a subject. But last night she knew what it would be about. Where do these ideas come from? The vast gray lake, the loons, the wind-tipped spruce trees, the quiet company settled in a row of wicker chairs, somewhere deep inside? Who knows? Now I’ve taken my place in one of those chairs. Rain is keeping the temptations of boat rides and swimming at bay. I’m enjoying the soft sounds of rain on the water. Watching two intrepid boats drift around Valcour Island. Then diving into a day of words. I heard a myth, legend, or gossip that someone figured out a key piece of her book by some flat rocks near the water, and rain or not (I’ve got an umbrella) I’m getting there today.



  1. Sounds perfect. I’m so sad I had to miss it, but I’m so GLAD everyone is having such a good time.

  2. Wow what a great group of retreaters there must be there! All my favorite people!

  3. Have a wonderful time! Hi to everyone from me. =)

  4. Sounds wonderful, Jeannine! Enjoy! Happy writing!

  5. Ooh, wonderful. Have a relaxing, productive, happyhappy time!

  6. When I first looked at your photo of the rocks and waves, I thought there were some seals or otters or something there…. but it was just my imagination. Would have been cool, though… — PL

  7. Merci, Mon Chere
    Jeannine: I don’t know how many quality words you created on your retreat but this Live Journal entry should be all you need to prove Something Great Happened Up There. This is a lovely piece of writing. I want to wrap myself in your description of what you saw and felt on the porch and never let go.

  8. We, too, are sad you couldn’t make it. But I know you’re inspiring young writers, who I hope are giving you some joy back. xo

  9. Sounds (and looks) like a beautiful place to let the mind drift … and focus.

  10. Oh, the Northshire! I haven’t been down in a couple of years, but I love them so much, for books, for a comfy room to eat and drink and check email in, and for all the literarily-named sandwiches. Last time, I think I had a Moby Dick, aka tuna.

  11. Wonderful photos. Love your conversation with Erin, btw!

  12. Hope your summer is going well, Laura!

  13. Thanks for the good wishes, Heidi!

  14. Hi, Nancy. Hope summer is going well. And the new puppy?

  15. Retreat: means you get to be both happy and productive. I’m sorry it’s over, but hope to carry on the energy. Best wishes for your summer, Jenny!

  16. Ahh, puppy. Here’s a pic of Gatsby.
    He’s a fluffy little love.

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